Today is day 44. I’ve reached the end of my 6-week sabbatical from work. It has truly been a season of timelessness. Each day didn’t have the typical time structure of a workday. At the end of each day when I reflected on the day’s events, it felt like morning was far away and activities stretched far longer than a single day. Leading up to my sabbatical, I kept referring to the time as ‘space.’ It would be space to breathe. Space to think. Space to organize, clean, and de-clutter. Space to journal and read. Space to be. It has been an answer to a prayer I don’t remember voicing. It was the answer to a prayer that manifested itself in a cry for help. And, it was just the space that I needed to remove myself from the frantic activity of my mind and body and just stop.
During my sabbatical, I adopted the practice of a ‘morning meeting’ and an ‘afternoon/evening meeting.’ I am a conscientious person. I’m a commitment kinda girl. If I have a meeting to attend at work or church, I win the perfect-attendance award. If I say I’m going to be there, then I’m going to be there. So, the title of this study and reflection time is intentional. I take my ‘meetings’ more seriously than I would if I called these periods ‘my Bible reading time’ or ‘a chance to reflect and journal.’
For my Morning Meeting, I sit down with my breakfast and read the daily devotion from Jesus Calling by Sarah Young and the accompanying scripture references in my study Bible. This is a special time because as I read, I think of a close group of friends who are reading these same daily devotions. We often text about insights or inspirations from the readings to each other throughout the week. After my devotion, I continue my reading with a chapter or two from a book on a timely topic for my life. A book on Mindfulness and one on Gratitude were my selections for the month of January. The last part of my meeting focuses on a full-body stretching regimen, meditation, and my prayers for the day. After awakening the body and mind, my prayers flow from a place deep within me. I’ve mentioned previously that I pray out loud and frequently share with others what a big difference this makes in vocalizing my concerns and praises. My total Morning Meeting time takes about 40 minutes.
My Afternoon/Evening Meeting is not as structured. This is a time to explore topics, read blogs, gather ideas, or make plans. Instead of my mind going over and over things throughout the day, I find that if I tell myself that I’ll dive into those thoughts during my Meeting time, then I’ve given those thoughts permission to retreat. It helps me stay in the moment and avoid pre-living the future. This practice has shown greater focus and creativity and I’ve accomplished more because of it.
For the most part, I’ve distanced myself from social media and even text messages during this time. But, a friend sent me a text a few days ago to see how I was doing and to see what my biggest takeaway was from this time of renewal.
What is my biggest takeaway from my time off?
This question stumped me, but it was a powerful one. I let it sit on the lock screen on my phone for most of the day. I kept glancing at it, letting the words sink in. I had no idea what my takeaways were, at least not that I could put into words. So, of course when I’m having trouble naming something, I sit down and type it out so I can see my thoughts on the page. This blog post is the product of that.
One thing I know for sure is that after more years than I care to admit to, I have finally caught my breath. I am breathing deeper, cleaner breaths than I have in a very long time. My mindfulness and meditation practices over the past month have taught me the true meaning of being present. Although I am still struggling with anxiety and feeling overwhelmed, the reality is that I’m blessed by this struggle because it forces me to be in the now. I grow anxious with thoughts past today, which helps me acknowledge the present and live moment by moment.
A big part of this space away from my job was to reflect on how I approach my work, name those things that bother and frustrate me the most, brainstorm changes, and decide what to let go of. As I opened the flood gates of letting go, I found some of the frustrations and burdens seeped into my personal life as well.
* Letting go of defining my love, acceptance, and value by the affirmation of others.
* Letting go of taking on more than I can carry on my little shoulders.
* Letting go of taking on other people’s stress and anxiety.
* Letting go of trying to ‘just be friends’ with a man I wanted to be with for the rest of my life.
And, the big one . . . . letting go of society’s pressures that I should live a certain way, look a certain way, behave a certain way, and be at a certain point in my life. I am IN this world, but not OF this world. I am learning to embrace the fact that I don’t crave having a husband and children. I will accept that this is the way God made me. I will focus on His blessings and my answered prayers in various aspects of my life and let go of this one thing that has haunted me for so many years. I will not compare myself to others and am letting go of society’s pressures to join, join, join and be busy, busy, busy all the time. I will embrace the wonderful thoughtful, reflective, introverted self that I am. I will not crumble again to the world’s ‘standard.’
I told myself early on to not expect a complete healing or the feeling that I had ‘arrived’ by the time I returned to work in February. My prayer had been to leave this season behind as I re-enter the workplace, but realistically, I know that God’s timeframe and mine don’t always align. I do know that God has brought me to my knees. He is teaching me how to trust in Him, because I don’t really think I have before.
So, what was my response to my friend’s text?