Rekindle Your Passion by Taking a Sabbatical
I’ve never been driven by earning a lot of money.
Don’t get me wrong, I’ve cashed every paycheck I’ve been given (grin).
But chasing wealth has never been my thing.
What drives me is accomplishment. Doing good work. Working closely with others to build something we all could be proud of.
I want to see the project completed. To see the work done with excellence. To close the sale. To make the ad campaign work for the business owner.
That’s what motivates me. I believe it’s a noble way to work.
And I had always assumed that there was no downside to that sort of singular focus.
Until this week.
I’m writing this from a tiny cabin on top of a mountain in the Rockies. Elevation 11,262′.
I came here to clear my head during a career transition.
I came alone.
I guess you could call this a sabbatical. A time for me to forget what is behind and set my eyes toward what lies ahead.
At the moment, the wind outside is howling. It’s been snowing steadily for two days.
I look out the window to my left and see the boughs of a thousand pine trees hanging low, laden with snow. A bluejay flits from the trees to a suet basket hanging from the front porch.
Squirrels scamper about gathering what nuts and pine cone seeds they can find that aren’t covered with snow. Earlier, when I went out to get firewood, the squirrels screeched at me. They were making it clear that I had no claim to any pine cone on this here mountain. They had dibs.
The fireplace is devouring wood at an enormous clip. I’m sure the stiff wind blowing across the mouth of the chimney is to blame. Here in a minute, I’ll need to make another firewood run. I’m sure the squirrels will give me what-for.
Sounds peaceful, doesn’t it?
It is. I am.
But I couldn’t have said that just a few days ago.
On Day Three of my trip, I got a call from my oldest daughter who lives in New York City. She asked how I was enjoying myself.
“Good. I slept most of yesterday after driving for two days. The cabin is wonderful. Better than I expected. But today I’ve got cabin fever. I just need to push through it.”
Her reply was profound.
“Or maybe you should just sit with it instead of pushing through it. Maybe you need to ask yourself what you’re avoiding or what you’re running from by staying busy.”
Her words rooted me to the floor. When we hung up, I just stood there. I looked at the ceiling, seeing nothing. My lips parted but said nothing.
Am I running from something? Why am I not at ease unless I’m busy? Why do I find it so blasted difficult to be still?
I have been meditating on those questions ever since.
It took me another couple of days before I could just sit. No work. No TV. No music playing. No input of any kind other than the crisp air and the mountains and the pines.
When I finally fully embraced the silence and the stillness, wonderful things began to happen. New ideas and thoughts came to mind. Ideas for what I want from the next chapter of my life.
And I discovered…the silence invigorated me!
Every major world religion stresses the practice of a sabbath. A day each week when you should do no work.
In my faith tradition, observing the sabbath is not a suggestion. It’s a commandment. One of the Big Ten.
To be honest, it’s the commandment I break most freely and – until today – with no regret.
It’s as if the Creator knew that you and I need downtime. For our benefit. To remind us that we are not God, that we have limits and that we must not move endlessly. That your worth and mine is not tied to our productivity.
You and I are valuable to God apart from our work.
I’ve concluded that I need to observe the sabbath in a meaningful way. Not just to nap or watch football on Sunday. I need active stillness.
And I hope to take a longer sabbatical like the one I’ve taken this week. I didn’t know it, but my spirit needed this past 8 days. I sat and stared at the fire. I read. I prayed. I played my guitar and wrote in my journal (the one given to me by the same daughter who prompted me with her questions).
It’s been rejuvenating.
It’s a shame that more companies don’t offer extended sabbaticals to their employees, especially in light of research that shows that the company benefits when they do.
Work and accomplishment are good things, noble even. Especially when they’re done in service of others.
But you and I need time to rest. To simply be. To feel no pressure to be productive.
It can rejuvenate a tired soul.
Well, I need to run. Time to pack because I head back home tomorrow.
Then again, it’s been snowing for two days. I might just need to go outside and play.