In my last entry I closed with a statement about the work of Sabbath: the idea of “stopping and ceasing and letting things be.” I wanted to circle back and reflect on what some of that has looked like for me on a practical level.
I don’t have a personality that likes to stop. I like to go and push and bring things to completion. This does not serve me well when my list of assignments is growing and overwhelming. In this season, when I sense that feeling of being overwhelmed and like I’m driving toward the cliff of [bad] reactions, I am using it as an opportunity to simply say, “No. I’m stopping the car and turning off the ignition.” I think the idea of Sabbath Year is giving me the excuse I need to make these decisions. Usually, my sense of responsibility drives me to overproduce and keep driving. But in this time of shmitah, I am letting the words “no” and “enough” show up more in my vocabulary.
This has also shown up in a renewed commitment to vacation. My team has been very helpful in this, holding me accountable. I’ve always used my vacation in big chunks, traveling with the family and taking “seasons” of vacation. However, when my work was so busy, what this meant was that I wasn’t taking most of my vacation. I have used this undesirable situation to say “no” to work and “yes” to stopping and vacation. This has been refreshing and forming for me — showing me that I can say no and that it isn’t a total disaster.
When I left for Israel a few weeks ago, I had a journal full of ongoing projects that were very much consuming my vocational headspace. I worked hard to get things to an acceptable place so I could step away for a few weeks in confidence. I went to Israel and had an unbelievably refreshing time. I came back to my office and was invigorated and happy. I had this vague sense that I was supposed to be getting back to some “list” of things that I left behind me. Eventually, I even remembered this list and wrote down a summary — a state of the job at hand, if you will — in my journal. But I simply didn’t want to go back to that same anxious headspace again.
So I didn’t. I knew the list was written down and catalogued in my journal, but rather than letting my mind adopt all of that anxiety again, I simply decided to pick up those items as they are needed and I am compelled to do so (whether by urgency of circumstances, or desire). It’s been over a month now and I have not been haunted by those things in the same way.
LETTING THINGS BE
This has been the area where I feel the most dynamic growth and it’s likely fed by the two realities I talk about above. It seems I have been overtaken by a mantra of “let it be” or “it’s okay, be okay.” I am sensing this with the tasks at hand, but also with the feelings and expectations of others. I am letting people think things and feel things and express things without feeling responsible to address every little thing about it or making it my responsibility to help them. What I am routinely surprised to learn is that others are not offended by this. They weren’t actually sharing all of those things because they wanted me to respond. They were sharing those things because they wanted to be heard, or they just wanted me to know.
And that is enough. Sometimes, they decide to get more involved in their own solutions. They appear to be more fulfilled by this and the growth is more substantial. I am learning that I have actually gotten in the way of so many things because I felt every observation demanded a reaction or response from me. What I have discovered is that by being present and acknowledging those things (and those people), but also simultaneously letting those things be in relationship to everything else, the larger whole is healthier as it responds to its own situation. Who knew?! What a fabulous sabbatical discovery.