I’m old enough to have a son who will be taking a sabbatical later this (new) year. How is it he gets one before I do? Oh, that’s right. He was impressionable when I went back to college for my undergrad degree and followed the academic trail on his own to a job that recognizes the need to rest after several intense years of travel and work. I’m happy for him.
In a way, I took my own sabbatical in 2022. It was less formalized and appeared in the guise of “letting go.” Surrendering and resting may not sound like top-shelf New Year’s resolutions, but life often calls us to do the unexpected. Last year was one of the most lost years I’ve lived.
I wondered and wandered. I had no North Star because I had too many clouds blocking my view. I made several choices I never thought I’d make.
First, I stopped writing. After ten years of dogged transformation to go from a marketing communicator to a literary artist, I didn’t set a single goal. I wasn’t concerned about my choice because I’ve been writing at a professional level for over 25 years and know what it takes to write when I don’t feel like it. I won that battle years ago (thank you deadlines). To me, writing is not what comes and goes; it’s the writer. The writer can find inroads. I don’t believe writing inspiration dries up beyond restoration. I quit writing because I had too much unsettled in my life.
So I quit my marriage. The hardest day was in March when I let go. Just let it go like a bird I’d held captive in my hands. I didn’t think I could help my husband any more than I had and I really wanted both of us to be happy. He had turned his veteran journey into a battlefield and I had no fight left. Despite my acceptance into the VA Caregiver Support Program, it had come too late. They prepared me for separation from my duties and I did my best to prepare Todd.
He didn’t leave, as he’d been wanting to do ever since we arrived at the Keweenaw. I found a place to live and secured as much work at the local university as I could, adding professional tutoring to my adjunct professor position. All I needed was my half of the sale of our house. I had carefully tried not to call it a home and I even let go of ever having one. I’d have an apartment and that would have to do.
Covid has changed much of the social landscape as we knew it. Covid also changed my marriage. I half-heartedly laughed when I left the house to shelter elsewhere after Todd got Covid and his last words to me were about life insurance. Maybe it jogged something in his unreliable brain. Maybe my leaving when he was sick made him question his independence. There were many other factors at play but what changed was that he decided not to leave. I didn’t agree to stay (my apartment is still not ready). But I didn’t leave, either.
Letting go didn’t mean giving up or withholding love. Like with writing, it was a break; a time to ponder what will this be like?
What struck me, though, when I realized I didn’t have to leave, I allowed myself to feel how deep my feelings ran for my husband, family, and home. I’m a writer and even at my best, I don’t think I can aptly explain the complexity of those emotions. I have a profound appreciation for my bedroom and Unicorn Room as sanctuaries. I enjoyed Mause more, knowing I could continue to be with her. And I let go of training her or trying to correct/fix/help Todd.
Caregiver Support quickly kicked in and I’m profoundly grateful to have access. My therapist helped me understand a lot of Todd’s brain trauma doesn’t mean he is not there anymore. He’s still Todd and I keep an eye out for glimpses of him daily even if I’m laughing at really awful jokes like him “scenting” my sanctuaries. It’s become a morning ritual. I’m deep into yoga or meditation and he walks in making airplane sounds for a round of “crop-dusting.” Unfortunately for me, the joke renews almost daily.
On my side though, is a strange peace I’ve found where I thought there’d only be chaos.
Chaos came to school. The one area I applied myself last year was Finlandia. It was going to be my second career. The University’s enrollment tanked and I got two new bosses with whom I’m not a good fit. Can you ever remember being yelled at while at work? Well, it happened twice and with the same person. As someone who used to manage people, I was surprised. I can’t recall being ill-treated like that and I will no longer be tutoring. With the low enrollments, it’s questionable as to whether or not I’ll have enough students for a single class. For now, I have the minimum of four.
Carrot Ranch was not on the letting go block, but I did pare down to the bare bones. I had to figure out how to let go of a life and rebuild it. You likely noticed I was barely on social media and did not promote or visit blogs. I let go of any marketing. If ever there was a good year, I picked it! So much has changed in the social media sphere and I’m reminded of why we assess marketing annually. Without writing, I had no meaning, no target audience, and no visual on my North Star.
It’s coming back. I let go of so much I now know what is important, what isn’t, and what I can handle. This year, my focus is two-fold: peace and follow-thru. When you let go, you find peace at the bottom of the rope. When you let go, you don’t follow thru; there’s no need because you’re at the bottom of your pit after having let go. Now comes what next.
This winter break, I socialized more. I stayed in more with Todd and played more with him and Mause at the dog park. I watched a lot of films and documentaries. I read. I listened. I planned. My vision plan is nearly finished and my business plan is restarted. My SBA rep gave my proposal a green light saying I had nothing to lose. He’s right. And he doesn’t know I spent the last year on a sabbatical of letting go.
So greetings, best wishes, and aanii to you all. I appreciate your patience with me. As I return from my sabbatical, I’ll be putting my life back together with care. I realize that my heavy-achieving days belong to my younger years. I’m not old by any means but as a woman, I’m in the second half of life and I mean to live it on my terms not the expectations of others. I don’t need to achieve. I want to connect, inspire, be inspired, practice peace, and find a path where I can follow thru on the doing part of being.
A simple note of housekeeping — technological issues are now known (as Hugh and Colleen thought, it was an outmoded theme in WP. Happiness Engineers found several other theme options, but I’m still contemplating a move to a WP site hosted by Site Ground. I’ll decide later this month. I appreciate all the suggestions, too. For now, I’ll use the clunky workaround because it’s the best solution for what I want to do. My intention for following thru is to visit and be more social. Carrot Ranch remains at its foundation a place to practice the art of creative writing. It’s accessible. Anyone can take the weekly challenge to create a commitment to their writing process. You are free to set any goals for yourself, using the challenges.
This is it. I’m back in the saddle. I might be a bit like a greenhorn, but I’ll catch the rhythm soon enough! A hearty thanks to those of you who kept the campfire going. I’m grateful for your presence at the Ranch! Let’s ride and write!
January 2, 2023, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story about a sabbatical. Who needs one or has had one? What kind of tension could a rest create? Where can a break take your story? Go where the prompt leads!
- Submit by January 7, 2022. Please use the form below if you want to be published in the weekly collection. The Collection will be published on the Wednesday following the next Challenge. Stories must be 99 words. Rules & Guidelines.
- Writers retain all copyrights to any stories published at Carrot Ranch.
- A website or social media presence is not required to submit. A blog or social media link will be included in the title of any story submitted with one.
- Please include your byline with your title on one line. Example: Little Calves by Charli Mills. Your byline can be different from your name.
- Please include the hashtag #99WordStories when sharing either the Challenge or Collection posts on social media.
Submissions are now closed. Find our latest challenge to enter.