When I entered my sabbatical in April I was full of things to say and write about. It’s not difficult for me to fill space or silence in general, and with so much to process, I knew I could blog twice a week and not run out of topics. Like all the professors and pastors I’ve known to take sabbatical, I thought I would write a few articles or begin drafting a book I have been mulling over. Clearly, the sparse postings since spring are evidence that something else happened, and for me it was something pretty shocking. This verbal, often verbose woman was flushed out of words.
Between April and July, several good ideas for blog posts and articles came to me and flitted away before I got to paper, pen or computer. Even when I simultaneously had these tools in hand and a compelling thought, I couldn’t put anything on the page. It wasn’t writer’s block. I was entering into a deeper level of rest than I knew was necessary.
I’ve long suspected and now learned that sabbatical can hollow you out. If you let it, it scoops out all the stuff that fills you, and then sifts through the jumble exposing burdens, joys, wounds, trophies, distractions, and all kinds of excess. You have the unique opportunity to survey your life, take stock of all that you see, and make choices. One of the important choices is what to hold and what to release. The hold or release could be for a time, like the length of the sabbatical, or for good.
I was stunned to realize that to rest most deeply, I needed to release words. I began to listen to those times that I sat at the computer but couldn’t move my fingers. The frustration I felt when I forgot ideas and topics became a flashing billboard in my brain. I heard and read, “You don’t need to do that now. Let the words be and the ideas go.” This release of words created for me a new space and a new way of being. There was dense quiet at the core of my life. In the quiet I was able to release questions I couldn’t answer (why did this happen?) problems I couldn’t fix (what could I have done?) and hurts that would keep me in pain (did they value me?). Instead of expressing myself and relating to the world through storytelling, conversations, or writing, I said little and wrote less. All the narrative was internal, hushed and gentle, not meant to be shared with the world. This was uncomfortable because it’s not my usual way, but eventually it was good. I felt emptied, then cleansed, and finally, unfurled.
In late June, I was blessed with several opportunities to reunite with dear friends. These gifts of time and sharing allowed me to return to my usual way of being – expressive and verbal. Conversation and stories again danced out of me and around me. Cleansed by quiet and good rest, I welcomed the end of sabbatical as a renewed person. I’ve begun to put pen to paper again. I’ve easily just typed 528 words.