Welcome to the Day Three not-recap. I might post an actual recap later, but here’s the thing: It was sort of a mixed bag of tricks. Lest you think Italy is all glory and no grit, I assure you in advance that Day Three was sort of a toughie for me. Until I write that recap, here’s a bit of what has been going on up inside my head, just in case you’re wondering how I’m processing during my time away. I’ve thrown in some pretty Italy pictures just to keep it interesting.
On sabbatical: 11 days.
Checked work email: zero times.
Wanted to check work email: 40,382 times. (<—approx.)
I’m finding that walking off the map of Bend is much easier than walking off the map of Busy. Busy makes me feel valuable and validated and it gives me something to do with my awkward self. It even gives me something to complain about. Busy fills the brain space with auto-thoughts which all come from the Land of What Has Always Been and therefore keep me from being forced out into the wild frontier of What Is Yet to Be. It’s dangerous to move out from what’s become routine, because beyond robotic movements and default mindsets live the unthought things and the undreamed possibilities. I’ve been alive long enough to know these undiscovered things are beautiful and exciting, but they come with strings attached, like Risk and Effort and Letting Go of Certainty. It’s less sexy, but far safer to keep the machine moving, the whirligigs whirling and the widgets coming off the conveyor belt, even if I don’t remember exactly what those widgets are for anymore.
If that paragraph and all its word-meandering made you feel tired and confused, the bottom line is this: It’s hard not to check my work email. Not because I worry so much about work or that someone will need me, but because I worry about who I am without that piece of my identity, which keeps so many of the other pieces wedged in place. Also? I bore easily and work is an easy diversion. Diversions might not be bad if you have ten minutes to kill in line at Costco, but I suspect they can be epically, game-changing bad when you have thirty days to spend in a foreign country. Because these days – though they feel endless right now – are precious and few and having time set aside to become something I haven’t been before is a brand new thing. For this one handful of minutes, I am living in a city with streets I’ve never walked, a language I don’t speak and a culture I don’t yet know or understand. It’s so beautiful in the guidebooks, but when I’m actually out there in it, I can easily feel spinny and inadequate and unintelligent (*see footnote). And those feelings make me want to reach back for the known and familiar, even though it was just ten days ago that I celebrated leaving behind that very thing.
I know this is an entire blog post about checking email, but it’s stirred some thoughts in my head that are pushing me around a little and challenging me to figure out ways to disconnect from busywork less dramatically but more regularly in my post-Italy life. I am scrawling mind maps on napkins and journal pages, sketching out ways to open up to new ideas and say yes new dreams and the chance to invent some wild new widgets. With one section of my brain temporarily closed for business, perhaps the halls are clear for the new and the true and the beautiful to arise. Wouldn’t that be something?
*This, by the way, is the reason I would encourage people to take sabbatical somewhere other than their home. Not so they feel unintelligent, but so they are forced to use a new part of their brain. It’s proving to be a really big deal for me and I’m so glad I did it.