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Accepting the Undesired Sabbatical

Many of the greatest thinkers and artists experienced periods in their lives where they could not do much more than exist. The undesired sabbatical.

It was frustrating in nearly every case. An unplanned and highly inconvenient time of inertia.

But, at least for those who returned to their creative work to tell about it, these periods also had substantive, positive impact on their thinking, their perspectives, and their theories about life.

“There were times when I could not afford to sacrifice the bloom of the present moment to any work, whether of the head or hand…I grew in these seasons like corn in the night, and they were far better than any work of the hands would have been. They were not time subtracted from my life, but so much over and above my usual allowance.”
– Thoreau, Walden

Sometimes we must accept that creativity is not on demand. That fermentation and integration of experiences and ideas is critical to transcend our impact to a higher level.

Perhaps there is a lesson or adjustment that must take place during this time of immobilization in order to create again.

The past six months have challenged my driven nature to not only accept that my goals were on hold, but to shift and adopt stillness in and of itself as my aim.

As many of us do, I laid out a grand plan for 2017 while contemplating the transition of the new year.

An injury in January led to recovery time. 

I rebounded and began putting my plans in motion in earnest in February.

A car accident two weeks later. The resulting broken hand led to recovery time. 

I rebounded again six weeks later, and set about those grand plans.

An unidentifiable virus struck. I fought back with three physician visits, shots in both sides of the behind, and IV fluids. I finally succumbed to recovery time. 

I rebounded yet again! One woman cannot be so unlucky!

A family crisis took me out at the knees in late May. Recovery time.

In the beginning: I was frustrated. I felt like a failure every time the fatigue or the pain stopped me from completing seemingly simple steps toward my goals. I compared myself to my role models who were moving mountains and felt like a fraud.

I had to learn a critical lesson the hard way.

To expect great challenges to change my course, and perhaps delay my plans so that they might mature.

To make the shift from a production mentality to a thoughtful big picture, confident in the fact that I can only envision a blurry watercolor of my future, that the unexpected life experiences along the way will add ‘happy little trees’ where I had planned a lake.

If you ever watched Bob Ross paint, you know that fear that grips us at these sudden pivot points.

When Bob haphazardly drops a giant sequoia down right in the middle of that gorgeous landscape, despite knowing from experience that this man knows what he is doing, you always experience that fleeting thought: No! What are you doing?! It was already beautiful!

After, you love the surprise sequoias.

You see how they added an essential element. How the canvas held a boring landscape until the unexpected was added.

Instead of cutting down the new trees and digging out that lake, we can appreciate this collaborative venture partner called ‘life’ and the unexpected additions to our canvas.

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People look for retreats for themselves, in the country, by the coast, or in the hills . . . There is nowhere that a person can find a more peaceful and trouble-free retreat than in his own mind. . . . So constantly give yourself this retreat, and renew yourself.

- MARCUS AURELIUS

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