Song Dedication: Everything’s a Ceiling by Death Cab for Cutie
The Origin of sabbatical and sabbath: To Take a Break
a period of time, after 7 years, when college or university teachers are allowed to stop their usual work in order to study or travel, usually while continuing to be paid
In a recent conversation with a colleague (and friend), the word “sabbatical” was suggested for what I have decided to do with the 2018/2019 school year. I was immediately drawn to the word and was a bit skeptical, feeling as if this word was reserved for more prestigious professions. However, after reading some articles about what a sabbatical technically is and considering its word origin, I warmed to this idea. I realized it was a useful (positive) way for me to frame my requested personal leave from the school district this September.
To clarify, I am not a post-secondary prof. I am an elementary school teacher of 11 years. I am not being paid for this leave…at all…in money. However, I am being paid with the space and flexibility to continue the hard work I began in October of 2017, when chronic migraines stopped me in my tracks. This hard work embodies many things including: therapy, massage, pain treatments with a naturopath, navigating dietary restrictions, yoga practice, walking, reading, drawing, creating and writing. All applications in my endeavour to live a healthy, attuned life as a Mother, Wife, Daughter, Sister, Aunt and Friend (and one day again, Teacher).
The hard work actually began long before last October. Whether it was anxiety, chronic pain, depression, stomach pains and digestive issues, exhaustion or rage and fear, I have lived in a state of hyper-arousal for as long as I remember. As I train my brain slowly to work in a more ideal Alpha range, I find peace; but with that quiet comes openness. With this openness comes a peeling back layers of trauma. Vulnerability so raw, it triggers old thought patterns and body tensions I had learned to numb out in the need to survive as a little girl.
In one of my attempts to find inner peace and feeling something, anything other than anxiety, I enrolled in an 8 week mindfulness course in March of 2017. It helped at the time, allowing me a safe space with like-minded people who were trying to learn how to be with their various ailments and challenges without judgement. I still use much of what I learned during those 8 weeks, one idea of which talked about falling down a hole. A metaphor for life’s stumbles and failures. The concept being when we use mindfulness we will still fall down the hole, but with each fall we tune in and maybe find a easier way to climb out or sit in the hole for a shorter time and at some point we may even stop going down that road with it’s hazardous hole. But there will always be pitfalls, and as human beings we will fall, accident prone in our imperfection.
What I have come to understand in the past few weeks, being in and out of some old (and new) holes, is I actually have a third choice. (Cue my song dedication for this post). Like Death Cab for Cutie poignantly frames the idea, sometimes the hole is so deep the only way out is to keep digging. Which is what I have been doing the past 3 weeks. I am covered in dirt, sweat and tears…but I think I might be about to emerge on the other side. And then when I look back, it’s not a hole anymore. I will have made a tunnel, a way new way out, a way through it.
My sabbatical is a break from the distraction and dependancy on teaching I had injected into my life to survive and feel worthy. I will keep digging until I find rest and resolve. I will dig deep to find my authentic self and be rewarded with the greatest currency, self-compassion, resiliency, joy and hope. Sabbatical, not just for tweed jackets with elbow patches.