Right now I’m sitting at a coffee shop downtown Boulder, reflecting on my hibernation and upon the year 2015 in general. As I write this, I am smiling. There is such freedom in stepping away, confronting your demons, slaying them and coming home to a parade you throw for yourself.
That’s where I am now. Feeling in my power. Having a clarity I haven’t had in years.
But this is a fairly recent development. Those six weeks offline were hellish in a way. The six weeks following the official break were still filled with inner turmoil and confrontation. Turning off the noise of email, business and social media makes room for all sorts of quiet and opens the door for all sorts of internal chaos. With the quiet comes new voices, from deep inside, that are desperate to be heard. But I made it through, and here are 5 things I learned in the past 3 months…
Lesson #1: Being alone is awesome.
Tonight is New Years Eve. I will be spending it with a new easel, canvas and paint brushes.
Alone. By choice.
If you would have told me even a year ago that I would willingly choose to be alone for such a momentous night like New Years Eve, I would not have believed you. But this is one of the happy consequences of stepping more fully into one’s truth: You actually start to enjoy yourself. And love yourself. Even look forward to spending time with yourself. I found this was quite painful at first, and over the weeks I got more comfortable, until now where I’m in a place of enjoyment and excitement at the idea of flying solo. It’s freeing to enjoy your own company.
Lesson #2: Clarity requires space.
Some people thought I took the sabbatical because I needed some time to relax. While that was probably true, it’s not why I took the break. I knew I had to go away and make space for something new to come in. I didn’t know what that was, but my brain wasn’t going to figure it out. This was heart work, and the only way I’d be able to hear the whisper of the soul was to get quiet.
Side note: For the rest of my life, I will no longer try to work harder when I’m feeling stuck. Quite the contrary, I’m gonna pack up and go get still somewhere and let the answers come to me.
I took this lesson about making space perhaps to an extreme, when I came across the book The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up. Oh my, what to say about this book?! Changed my life. The author Marie Kondo explains how all our possessions have energy and this energy takes up space. So the process she teaches is to touch each item you own and ask yourself, “Does this spark joy?”
If it does, keep it. If it doesn’t, it gets tossed or donated. After going through every item in my house I ended up letting go about half of it. The physical purging created even more space in my life, as well as my home. It was one of the most healing things I’ve ever done, and it took weeks to accomplish. But I’m so glad I did it, even though it was scary as hell at times.
Lesson #3: Explore someone else’s world.
I spent the first week of hibernation in Europe. I had never been there before, so this was a big deal. I went to London and Paris, and adored them both. I learned so much from Paris about the joy of life, and loved how the cafes were packed at 3pm with people enjoying their friends, fine wine, yummy bread and tasty cheese. I love how they dress, how they don’t own much but the stuff they do own is gorgeous, and the lack of people staring at their electronic devices. They seem to really LIVE their lives, and enjoy what being human is all about. I learned to give myself the good stuff, but not too much of it. Enjoy life. Spend time with people you love. Truly connect with them. Savor the arts, and MAKE ART! So simple, yet so profound.
Lesson #4: Be disciplined about play.
I’m a recovering workaholic. I don’t need discipline to build businesses or get things done, I need discipline to do the opposite and do nothing at all. Tomorrow I’ll be hitting the ski slopes nice and early, and I’m already fighting off the voices telling me I should be strategically planning my year instead. It’s actually kinda funny, and I’m learning to have amusement around it. Brene Brown backs me up on this one. She wrote on Oprah.com about the fact wholehearted adults take time to play.
After returning from Europe I made a major life decision, to pick up my kids after school every day. They used to go to an after school program so I could have a 9-5 schedule. But starting in October I switched to a 9-2:30 schedule. Amazingly, my business hasn’t suffered one bit from taking all this time off and shortening my day. Quite the contrary, it’s never been so successful and I’ve never been so productive.
My kids are ages 6 and 3, so they don’t know how NOT to play. The other day I was telling my son, “Thank you for being my teacher.” He thought that was hilarious. And I said with tears in my eyes, “No seriously, thank you. You have taught me how to play again.” He said with a sweet hug and a smile, “You’re welcome mommy. Can we make a blanket fort now?”
Yes my sweet boy. The answer will always be yes. Let’s go play.
Lesson #5: There is plenty of time, but time is not guaranteed.
I’ve often caught myself talking about how busy I was, or how little time there was. I learned during my sabbatical this is bullshit. I’m permanently swearing off the response “I’m so busy” when people ask how I’m doing, in exchange for something more authentic.
One thing I’ve desired more time for was to volunteer for a cause I care deeply about. I put it out to the universe that I was ready for an opportunity to offer my gifts. This call was answered during my time off, and here’s how it happened.
As I purged my house, the hardest thing to let go of was my wedding dress (I’m now divorced). I decided to donate it to the thrift store run by Boulder Hospice. The proceeds from this high end thrift shop go towards funding the program that helps people die with dignity. I stood at the door of the thrift shop with my beautiful wedding dress, and thought there was no more perfect place for it. I was there to let the most significant reminder of my marriage die with grace. Imagine if our culture would accept letting relationships end or evolve into a new form?! This world would be a much more peaceful place.
I started thinking a lot about Hospice and dying in general. What an incredible gift it is to give people, to be able to leave their bodies in a way that honors their wishes, in comfort. Hospice has helped many people I’ve loved move on to the spirit world, and I am so grateful it exists in a culture that doesn’t welcome death…or really any change for that matter. I decided to become a volunteer, and will be doing Digs for the dying starting in 2016.
During Digs I get someone’s entire life story and help them see their truth. For the folks I work with, the intention is to help people get clear on their message and purpose, so they can create powerful speeches and platforms. But I’m feeling the pull very strongly to explore what other areas Digs can be of service. The Dig has brought clarity to many leaders and speakers. It’s my hope they can bring peace to soon-to-be-departed souls as well. I plan to do more writing about this in the future. Maybe everyone needs a Dig at some point in their life…
The sabbatical was amazing and confronting in the same breath. Making space for truth is hard, because you never know what you’re gonna hear. But it’s the thing that will set you free. There is a process when it comes to truth. One must acknowledge it, see it, accept it, face it, step into it, awkwardly mess it up a few times, learn from it, get it a little more right on the next attempts. Then you start finding confidence, feeling powerful, having permission to be more clear, and ultimately – the truth makes sense and feels fantastic and you don’t care anymore about how people might perceive you. You know you’ve arrived.
That’s where I am today. Feeling at peace with myself, my past and my future. Signing off for 2015, so I can go make a mess with my paint brushes. I’ll see you on the flip side in 2016. Sending you big love and gratitude. Keep being awesome.