the sabbatical lists…

I’ve never been quite sure why, but particularly in times of stress or uncertainty my brain functions as a long series of lists. I have this mental image of those unending scrolls that would roll out in a movie about Santa neatly filled edge to edge with list after list after list.

All the work I need to do, grocery items, a catalogue of all the handbags I own, all the poetry I’ve written, all the things I need to do, places I’ve been, places I long to see, people I need to check in on, meals I want to try, tasks I need to complete, topics I want to research, movies I’ve never seen, movies I never want to see again, artists whose I work I want to further explore, historic events I want to research, posts I want to write, books I want to read, people I want to visit, art I want to create, tv I want to binge-watch, charities I want to support, projects I want to champion, crafts I want to learn, things that stress me out, goals I have achieved, pet names I will never use, coffee that I’d like to drink again, which places in Portland have the best bloody mary, who makes hollandaise correctly.

The list of lists goes on and on but mostly it just exists to remind me who I am.

Work gets done. Groceries get purchased. Sometimes chores get done. But that’s it. Kind of because that’s what there’s time for. Maybe I’m just super inefficient but  between work and spending time with the people I love and doing the things that need to happen to survive my time is all taken up. Okay okay… there’s s fair amount of movie watching too, but I’m going to slot that in with survival of my sanity.

But in 21 days I have an opportunity to rethink a lot of that. To focus my energy differently. To make other choices. To find out who I am when I’m not completely pre-occupied with work, and if we’re being honest, a bit burnt out.

On May 1 I’m going on sabbatical.

Now allow me to lend some context. Automattic, the company I work for, does a tremendous job of supporting their employees in any number of ways from day one (Yes… we’re hiring). But there are a few added benefits and gifts that surface over time, one of those is that after 5 years with the company (and every 5 years after that) they encourage each employee to take a sabbatical of 2-3 months. At the end of April I hit that 5 year mark.

The end of April is soon. Like… really soon.

And if we’re being honest I’ve been stressed out about it for the past few months. First it was just this passive little whisper of stress in my ear, but the closer I get to the day I stop work for a while the more actively stressed I’ve gotten.

Why? What on earth do I think is going to happen? I have no idea. NO IDEA.

One of the things I’ve come to learn about myself, and that whole thing about the lists might have given this away, is that I like to have a plan. I like to know what I’m doing. What’s in store. How I can contribute. Where I’m going to be. But that’s really something I’ve only come to understand about myself over the past few years. And if I’m reading this situation correctly, I’m mostly stressed because I don’t know what I’m going to be doing.

I mean I have a list but I’m not sure how much of that list is what I really want to do and will do and how much of it is me trying to calm my nerves by thinking of things I could do. What I need to do is take some time to recharge. To reflect. To find the calm center I’m sure is in here somewhere. I’m not sure how some to the stuff on my list of things to do on sabbatical is going to achieve that.

But hey if you have any great tips on home-brewing kombucha or self-publishing poetry or literature please drop me a line. Seriously.

Other than that I’ve not really been excited about any of my plans. My lists are calming my nerves short-term but maybe causing more stress long-term. I was beginning to dread something that I know I should be reveling in. Until Friday that is when my friend and I hatched a plan to go do something “cultured” twice a month while everyone else is at school or work. To visit museums and gardens and other stuff like that… you know. For fun.

And from that a ray of light has emerged. There’s a plan now. Granted it’s a loose plan and is only for every other week or so, but a touchstone has emerged. And it involves art and nature and also a little day-drinking. And leaves plenty of room for the scary scary work of learning about myself.