sabbatical your quarantine

god is change, change is god. this has been a time of massive change in every direction.

a week ago i was at the end of a dirt road in tuscany having the rural italian sabbatical of a lifetime. i was initially a coronavirus minimizer, focused on how it wasn’t going to touch me personally, and how was i going to get to my pizza – one of the main reasons italy was a destination for me.

and then, with everyone else, i faced the reality – coronavirus is going to touch us all, impact us all, change all of our trajectories. i woke up a week ago and adapted quickly. i grieved the sabbatical i had planned, and then i opened my heart to something else.

i booked a place to be where i could still rest, create, be away; still do my internal work. i traveled around the shook world with a face scarf and torn gloves, stocked up on groceries, and drove away from humans. i have been self-quarantined since i landed, while also in touch with all the people i know on earth.

several of these earthlings have said to me, ‘well, now everyone’s on sabbatical!’

and i keep thinking: no they aren’t!

but then today i thought: but they could be!

you could be!

change, pivot – it can feel in moments like this that change is only happening to us. but octavia taught us that we do not have to be victims of change/god. she said:

“A victim of God may,
Through learning adaption,
Become a partner of God.
A victim of God may,
Through forethought and planning,
Become a shaper of God.
Or a victim of God may,
Through shortsightedness and fear,
Remain God’s victim,
God’s plaything,
God’s prey.”

feeling fear and choosing adaptation is a mindful pivot. here’s the thought process of this pivot…

my initial ‘no they aren’t’ is rooted in the conditions of this moment…sabbatical is a planned, paid time to learn and practice ways of getting to your best self, best life. it can involve moving a big piece of work that isn’t doable in your normal schedule, or deep rest, travel, learning things. the COVID-19 global pandemic is unplanned, urgent, changing every day, and – for many people – means unpaid or less paid time. on lockdown. in your home.

a quarantine can be a massive inconvenience, a shift from external to domestic work, a period of financial crisis, a period of familial and communal fear. but that doesn’t mean there aren’t ways to bring some sabbatical spirit to this time.

almost everyone i know could use a period of unstructured, or less structured, time. to rest and create, to feel. most folks could use more permission to just be. and, it turns out, there are aspects of quarantine that align perfectly with a good sabbatical setting. so…here are some suggestions for sabbaticaling your quarantine.

see the time as a gift. the sooner you accept the time as a gift, the more time you’ll have. nothing is forever, so how can you be present right now?

you’re alive – thousands of people aren’t, because of this virus. but you are.

thousands are working overtime on this crisis. but you are quarantined – to help our collective health, you are staying home.

you have this day. it might be a gift of more time with your children, or your beloveds, or yourself. i am focusing on the last option, because i am on solo sabbatical. if you have informed suggestions for sabbaticaling your quarantine with kids or lovers, please add them in the comments.

do nothing. plan nothing. see what you want to do with wide open space. do it. don’t judge your longings, or need to rest, or masturbate all afternoon. release structure, especially if it supports ways of being that you’ve outgrown.

unless a schedule makes you feel more alive. then by all means, do that.

offer gratitude at the beginning and end of the day. as simple as ‘thank you for this day’, or a writing practice naming what you’re grateful for, or a longer ritual.

notice that you are feeling. in our daily lives, we can get too busy to feel our feelings. feeling is life, feeling helps us understand the next needed adaptation. all the feelings we’re having are justified right now…fear and anxiety about the present and the future. grief, anger at systemic incompetence, anger at people still ignoring the safety protocols and endangering others. urgency to transform everything instantly. depression over not wanting to (or feeling able to) do anything. overwhelm…especially the parents/caretakers out there. helplessness at the scale of crisis.

or…joy. ease. curiosity. fascination. the thrill of canceled plans and extra cuddle time. all of the above and more. i spend an immense amount of sabbatical time feeling.

harness the big feelings as generative energy. what do the feelings need – space? expression? support? solitude?

sabbatical includes having room to feel and to examine the feelings. sometimes i need to sit and let the feeling move over me like a wave. or punch a pillow, or journal, call a friend, or my therapist. or write a short story, paint, dance. feeling is what infuses my actions with life. and feeling yields the most interesting creations.

– if you can’t work, or must reduce work, notice how it feels when you aren’t working. do you miss the work itself? or are you relieved? part of sabbatical for me is assessing if there are shifts i need to make to increase both the internal joy and community impact of my presence on this planet at this time.

make it easy to create in your space. i think back to when my nibblings were in montessori school, how their classrooms were full of opportunities to create and play. in each sabbatical location, i put opportunities to create, play and learn out where i can see them – my watercolors, my tarot decks, my books, my journals, my writing area. i move through the days by moving between creation and rest.

learn something. what do you want to know more about, or master, that you can learn at home? masters classes, duolingo, yoga, dance apps, youtube, the names of all the trees in your neighborhood…sabbatical is about expanding what you know.

indulge. and get curious, rather than shaming, about what indulgences feel most nourishing. i stocked a healthy af kitchen for the quarantine. cool, fine, grown. but two days later i needed an extra special NASA-suit excursion for frozen pizza and häagen-dazs. i am not wasting my precious time feeling bad about these culinary additions. pizza and ice cream is the meal i would offer aliens in first contact. actually that may be my next short story.

get with nature. cause nature is everywhere. find the beauty of the sky where you are, the earth where you are, the creatures, trees, the water. align with the sunrise, settle down in the darkness of night. if you can’t go outside, remember that you, too, are nature. neither sloth nor hummingbird, but human. what does your nature need, how can you balance your ecosystem? care for your skin, water yourself, sweat, hibernate. because i returned from a level 3 country, my nature experience right now mostly involves sunbathing on a balcony and watching the sea. i see more each day.

relinquish knowing. you had other plans, your calendar was full, you thought you knew the future. but actually none of us know how all of this is going to play out. new articles come out every other day shifting the timeline, the protocols, the expectations. the revolutionary potential of this moment, the threat of abusive state control, it’s all happening and i hear grace lee boggs voice in my head asking ‘what time is it on the clock of the world?’

and that’s just the external world…it’s also never too late for you to change, to uncover new interests, longings, callings.

relinquish knowing, and get in touch with what you most love and care about. whatever clarity we can have now, whatever possibility opens up for the future, it’s going to be rooted in what we love.

p.s. i recognize the economic variance and limitations folks are in and i know lots of people are working on mutual aid and redistribution. this piece doesn’t cover all of that, because i am on sabbatical and i am just writing what i know and can offer right now. i will say asking for help can be a crucial part of sabbatical. my community supported a huge portion of this journey i am on, and i have been donating back to various funds and efforts to help those who can’t make ends meet right now. (lean on me starts playing: ‘for no one can fill those of your needs that you won’t let show’.) a sabbatical only feels solitary – it actually takes a village, like anything we do in this life. so if you need support, ask your community. give and receive.