chosen integration

As my sabbatical winds down, I feel at peace and am looking optimistically towards the future. I was expecting pre-work nerves to creep up more as the day came to an end — similar to the feelings I had not so long ago when returning to school after a summer break. Instead, I feel a sense of calm and confidence that I can integrate what I’ve learned on my sabbatical into my everyday life. The last month of my sabbatical was dedicated to psychological changes in many ways. I focused on my internal space through reading, building the habit of meditation, re-examining my relationship to sugar, digging deep into community, and exploring why I do what I do. I’m so glad I gave my future self that gift — it was worth more than any trip could have given me.

I’m reminded of this quote I’ve shared previously and have reflected upon:

“We are constantly trying to hold it all together. If you really want to see why you do things, then don’t do them and see what happens.” ― Michael A. Singer

Stopping work gave me space to realize why I work in the first place and gave me the ability to find even more reasons to get up in the morning. My life feels more dynamic, rich, and full in light of this vacancy. The question now is more of “How can I fit work back into this expansive life of mine?”!

I’m painting a rosy picture and if you called my mother she’d tell you about a freak out conversation we had earlier this week. I was verging on tears as we talked about returning to work, what my options were, and how I felt entering that headspace again. I departed on sabbatical overflowing with really intense and heavy emotions for a variety of reasons. Entering that work headspace again, I found those feelings waiting for me and I had to choose to see them but not pick them up again. After getting off the phone with my mom, I was worked up and headed off for the gym hoping it would help put me in a better mood. Within moments though, I had reframed my mentality and had returned to the calmness I now once again possess. I’ve never been able to talk myself down that convincingly and quickly before. To prove a point to myself and to solidify my new headspace, I called her back and shared how excited I was to go back to work. I know with certainty this new ability of mine is due to the work I’ve put into meditating and reading. My perspective is so much larger that those old emotions and that old headspace feel cramped and don’t fit who I am now.

My relationship to time is different in that it feels more expansive and slower. My relationship to food is different in that I have started to understand how I want it to fuel my body and build social connections at the same time. My relationship to caffeine has flipped so that it’s now a rare tool I can use when I need it. My relationship to meditation has strongly solidified to the point that I feel I can tap into it at a moment’s notice. My relationship to cardio workouts has returned to being fun and empowering. My relationship to money and financial security has stabilized through understanding and wrestling with what it is I need there. Gah and this doesn’t even begin to touch on the brilliant relationships I have in my life.

Side note: I was toying with not writing a post at all about my sabbatical ending as a way to drive me to integrate my life. I don’t want there to be distinct parts of myself around my sabbatical — I want integration. The sentimental part of me won out though.

I can imagine some of you reading this might find me foolish to think I can integrate this into my life. However, from my point of view, when I look back on my lived experience I can see so many moments of chosen integration. The mission trips I went on as a young kid (12 years old to 16 years old) each summer for a mere two weeks each time have made me a life long minimalist. It drastically changed my relationship with materialism and drove me to value experiences, connections with others, and finding ways to help. The religion I walked away from at 16 still remains in my life as I know and knew before I left that truth can be found everywhere – including religion. I’ve rambled extensively about the concept of grace to multiple people in the last few months and have leaned heavily on my religious background in explaining these concepts. My athletic career continues to influence my relationship to my body, my abilities, and my limits today despite no longer being a competitive athlete. Beyond purely physical elements, it’s drastically influenced how I choose to lead teams and how I show up on teams. Tied to the long list of integration examples, I found out I was right: “Ultimately, I want to use this time to simply live the life I already have with more depth and ability. What a reassuring realization that I am doing something right for my little soul and that I’m not relying on these 3 months to be anything more than an enhancement to my life.”

These are just a few of many examples that make me excited for how I can choose integration going forward and how this sabbatical truly has been an enhancement rather than a bandaid solution. It will take hard work and intentionality but I’m lucky to have those as strengths of my personality (possibly to a fault). Yes, my sabbatical is ending. Yes, it feels like a new beginning. Forwards ever. Backwards never.

P.S. This morning I went to make my usual breakfast. I joke that I can’t do anything slowly and, as I raced to make food, I stopped myself. I slowed everything down and smiled. To the outsider, it would be hard to know what changed exactly and that’s what’s so lovely about this sabbatical experience.

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