This was the week I realized that this sabbatical is not just about me. It’s not just about examining my life, asking myself hard questions, transforming into a “better” me. While it did take some courage to overcome my fears and doubts to quit my job, it was also easier for me to do so than many because I am extremely privileged and lucky. This week it became evident that the gift of time I have been granted is not just for my benefit. I can give some of that time and energy to others. And it was a true blessing to have that spaciousness this week, because those around us were in need of support.
To start things off, my mother in law was struck by a car while walking her dog on a Sunday afternoon. She thankfully and miraculously survived the incident with a broken leg as the most severe injury. Just two hours prior, I had picked up our kids from her house – they had slept over the night before.
We very quickly went into “emergency mode” and packed up Kristyn so she could go be with her mom for a few days, or however long was needed. The kids and I stayed home, and an immediate reshuffling of the week’s priorities was underway. Namely, we removed/cancelled any appointments and hunkered down. I like to call this way of being our “do the least” mode. No around the house projects are getting done. No making music. No writing. No volleyball. Survival. Fundamentals. I made food. We went outside for walks (far away from the road). I napped. And I did what I needed to do to make sure my energy and compassion tanks were full to be present with the kids.
Despite the sadness and stress of the events, I found myself thinking about how much worse things could have been. For one, my mother in law could be in worse shape than a broken leg. For another, what might have happened had our kids been helping to walk the dog? What would this week look like if we were both working 9-5 jobs? How much more poorly would we be coping with this situation if we hadn’t already been taking a more active role in our own mental and emotional healing? Yes, it was a tough stretch for a few days, and yes, others in the family had it worse than I did, and yes, it was a jolt of stress, unease, discomfort, and worry that I hadn’t felt for some time, and yet… in the midst of all that, I felt a sense of gratitude surface, gratitude for life and the life of my loved ones, that we are all still here, greeting a new day.
Then, more bad news. Kristyn and I were having one of our many late evening chats and realized we had both been thinking about the same friend of ours, that we had this person on our mind and wanted to set up a time where we could all get together. Right then, we decided spontaneously to call up this friend and see if we could find an available time to hang on each other’s calendars. So we call our friend, excitedly explain our great ideas for a get together, and after we’re done… our friend replies that while that all sounds great, they are in the middle of a major personal medical issue that is so dire they will have to travel out of state to see a specialist for a not-so-simple surgery. Whammo. Did not see that coming. Immediately my heart went out to my friend and their family, and, after that phone call, Kristyn and I started brainstorming how we could help their family out. It was then that it really hit me that part of our time “off” must be so that we can more easily support, help, and be there for loved ones that need us, that need someone, that could use a little help. To give and to be able to give is a gift.
On a lighter note, part of my “do the least” mode this week involved watching television on my nights alone after the children were in bed. I
started watching binge-watched Life Below Zero: First Alaskans on National Geographic. I cannot recommend this program highly enough. The show documents real Native, indigenous people living subsistence lifestyles in some of the harshest conditions in North America. Watching how these people live with the land and use thousands-years-old practices to survive is inspiring. It inspires me to evaluate the way I live my own life; for example, the way I complain when the fall temps start dipping to around freezing. The children in one of the families in the show are ice fishing in -60 degrees Fahrenheit, and they’re enjoying it! Meanwhile, I start feeling anxious that we’re running out of food to eat when one of the shelves in my fridge is almost empty (while the other shelves, my entire pantry, and both freezers are still full). These families need to catch a reindeer, walrus, or grouse today or go hungry until tomorrow. I admire and crave their deeper connection to the land and to their ancestors, and I believe the world would be a better place if we all took some lessons from the people featured in this docu-series. And it starts with me. How can I deepen my connection to the land I occupy? How can I incorporate practices that honor my ancestors? What can I do today? What can I build toward? These inquiries will guide me in the weeks ahead.
Despite the draining start to the week, we wrapped it up on a surprisingly high note. On Sunday, Kristyn had an online workshop to attend, one she had been looking forward to and was excited about. So while she was in her element at home, I took one of my kids to a friend’s house for her first official play date – a time where I dropped her off and left her to play with a friend from school. Of course, her day was amazing. So while she was in her element with her friend, I took my other kid to an apple orchard, just on the outskirts of the Twin Cities – Nelson’s Apple Farm in Webster, MN. The weather was unseasonably warm that day, and we both thoroughly enjoyed pulling our wagon through the rows of apple trees, picking and sampling as we went. As I look back at all the photos I took of my child climbing the lower limbs of the Honeycrisp and Haralson trees, I’m hit with layers of joy. On one level, it brings me such joy to witness my child having such fun and experiencing glee from something so simple and natural and elemental as climbing around in a fruit tree. No toys, no screens, no electricity required; sometimes a tree is all you need. The feeling of joy deepens as I see myself in my child, and I can sense my father in me. It was one of those moments where I had a deep knowing that we were exactly where we were supposed to be.
Thank you to everyone at Nelson’s Apple Farm for your labor of caretaking that land so we could enjoy the fruits of it!