Last week I returned to work at The Lutheran
after a three-month sabbatical.
My sabbatical didn’t go as I had planned.
I intended to spend 12 weeks volunteering with a Chicago-based interreligious organization. I care deeply about the work of the organization, which plans every-five-year international interreligous events.
The day after my sabbatical began, I reported to the organization’s offices. I met the dedicated staff who make the event possible, pulled a chair up to a filing cabinet, took out my laptop and got to work. I began sending e-mails and (when I could find a telephone not in use) making calls to speakers, confirming their participation and helping them with travel details. Three weeks later I was writing press releases and helping fill media requests for information and interviews.
It was exactly what I thought
I wanted to do on my sabbatical.
However, my Facebook updates weren’t the joyful posts of someone doing what she loved — they were tired reflections of someone not getting enough sleep, eating lunch at her desk and leaving phone calls from friends unreturned for days. On good days, I had cereal for dinner at home. On bad days, I ate carryout at the filing cabinet I was using as a desk.
It took me six weeks of volunteering 10- to 12-hour days to realize I was just as tired as before I’d started. My family, friends and boyfriend noticed much earlier, and they reminded me that the point of a sabbatical (and our weekly sabbath) is rest.
With a heavy heart I resigned from my volunteer position. I didn’t know what would come next, but I was sure I needed to do something different before returning to The Lutheran
to face the challenges of a new year: a Web redesign and smaller staff.
The daily grind can make us fall into unhealthy habits: eating too much carryout, skipping the gym and taking our God-given gifts for granted. So for the last six weeks of my sabbatical, I tried to create habits I could keep more successfully once I started working again. As I greet 2010, I continue to hold these practices as goals: 1. Be patient:
Not having a daily schedule helped me learn to be more patient. I practiced being patient in traffic, in line at the grocery and while making plans with my boyfriend. Since returning to work, I’ve noticed how work-anxiety can carry over into personal relationships. A missed deadline at work makes me anxious; in turn, I anxiously demand commitments to weekend plans I might otherwise have been happy to leave flexible. 2. Eat well:
Creating healthy, flavorful meals from scratch takes time and effort. As someone who lives alone, making a balanced meal for one often seems more trouble than it’s worth. To help, while on sabbatical I tried out recipes that could be prepared on the weekend and reheated during the week. 3. Nurture your strengths:
One of my God-given talents is creativity. I’m blessed to work as art director of The Little Lutheran
/The Little Christian
, a job that lets me be creative. While on sabbatical, I realized it had been a long time since I’d done something to nurture this creativity. So I signed up for a wax-working class at an art center and used studio time to spend days devoted to creating. Even projects that didn’t turn out as planned helped me flex my creative muscle. Since returning to work, I’ve enrolled in another session of the wax-working class and have registered for a children’s book illustration course. 4. Surround yourself with those who love you:
My two closest friends live in New York and Austin, Texas. Due to our hectic work and personal schedules, I hadn’t seen either of them since 2007. Thanks to last-minute airfares, I was able to make impromptu visits to both. Being among those who love and sustain us in friendship, in faith and in troubling times isn’t a luxury — it’s a necessity. 5. See the big picture:
Despite my best efforts to unplug from The Lutheran
, I thought a lot about its Web site. Not in the way I usually do, with anxious thoughts about users who have trouble logging in, who have difficulty downloading study guides or who leave snarky article comments. Instead, I thought about it in a big-picture way, keeping in mind our editorial resources as well as trends and best practices in Web design.
What good practices are you working on this year? I’d love to know. Leave a comment below. (I promise I’ll try not to be anxious about whether it’s snarky.)
This week's front page features:
Tending a tsunami of anxiety: A domino effect of anxiety moving around a group can create such intense stress that no one can be heard accurately.
Taking a page from Book of Faith leaders: Here's how they encourage the ELCA Bible initiative.
Smelly gifts: Four-year-olds suggest what the wise men might have brought.
Ramp it up: In Tulsa, Okla., these are the go-to guys for an easier access.Also: Been there in Germany
Also: Short on substance, long on fluff.
Also: 'Grace Matters' available.
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