End of June
This is not the summer I thought I would have. This summer sabbatical – time off with my son – summer.
I had lofty goals of the projects I would undertake: expand my garden area, build more raised planter beds, have the hall bathroom remodeled.
And it certainly hasn’t been the weekly field trip adventures summer I thought I’d embark upon with my son. We were going to go to a water park. To the beach. Visit friends in other towns. Go hiking.
Instead, it has been a summer of u-turns and dead ends. All of my plans have gone out the door. Staying overnight in Tahoe? I waited too long to book a cabin and they were sold out or too expensive. The heat wave we had made it impossible to go to the water park. Another week wasted.
I found myself spinning circles around our ill-structured days. So I created a schedule – breakfast first, walk the dogs, exercise, chores, and then afternoons open to do whatever we want. This helped ease the tension of the daily question, “What should we do today?” But it hasn’t helped this gnawing feeling in my stomach that I’m stuck in the Twilight Zone, or some weird middle space I can’t seem to wrap my head around.
On some level, I knew this would happen when I quit my job. I know this is part of the Undoing. But I am a doer, so sitting in this uncomfortable space is well, uncomfortable.
Every couple of days I go on to LinkedIn to see what is happening in the business world. It causes anxiety. On the one hand, there is my old world, right there in front of me – new products being released, companies being acquired, colleagues changing jobs, stock prices going up and down – and on the other hand, that isn’t my world right now so it feels like I’m showing up to a party I wasn’t invited to. I’m not sure I even want to be there, but that app is sitting squarely next to my Facebook app on my phone, so it’s easy to peek in.
And then for the past six days in a row, I receive a notification for an open COO job. I read the job description numerous times. Is this the Universe telling me to get back to work? Or is this the Universe testing me, seeing if I would fall back into my old ways. As soon as I start to open up the old resume and cover letter, this tiny little voice in my head says stay the course.
Plus, we have plenty going on at home that needs attention. Namely our dog Maggie. She seems to be fading, having a general failure to thrive. She’s had a boatload of problems in her short life of 4 years, including degenerating bones that despite a surgery to get rid of all the bones shards, she still suffers from daily pain. But something is different now and we can’t put our fingers on it. Her hair is falling out and she looks old.
Sunday comes and she refuses to eat. For the week prior, she was eating less and less, and I could only imagine it was from severe pain. But she was on strong paid meds, so it just didn’t make sense.
On Tuesday I take her to the vet again. We have already done a zillion tests in the months prior and they all come out normal. My dog is dying. It is so obviously clear by her symptoms, but her blood is lying to us. We put her on an anti-nausea med, hoping her appetite will kick in. I buy every jar of turkey and gravy baby food in town. All 24 jars of it. With coaxing, we get her to eat 8 jars in a day, but it’s not enough calories to sustain her. She is slipping away from us.
On Thursday, we start talking about the Rainbow Bridge. Is it her time to go? I call the vet and discuss our options. It looks very grim. We look into our sweet girl’s eyes and ask her, “Are you ready to go?” and there is a resounding “No!” I resolve to save our girl.
It doesn’t seem possible that she could be getting worse, but on Friday I know we have to do something drastic. I carry her limp body to the vet and plead with them – do something – do anything. Immediately, they hook her up on an IV and admit her. They run more tests. And finally, finally her blood and electrolytes show that indeed, there is something terribly wrong – she’s in a full metabolic crisis. The next few days will be touch and go.
After five days in the vet hospital we get to take our girl home! She’s weak, but so happy to be on her own bed and with her family. The list of daily meds is long. I’m administering something every couple of hours, it seems. Maggie won’t eat kibble yet, so we’re giving her canned food. She’s eating like a champ, but at $3.50 a can, we’re spending more than $10 a day just to feed her. We weigh her to find out how much weight she’s lost. Fifteen pounds! She looks like a skeleton.
While the rest of the United States is celebrating our independence day, we’re just trying to keep things quiet so our little girl can rest.
Stay the course. While this little voice keeps whispering to me softly, I ask myself, what course? Where is the damn thing? I feel like I see glimmers of it daily, but it hasn’t emerged as a complete or clear picture. I’m taking mental notes. Dog-earring pages in books. Jotting things down. And in between all this searching I’m running. Mile after mile. In the middle of the night. In the morning. When it’s 95 degrees outside. My running club is training for a 24-hour trail race.
But progress is being made. I wake up in the mornings and I don’t feel guilty anymore for not being productive. I don’t feel lost in my days. My husband helps by reassuring me that it is okay to eat cookies at 11am and watch TV for four hours straight. He hasn’t protested that I still can’t get a tasty meal on the table. And he just steps over the tumble-weed like mounds of dog fur that blow by.
End of July
I’m Tahoe bound for three days! I meet up with my running club at Ragnar Tahoe – a trail race that loops through the mountains above Royal Gorge Cross Country Ski Area. The vibe is amazing! The people even better. How cool to be among 3000 people who are all there for the same, insane reason – to run 130 miles together as a team? In the heat, in the freezing cold, in the middle of the night, with bears and snakes, and altitude sickness.
Each of us is supposed to run three loops of varying difficulty, totaling 16 miles – just a bit more than a half marathon. My first loop is the “yellow” loop – medium hard with pretty significant elevation gain. While I hit my estimated time, I feel lousy the entire run. It’s really, really hard. Should have run more hills in the altitude.
Then, in the middle of the night, just before I leave for my short run, my friend gets sick. Really sick. Turns out to be altitude sickness and there is no way she can run her loop. Everyone else is sleeping so I tell her that I’ll run hers too, right after mine. Crazy? Totally, but we have no other options.
Out on the course my headlamp isn’t working. I literally can’t see beyond my hand. How am I going to run 9 miles in darkness? I take a wrong turn and realize I’m off the trail. I stand and wait for another runner to come by so I can find my way back again. I’m defeated, as this should have been my fastest loop.
I realize that I’m never going to finish the distance without better lighting. And then, the proverbial light bulb goes on! I’ll use the flashlight function on my iPhone! The irony that my technology is my saving grace makes me laugh aloud, seeing as how much I complain that we are a world addicted to tech.
I’m running the yellow loop again – my nemesis, I think. It’s 1:30am but surprisingly I feel great! All of the hills that kicked my a$$ earlier in the day seem easy. I feel like I’m flying through the night with the light of the moon and stars to guide me. At just after 3am, I run to the transition tent and hand off our racing bib to a teammate.
I go straight to bed, which is a two-person tent I’m sharing with my friend and running mate. I slide into my nearly 40-year old North Face sleeping bag (my husband’s childhood sleeping bag) on the hard ground. Sleep comes quickly, but it is short. I’m up with the sun.
Apparently our team is running too slow, so the race organizer has us double up on our loops, running two runners at a time. I’m paired with the owner of our running club, a bright sprite with a sense of humor to boot! Off we go. My legs feel like logs. We run and we walk, and we dig in our toes to hike up massively steep hills. But the view at the top! Oh the view. And then we descend. I’m so tired and slow I feel like I’m letting my teammate down. We mostly walk the last few miles because I just can’t get my legs to turn over. A quarter-mile from the finish line, it’s time to run again. We have to finish strong. I’m so slow she literally pushes my back to get me moving. The entire team joins us, and together, we cross the finish line! Tears and hugs and cheers around. We did it! We ran 130 miles.
It’s been 3 months and 5 days since I quit my job. I’m just starting to get the hang of this sabbatical thing. I’m creating shape around my days, but not in a crazy “go, go, go…do, do, do” way that has been the heart of my existence for so many years.
And because the Universe always knows what needs to happen next, Deepak Chopra greets me as I’m perusing Instagram today. He tells me, “A major key to accessing the whole-life abundance and bliss that is our birthright…is to learn some simple practices to help you release old conditioning and accept the universe’s invitation to joy, connection, and abundance.” Okay, so he wasn’t talking directly to me, but his words resonate. Old conditioning. Old must haves. And should haves. And expectations. And you betters. I have a lot of those.
Recently someone asked me what I do for a living. I was totally stumped! I didn’t know what to say, because what DO you say without giving the entire back story? Who am I now? I don’t know. “Business,” I say. Lame response. Need to work on my sabbatical elevator pitch.
I’m still struggling with finding my course, but the signs are becoming more frequent and stronger. It’s like pieces of a quilt I’m trying to sew together. I knew each piece serves a purpose – it lends its own beautiful symbol to my life, but it can’t exist by itself. It must be joined with other pieces, and together, make a beautiful quilt.
Now, where to find the sewing needle and thread?