Taking a Pause to Reflect, Redirect and Reinvent

In January 2022 I listened to the Wellcoaches’ continuing education (CE) class–“The Urgency of Sabbaticals” by DJ DiDonna, founder of the Sabbatical Project. I recall that before I took the class, I had recently talked with an excited client about his sabbatical and was intrigued by the idea. Like most who contemplate taking an extended leave from work, I didn’t think I could pull it off due to cost (how can I afford that?), optics (how will that look to others?), and responsibilities (people depend on me). Also typical of many who take sabbaticals, mine wasn’t pre-planned. Instead, it was precipitated by negative personal events, including the deaths of my father and beloved canine, Lily. 

The way my father’s life ended had a significant effect on me and my sister, Monica. For over two and half weeks, we visited him together every day. There were many tearful goodbyes as he expressed his remorse, fears, and insecurities. He was extremely restless, causing himself physical harm in his desperate attempts to escape from his surroundings and imminent death. Clearly, he was not at peace with how he had lived his life, but he knew it was too late to make amends. All he could do was sob when the chaplain tried to talk with him and provide comfort. Monica and I were deeply saddened and somewhat taken aback by this flow of heartfelt words and emotions from our normally stoic father. The change in his character was evidence of his intense suffering that he could no longer hide. 

In the movies, and maybe in your personal illusions about death, there is some profound wisdom that is shared by those who are about to pass. Often, this advice is expressed in words. However, our father was not able to speak shortly before he left us. Rather, his behaviors are what made a lasting impression. My sister and I both realize we don’t want to be in a similarly distressed state in our final days. We need to find the courage to make some difficult changes in our personal and professional lives. 

Adding to the grief of losing my father was the passing of my loyal dog, Lily, only a few weeks later. The combination has been crushing. Last week it hit me hard. Since the pandemic I, like many others, have been working at home. Although I interact with many clients online, I am isolated in my home studio. As I recently realized, Lily provided the physical social connection I needed and longed for with another living being during my workdays. I hadn’t appreciated how strongly bonded we were.

My ever-watchful canine companion always knew where I was during the day and would frequently glare through the house window as I crossed the breezeway into my work studio. I imagine that she kept her gaze on my door. Then, as soon as I emerged from the studio, her head would pop up from the couch, and her tail would begin to wag as her eyes locked on me and she ran to the door in greeting. If she wasn’t at the window, I would find her and check-in before and after every class and client session. Since her absence, my work days have become intolerably lonely. It has been especially hard with my husband working many weekends. A sabbatical will provide me with a much-needed change in schedule and environment.

Time to Pause

I’m looking at my upcoming time off as a pause. A time when I can stop long enough to reflect on myself, my relationships, my business, my goals and dreams, and my overall life direction to discover the changes I want to make. What do I want in the next phase of my life? 

Before I go on, I need to make a shout out to inspirational speaker Mel Robbins. I have borrowed some of her terminology, including the words “pause” and “reinvent.” My sister introduced me to the Mel Robbins podcast and the Mel Robbins Audible original Reinvent Your Life. Her advice in the Audible program has helped me find the courage to take this break. Her insights are weaved into this blog, including the following . . .

When I am in constant motion–developing and teaching classes, meeting with clients, writing blogs, creating new courses, expanding my skills and credentials, marketing, posting on social media, etc.–all of my time and energy are used up. I don’t have the space and creativity to explore new ideas, consider different business strategies, or make any changes whatsoever. It is all I can do to keep up with my current obligations and weekly commitments. Can you relate?

Life can sometimes feel like the lyrics in the Talking Heads song “Once in a Lifetime.” For me, the song is about living on autopilot. The song lyric “And you may ask yourself, ‘Well, how did I get here?’” is particularly encouraging me to take a pause. If we don’t stop to reflect and redirect, we may no longer recognize our life, as the song portrays: “And you may tell yourself, ‘This is not my beautiful house.’ And you may tell yourself, ‘This is not my beautiful wife (or husband).’” And, like my dad, we may have regrets about what our lives could have been: “And you may say to yourself, ‘My God, what have I done?’” One thing is for certain, though: we’re “letting the days (and our life) go by.” Taking a pause is my way of regaining power over the direction of my life–who I want to be, where I want to be, what I want to do, and on and on.

Within hours of writing the draft of that previous paragraph, I went for a run, something I have not done in many months. I put in my air pods and tuned SiriusXM to the limited time channel Duran Duran FUTURE PAST Radio–my all-time favorite 80s band. About a mile into my short run, guess what song came on? You know it: “Once in a Lifetime” by the Talking Heads. Mel Robbins, and before her the psychologist Carl Jung, would call this a synchronicity, simply defined as a coincidence between what’s on my mind and events in the outside world. In addition, Mel would say that it was a sign that I was taking the right step in my life journey. 

Sabbatical Details

My sabbatical begins, appropriately enough, on my mother’s birthday, Friday, June 16. And I plan to spend that weekend, Father’s Day weekend, with Monica, remembering our dad. From there I will be spending some time with her, then traveling back east for a wedding in August, and then to Kona, Hawaii to support Monica in the Ironman World Championships in October. 

How long will I be out? I’m giving myself through the end of the year. However, it may be longer or shorter. One of the objectives for my sabbatical is to feel what it is like to live without the constant, self-imposed pressure of work. I want to notice how I feel mentally, emotionally, and physically. I am also challenging myself not to jump on any ideas and start something new too quickly. I realize that this is my tendency. I am uncomfortable not knowing what is next. I want to have a plan, a goal, a destination, something to work towards. I like to work. I want to work! And it is easy to just keep checking items off the list without a bigger vision. I need to gain that wider perspective. I also want to explore what’s out there, things I can’t even imagine right now from my current mindset. 

Work Impacts

Classes. I will NOT be holding live classes during my break. However, one new pre-recorded class will be posted each month. Only the starter membership plan will continue to be available, which includes the 80+ recorded 60-minute classes.

Instructor Led Courses. Remain available for purchase anytime.

1:1 Coaching Sessions. These will be offered minimally if at all and only on an as-needed basis.

Blogs & Newsletters. I don’t intend to write blogs or send newsletters during my time off.

Email. Will be checked periodically. Feel free to be in touch.

Book. Available for purchase on Amazon in print and kindle formats.

Social Media. Will continue at a reduced level.

Conclusion

The CE class I listened to summarized sabbaticals as peak experiences that are catalyzed by negative events and that result in a significant identity revision. Certainly, the second part of that is true for me, a negative catalyst. As far as a peak experience, that is yet to be determined. I am open to it. Finally, I do anticipate and will embrace an identity revision.

I hope you will support me in taking this break. Additionally, as always, my intention is to lead by example and inspire you to take positive steps forward in your life. I encourage you to join me in taking a pause. Before you say no, consider that your pause can be much shorter. How about just five minutes of deep breathing every morning, daily journaling, an afternoon in nature, or a weekend retreat . . . Once you do stop, the next step is to contemplate this question: What do you want in the next phase of your life?

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About the Author

Jessica

Jessica uses an integrative approach to help you overcome chronic pain. She believes in treating the whole person utilizing the biopsychosocial approach to healing. Her offerings include posture therapy, online exercise classes, pain science education, and individual or group wellness coaching. She is certified by the Postural Restoration Institute® (PRI), Egoscue University®, National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA), American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM), American Council on Exercise (ACE) and Wellcoaches.