I looked at my watch and noted that it was 3:00. Back home I would be nearing the end of another teaching day but would have hours of work left before heading home. What a strange experience, to be sitting on a surfboard with almost no one else around, surrounded by serenity while imagining and feeling that busy life that I have put on pause. And this isn’t just a day off; I have nine more months of this.
The school where I used to teach started again last Wednesday, and this has been a really strange time for me. On Facebook for the past few weeks, I’ve been watching all of my teacher friends back in the States getting their classrooms ready and then having their first days of school while I’m doing… What exactly am I doing? I think for the past few weeks I’ve had a hard time knowing exactly what I’m experiencing. I think I’ve been a little unsettled, and I’ve definitely had writer’s block.
As I was getting dinner ready this evening, I was thinking a lot about life and time, thinking about my surreal surf experience this afternoon in juxtaposition to what life would be like if I weren’t taking this Sabbath year. Am I wasting this year? Should I be back home with structure, with goals, producing something? Honestly, what have I been doing so far on this Sabbath year?
I’ve bought a really crappy bike, and I took weeks to build a really crappy surfboard rack that has had something go wrong with it both times that I’ve used it. I’ve bought stuff to make a pull up bar, but it’s still sitting next to my bed (maybe it’ll go up tomorrow). I’ve read part of a book on negotiating with terrorists (professional development). I’ve been baking a lot: Bread, bagels, pizza, cinnamon rolls. I cook a lot. And I’ve been to San Jose probably once a week for several weeks. Oh, and I made a chicken coop, can’t forget that.
I’ve thought about putting up paper spreadsheets on the refrigerator to help us keep track of the cash we spend. I’ve thought about reading books in Spanish (read a poem by Pablo Neruda tonight!). I’ve talked about reading parenting books with Rachel. I’ve thought about writing down a list of personal character traits that I want to develop in my life. I’ve thought about writing down a list of visionary words that I hope will guide and inspire our children (such as “courageous,” “compassionate,” etc.). I’ve thought of a lot of things.
So as I was standing at the kitchen counter this evening, I was thinking about our goals for this year and wondering if we’re meeting them and if we actually will meet them. Or should we be back in the States, working hard, focused, making “to do” lists for the week and struggling to fulfill them? I was feeling a little down on myself, like why have I not done all of these things that I want to do? Feeling like if I’m not careful, this year is going to be a waste and all I will have done is made bagels. Feeling like I need to be sure to sit down and write out those lists and focus on them each day to be sure that I’m “self-improving.” And be intentional about this and be intentional about that.
And then I realized that maybe this is exactly how it should be. Yes, I want to be intentional and write down how I want to grow personally. Yes, I want to put up a pull up bar and not be a flabby daddy. But what I’m doing now is good too. Maybe all I’ve done with my life in the past two months is make bagels, but those bagels are pretty darn good, and my family loves them, and so do my neighbors. And maybe I’ve only made a crappy surfboard rack that doesn’t even really work, but I love creating and inventing things, even when they don’t work. And when was the last time I’ve taken the time to do something like that and to pursue my personal passions? And maybe I don’t get anything done because we take forever in the morning to cook and eat breakfast because we read to our kids and let Charlotte help us make pancakes (she LOVES to help cook). And when do I have time and flexibility to rent a car at last minute’s notice and spend a day driving a friend in need to San Jose. And when do I take time to surf in the middle of the day when there are no waves, only the water lapping at my board, the thunderheads building on the horizon, the pelicans diving for fish, and the sun hot on my face. And when do I have the time and space to stand at the kitchen sink and have my thoughts free to ponder about life without having the impending weight of what I need to accomplish nagging at my mind?
I think by the end of this year I will be ready and will need to jump back into structure and schedule and rhythmic, purposeful labor. But for now, I think that I want to embrace rest and know that sometimes rest is enough. Although writing down all of those goals will be good, sometimes that too can be striving.
We always say that finding meaning in life is important. But perhaps rest is as important to living a life of meaning as is searching for meaning.