sabbatical reflections: coming back online

the process of coming back to my life after sabbatical was as hard, if not harder, than the process of going offline! and that’s wild because i thought the process of going offline was one of the hardest things i’ve ever done.

my tagline for the process of coming back online has come to be: i love my work and not working is just better than working.

and it feels really true. like… i have spent a lot of years crafting a life where i get to make money doing things that i love supporting people who i think are excellent. i get to use some of my most treasured skills in almost all of my work. i get to work with people who are working on themselves (usually in service of bigger change work in the world) or working on/in their organizations (always in service of bigger change in the world).

but taking 4 weeks off and not working at all was just so 👏🏾 damn👏🏾 good👏🏾! even given all the love i have for my work and community and family (chosen and blood) and lovers and and and… coming back to my life felt truly terrible. it felt like i was living in a world a previous version of me created and i actually said to myself at one point of extreme emotional sensitivity “i hate my life.”


it feels pretty vulnerable to say that outloud, especially because i really love my life.

but what i was feeling was real: i have created a life that has some elements i really don’t like: namely that i am doing too much. and i understand lots of why i do too much, for sure. there are traumatic (generational and in-my-lifetime) reasons and societal reasons (capitalism, etc.) and values reasons (commitment to anti-oppression and liberation work) and more. but having done the work to take all my things off my plate and having to put it all back on my plate has got me feeling the truth of my doing-too-muchness very clearly.

my hands peeling

a part of me feels very resistant to sharing this next bit but i’m going to do it because another part of me thinks it’s important to share and document.

in the few months leading up to the sabbatical, my hands started peeling. it started with what seemed a single, tiny, pinhead opening on one part of one hand. then more showed up. and then they each grew. and then it started on the other hand. and then some spots grew so large they connected. and it was awful. it wasn’t painful, but it was awful. i started to feel some of the emotional and societal pain of the biblical lepers.

my left hand peeling

caption: the peeling at its near peak

at the time, i wasn’t sure what was causing it. at first i thought it was related to some old sunscreen i was using. then i started to think it might be a somatic emotional response. my doctor told me to get an allergy test (i still haven’t done it) but after i had the “this is stress-related” thought, i wouldn’t unsee it. at the time, i was working on a very stressful project and it made sense to me that that could be a reason.

i bring all this up now because when i was on sabbatical, the peeling went completely away. the hardest part about the peeling going away, though, was the peeling coming back. that might not make sense but let me explain: while i was on sabbatical, i was so relaxed that i didn’t even notice that my hands were healing. it was such a chill situation that my hands healed basically without me noticing. and, sadly, the moment i realized they had completely healed was a moment near the end of sabbatical when they started peeling again.

i had decided to attempt to ease my transition back into the rest of my life by taking the last 3 days and doing a little bit of work each day. first i would check my work inbox (estimated @ 2-3hrs of work), write out all my tasks, then go back to sabbaticalling). the next day, i’d do the same for my personal inbox. the third day i’d check all my texts and then prioritize the task lists i’d made.

i didn’t even make it past the first day when i noticed my hands start peeling again. and, truly, i freaked the fuck out. that was the “i hate my life moment.” for days after that, i genuinely thought i would actually quit everything in my life. i had drafted some letters quitting things and was ready to pull the plug. i wasn’t necessarily going to go back to the woods, but i for sure was going to drop everything and start over.

thankfully (or not), i chose to slow down my re-integration process and as i slowed down the peeling slowed down and eventually stopped. and, to this date, it has still not come back.

i hope this is because of some of the shifts i made which i guess takes me into my final blog post of this reflection series… integration!

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words / writing / post-processing
821w / 29min / 3min