breathing space

bare trees blue sky

I read a lot of blogs (I use Google Reader to keep track of them all), and every now and then I’ve noticed that most of the bloggers I read seem to go through periods when they don’t post much. Sometimes they offer an explanation, sometimes they don’t. (Usually the explanation has to do with the interference of life in all its complexities.)

I’ve been going through a very challenging period since mid-summer. Work has been busy – lately even more so, as I struggle to look after the responsibilities of a vacant position as well as my own. Blogging was one of the first things I dropped, encouraged by friends and family who saw me struggling to keep up with my insane workaholic schedule, and dreams I was having that clearly told me that I was abusing myself.

A lot of bloggers – especially minimalist ones – often advocate a “digital sabbatical,” or a conscious break from online activity. I’ve tried digital sabbaticals of various sorts, but never really found much benefit in them.

Then my websites got hacked a couple of weeks ago. As I struggled to connect with my hosting company’s tech support, I ran through various options in my head. I hadn’t been regularly backing up my sites, and I decided that if they were gone for good, I could handle that. Deep down, part of me even felt a little happy. Maybe I could start over again from scratch, with a more focused subject matter. All my past imperfections would be erased, as if they’d never existed.

From this place of contentment with what was, however, I discovered an interesting feeling: I missed blogging. I missed the deep reflection that preceded each post. I missed sharing my words and images. I missed browsing through the things I had written, amazed at the different twists and turns that spirit had led me through.

I think that what I really needed was the breathing space that the prolonged blogging vacation and hacking experience had given me. I can see how I need the same kind of breathing space in my work life, too. I’ve literally been working 10 to 13-hour days for the last two weeks – hardly sleeping, eating haphazardly, pushing myself to get as much done as I can. I’ve been finding it very hard to drop the “ball” of work – strategies and work plans constantly fill my head, even (perhaps especially) in the middle of the night.

My pattern is to work insanely hard until my body sends me illness in order to make me slow down. Friday it came in the form of a bad migraine that sent me to my bed for the day. Much of yesterday was also spent sleeping – catching up on my accumulated sleep deficit. I needed breathing space – enough to allow me to finally relax the constant tension in my shoulders and stomach, to allow my mind to finally still.

The long wintery nights are reminding me of an experience I had several years ago before a singing recital. I arrived home from work early, showered and changed, and then lay on my bed watching the sky turn from watery grey-blue to royal blue to blue-purple to black through my window. It was late fall recital, with a Christmas theme. It was so rare for me to lie about doing nothing, thinking about nothing. A sense of deep peace came over me, and I left for my recital feeling calm and relaxed, where normally I would have been anxious and nauseous.

In music, the spaces between the notes are as important as the notes themselves. The silence is as much a part of the song as the sound is. Here’s to the active seeking out more silence in the weeks to come…

Do you need some breathing space in your life? What’s holding you back from taking it?

This photo was taken a couple of weekends ago in a wooded area I like to visit. It was one of the last, glorious days of fall before the weather turned cold and snowy in my neck of the woods.

When I go hiking, I don’t actually do much hiking. I do a lot of sitting and absorbing my environment. The energy of the trees, the sunshine, the wind.

On the day I took this photograph, I smelled a delicious scent that reminded me of sweetgrass. I think it was the dried leaves baking in the sun on the forest floor… or maybe it was the residual echo of Native rituals from before the time of the European settlement. Whatever it was, it made me drunk and blissful. It was good to breathe.