Today was the first official day of my summer sabbatical. My goals for this time period are legion and include many plans for writing, reading, relaxing, reconnecting, and letting some of the stresses of this past year roll off of my shoulders.
But my largest goal is to stretch, everyday.
My shoulders and hips and legs are so tight that I’ve been in nearly-constant pain for the past 4 months. I’ve had too many hours at my desk, too many hours commuting by car. And when I have been exercising, it’s generally been a power activity like canoeing or rock climbing, and not an activity that increases my limberness.
So today: yoga.
Gentle restorative stretches to ease the tightness in my lower back. It’s humbling to realize how far I’ve drifted from my previous, flexible self. And things weren’t going so well with the yoga stretching (ouch) until I realized that I’d forgotten to breathe. My jaw was still clenched tight, my mind remained focused on some stressors that I can’t control. My hands were tight fists.
So I stoked the coals in my belly and started to send the heat out to my aching muscles.
Inhaling and exhaling from deep inside.
And it worked. I got looser (a bit). I stretched for an hour and then I spent my 10 minutes of shavasana focusing solely on breathing. When I sat up afterwards, the pain was definitely decreased, and I felt more alert, more hopeful, and more ready for what lies ahead.
I began the day by reflecting on my past few birthday celebrations, each of which has been special in its own way…
2011: birthday #40(!), spent the morning at the Farmer’s Market, the afternoon in Laguna Beach, and then an evening party with friends. The day marked Stijn’s first return to the U.S. after having been gone for 6(!) weeks.
2012: a morning wander around San Gimignano, then back to the Fortezza di Cortesi for an afternoon swim. Dinner was a simple meal of olives, bread, and cheese in the gazebo. That this happened in Italy was all part of a last-minute adventure that began when we boarded a train bound for Cologne a few days before, and then found ourselves bound for Zurich and eventually Italy via the Alps.
2013: a drive to LA to the Spanish market in search of spices for paella and a special bottle of Rioja. I was not feeling particularly well–with my first surgery of the summer happening a few days later–but we managed to celebrate and dream and enjoy the serendipity of finding just what we needed at the Spanish market.
2014: and today, things are a bit hectic as we pack up the house & simultaneously host guests from Europe, but I’m especially happy that there’s time for a bit of celebration because it will be awhile before I get to hang out with my local friends.
As for the future…I have no idea where or how I will celebrate my day next year….but that’s okay. I’m becoming more and more accustomed to that feeling.
It was 30 years ago today that I was diagnosed with bone cancer. I shared that story with my daughter as I drove her to school this morning, not realizing that I’d never told her before how it happened.
My life completely changed that day, and in the days that followed. On the 21st I was diagnosed, on the 22nd I had biopsy surgery, on the 23rd I learned that I would lose my leg, on the 24th I had my first chemo treatment, and on the 25th I celebrated my 13th birthday by sipping 7Up and puking birthday cake in front of friends and family.
I remain amazed that I am still alive and relatively healthy, three decades later…
The Middle Earth dorms at UCI, where I first lived when I moved to Irvine.
“I have learned that if you must leave a place that you have lived in and loved and where all your yesteryears are buried deep, leave it any way except a slow way, leave it the fastest way you can. Never turn back and never believe that an hour you remember is a better hour because it is dead. Passed years seem safe ones, vanquished ones, while the future lives in a cloud, formidable from a distance.”
― Beryl Markham, West with the Night
There is a momentum to everything that’s going on in my life right now, that seems to be spinning faster and faster everyday. Work, home, family, friends, and self are all in the midst of change–most of it too personal or too complicated to explain here.
Probably looming largest above everything is the realization that in a few days I’m leaving the community where I’ve lived for 25 years, where I’ve raised my children, where I’ve found “home” in so many different places–from my first dorm room in Hobbiton to our current family-sized house in University Hills. In addition to moving from Irvine, I’m taking a summer sabbatical from my work Chapman and will be on the move (i.e. homeless) for a few months. And when I return it will be to an “empty-nest” because both of the kiddos will have moved on to college.
It’s a lot of change in a short span of time, and I don’t think that I’ve ever packed my stuff up for moving without knowing where I would be living when I was unpacking.
I’m not afraid of what will happen when I return in the fall, but I am feeling a bit melancholy about the move because I know how unlikely it is that I will find a home that I enjoy as much as the one where I live now. The Markham quote above rings true to my feelings, that the future lives in a cloud, formidable from a distance. It is quite formidable not to know the where and when of what one’s life will be.
But perhaps Markham is also right by saying that it’s good to make big changes quickly and without too much time available for sorrow or worry. To just leap ahead and know that whatever will come will be new and different and probably even better than whatever I imagined it would be. I also know that I have a great job and wonderful OC friends to come “home” to, no matter where or what that actual home ends up being…which brings a great deal of comfort in the midst of such a whirlwind.
I’m not a huge fan of Mother’s Day (too much commercialism and shmaltz), but it was still a joy to spend a few minutes on Sunday looking through the photos taken at my mother’s surprise 70th birthday party last December. The uber-talented D’Arcy Benincosa was out photographer, and she did such a great job of capturing the smiles of my siblings and Mom. Everytime I look at these pictures, I am so happy (note: click on the images to enlarge them).
I also enjoyed a quiet moment considering what my Dad might think of these if he were still alive. Given that one of the last efforts before he became ill was to throw a secret 50th birthday surprise party for my Mom, I feel fairly confident that he, too, would be pleased by knowing that we traveled from the four corners of the US to do that same for her 20 years later:
A long time ago, I encountered this table while staying at the Friends’ House in Beacon Hill (in Boston). Way back then I remarked how much I’d like to have such a table for entertaining someday.
Our current kitchen table isn’t quite that large, but it does handily seat at least eight people once the leaf is inserted. And lately we’ve had a houseful of visitors from overseas, stretching that capacity to the maximum.
As I pondered that this afternoon (while hearing the happy noises of friends coming from downstairs) I realized just how much I enjoy entertaining and how I had imagined this future for myself many times: to break bread with good and generous people, who are at ease and hopeful about their lives. People who know how to laugh and relax…and then wash the dishes together afterwards…
This list of links is for a round table that I’m participating in at the #WAWH conference this afternoon about writing online as a graduate student. So to mix things up a but I thought I’d try a bit of upworthy-style academic clickbait (instead of a PowerPoint)…
1) blog everyday
Confessions of a blogger historian
The blogging life
2) get personal
Writing about disability and religion and divorce and family (and poetry and flowers…)
3) get distracted by side projects
Technological tools for historians
The Making History Podcast
4) tweet at and about academic conferences
Getting Twitterpated at academic conferences
The Past’s Digital Presence Conference twitter feed
5) accept a FT alt-ac position instead of ‘going on the market’
Moving from a virtual space to an academic office space
Ten things I’ve learned from being a university administrator