Shaking it up, changing scenes, doing a new thing – it’s energizing. It can also be draining. Stepping away from normal routines is a form of disruption, after all, and disruptions often cause extra work. I tried doing some new things this summer, and it most certainly took extra work. Vacation time gave me a precious opportunity to travel.
On the one hand, it was a gift to be able to find new experiences in new places. On the other hand, I admit, it felt like a big challenge to get all my projects to places where they could do without me (or with less of me) for a while. Stepping away from things wasn’t easy, but I found that the energy it took to step away was a good investment.
Coming from a Christian tradition, I had the concept of Sabbath on my mind. Hebrew scriptures associate the Sabbath pause with disruption, and understandably so. Local economies had to bear the burden of losing an entire day’s worth of productivity. All the same, those scriptures emphasize the Sabbath pause as important, powerful, and even life-giving.
Not at all the same as getting in some vacation time, the concept of Sabbath encourages people to take on the sometimes-energizing, sometimes-draining, always-sacred act of stepping back from the work, habits, and assumptions that have shaped their days. Why? The book of Genesis describes a creator using the seventh day to pause and look at the creation that had emerged, calling it good. With that in mind, pausing and looking at what we’re doing becomes something valuable for everyday people, too. Disruptive as it is, pausing to step away from our normal routine gives us opportunities to notice good things we might not otherwise notice.
Have you noticed anything good lately?
One thing I noticed during my own summer pause was enjoyment. It started on a rainy morning outing in Times Square that turned up tickets for a stage play starring Denzel Washington. I knew the man was a skilled and gifted actor, but I hadn’t imagined what it would be like to see him perform in person. It’s amazing to experience someone brilliantly enjoying what he does and helping the people around him enjoy it, too.
Since that day, I’ve been a little more aware of enjoyment: doing things with someone I enjoy, getting out and finding people who are enjoying what they’re doing, finding new things I enjoy. There are all sorts of variations on enjoyment. The key, and the thing I don’t always make time to do, is noticing it. That’s where pausing and stepping away came in.
Stepping away from normal routine gives us time to glimpse new experiences and perspectives. It can help us downshift into reflective mode and work through problems better. It can help us notice possibilities that we hadn’t even imagined. I found that stepping away this summer, however draining it was to make that possible, refreshed deeply me in other ways.
So I wonder: what kind of pauses will your schedule hold?
– excerpted from “Step back a moment and be aware of joy that is all around you,” originally published in the Indianapolis Star (August 12, 2018)