Tuesday, August 22, 2017


I will not be teaching this year; I prefer to call it a 'sabbatical', evoking a noble adventure, instead of a 'leave of absence', which sounds like illness, defeat, or sad emptiness. It has taken a significant amount of mental energy for me to first decide this is a good idea, then to talk about it aloud, then to discuss logistically with the people affected, and finally to make a formal written request. I enjoy imagining I'm the rebellious type who lives by a sassy "Better to ask forgiveness than permission" philosophy, but in reality I tend to be a rule-following pedant. However, as I have approached the half-century mark of my life, I'm ready to take a break from some tendencies.

Many people (women - let's be honest about who tries to please everyone else all of the time) talk about giving themselves permission to say "No" more often - no more taking on unsatisfying jobs, no more spending time on unnecessary tasks, no more saying or doing or pretending to be something they aren't or don't want to be. These are very important considerations, but as a woman + parent, I long ago allowed myself to say [FUCK] "No" to any activity or behavior that did not directly impact my children's well-being and/or might result in an arrest, but what I haven't done as much is say "Yes" to the things that make me feel good. Vibrant. Successful, purposeful, necessary, alive. See also "Potential Midlife Crisis But Shut Up Because Your Judgement Isn't Helpful." I might still have some issues to work out.

My main motivation for the sabbatical was to be present for my daughter's Senior year of high school (much to her now-horror; I'm hoping she'll be grateful later. Stop laughing). I realized when my son was graduating that I'd either missed or scrambled to be involved in many little events & opportunities throughout the year, and I determined to not let that happen with my last child. I know who I become when I'm trying to Do All the Things for family + school + self and she is unpleasant, and since I'm now on the verge of turning 50, I feel the need to get better at this Living Life Fully gig. There are so many small, beguiling things I realized I've wanted to do with my time for decades and am determined to use this one year differently. I will turn my unstructured blank-canvas days into masterpieces - some will be be fuzzy Monets, some crisp Vermeers, some wildly spectacular Jackson Pollocks & Hieronymus Boschs, others bewildering but fascinating DalĂ­s. 

This year's Yes goals, in no particular order:

  • Volunteer for causes I love - Band Boosters, 2018 Senior Parents, Portland Film Festival, OPB pledge drives (I CANNOT WAIT TO ANSWER PHONES), finding solutions to homelessness
  • Read more - I have a ludicrous number of books hanging out waiting on my nightstand, dresser, table next to my livingroom recliner; follow me on GoodReads and send encouragement, maybe let's create a book group?
  • Weeknight events - more concerts, collage nights, poetry readings, book signings
  • Audio book recording - I've already looked into the [very intimidating] paid world and blanched at the requirements, but have found some ways of reading aloud for fun/free
  • Reader's Theater - a local director encouraged me to try this low-key version of acting; terrified but excited
  • Travel - Keeping eyes open for opportunities to visit new places without spending a lot of money I won't have
  • Baking - whatever, whenever; it calms me and I'll want that often, I suspect
  • Writing - I've already begun to attend to my blog more often, trying to harness thoughts into a theme people might be interested in, but I'd like to investigate screenwriting, more poetry, or short story crafting

Permission is a dastardly thing. It wants you to think it is necessary, that it is the only way you will be able to accomplish what you wish. But you are in charge of your life - some parts feel unchangeable but don't let them guilt or worry you into believing you aren't in control - sometimes it's only a matter of changing the question from Can I? to How can I? 

And it might take 50 years, which is okay.