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  • Writer's picturestephanieraffelock

Taking Time Off

When the November full moon cast her light, the darkness didn’t seem so frightening. Still, for most of us, the recent journey has been exhausting. Pandemic and politics have been at the top of the list for too long and it’s been the unwelcome backdrop for the other things in life that inevitably unfold.

It’s against this backdrop that both of my siblings died within a year of each other. Then I received news that one of my friends had their cancer come back. Grief swirled around the days, seeping under the door like smoke and bringing tears.

Everything began to feel like a stress to me, even my own creative endeavors. I announced that I would take some time off. I probably should have thought about what that meant. To some, taking time off means that you do nothing, that your days are unstructured and serendipitous. But, I wouldn’t know an unstructured day if I tripped over it. The notion of taking time off has given way to pure, child like creativity. What I should have announced to myself was that I was taking time off from stress, from feeling burdened or obligated. I was taking time off to rediscover and reclaim the joy in my life.

I can do nothing about the cycle of loss that is part of being human, but I can do a great deal about self-inflicted stresses that are fed by a poor attitude or poor choices. So during this time off, I stayed away from anything that had the word “deadline” attached to it. I stayed away from pitching, promoting, and an attachment to social media. Instead, I learned to play again. I’ve been studying poetry the past few weeks. I love to play and stretch words into verses that reflect life. In short, I've created a space to do whatever I want to without apology or explanation.

Several women in my work-in-progress group remarked that for someone taking time off, I sure was busy. I didn’t feel busy, but I did feel creative. I had fun with my poetry, journaling and collage. I recaptured a sense of whimsy and beauty. I could better deal with the losses in my life with an open heart and compassion. And, during this time off, I’ve allowed myself an afternoon nap each day. I’ve spent come Sunday mornings in bed with my laptop and art supplies. I’ve sat on the back porch and drunk in the moon.

Turns out that wanting and needing to take time off, was a little bit of a misnomer. Now after weeks of what I consider to be play and relaxation, I see that what I was saying is that I wanted to rediscover the joy and lightheartedness in my life.

The idea of self-care always looked like hot baths and a candle to me, but my definition of self care has expanded since I’ve had time off. Surrendering to creativity as playfulness has been relaxing, invigorating and satisfying.

In January, I will have an editorial calendar again. There will be deadlines. Life will start to feel busy, but I’m hoping to hang onto this new sense of creativity and playfulness. When I again feel stressed, I’ll know that it’s not laying back in a Barcalounger that I’m wanting, it’s a break from stresses and burdens. It’s stepping back from drama and obligation to find renewal in what I love.

Do you need some time off – and what does that look like? Time to reclaim or reinvent? Time to rediscover a playful, relaxed and joyful part of yourself? Time to watch clouds move across the sky? Time off is what we make it and if there’s a happy and relaxing component to it, then I think that it’s a success.

Take some time to drink in the moon . . .

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