Today is day 27 of my 156 day sabbatical, spanning August through December. I'm trying not to obsess too hard over how much of my sabbatical has passed and how much is left, but in writing this I couldn't resist doing the math and learning that I'm 17% through my sabbatical at this point. My rational brain recognizes that's a rather small percentage; my burnt-out, desperate-for-this-break-for-so-long brain cries "Already?!?" My overachiever brain frets about when exactly I'm going to figure out what I'm going to do with this sabbatical; my still-tired brain that's thoroughly enjoying all of the sleeping in, lazing and napping so far frets about that overachiever brain fucking it all up too soon with too many projects and pursuits.
My brain on sabbatical (and in general) contains multitudes, all tugging in different directions, but luckily thus far the burnt-out and tired parts of my brain are winning and self-care is taking center stage. My sabbatical version of self-care looks like waking and rising whenever I please, or having a really good, enjoyment-based reason to get up at a particular or early hour; reading a ton (finally finished Pleasure Activism after a many-months hiatus during which the importance of pleasure wasn't high on my mind, then read a biography of relatively-little-known jazz pianist Hazel Scott, now re-reading The Fifth Season); writing more than I have in a long time, mostly journaling but also here I am blogging; thoroughly cleaning parts of my home in leisurely fits and starts; spending time with my loved ones, whether in person (limited as that is these days) or via more texts and calls and emails than usual; and, for two weeks, actually, gloriously vacationing.
Though I was too stressed out and overloaded to do much thinking or planning for getaways in the weeks leading up to August, I very luckily had the help of my partner, who secured lodgings in Point Reyes and near South Lake Tahoe, where we spent the second and third weeks of my sabbatical. We were lucky enough to be in Point Reyes before the awful and continuing wildfires broke out there and all over the state. In a fabulous relief from pandemic city living, we spent a full week enjoying the beautiful weather and abundant sunshine, hiking, swimming, watching birds and other amazing wildlife (tule elk! long-tailed weasels! Steller's jays! cormorants!), and generally relaxing and enjoying ourselves. We returned to Oakland for a few nights between the two legs of our vacation; the night we returned, we listened to the thunderclaps that accompanied the dry lightning that set off the wildfires. The smoke reached Oakland a few days later; we drove through the thickening smoke and between two of the huge lightning fire complexes on our way to our next destination, unsure whether this was the right thing to do (heading to the woods during wildfires?) but hoping for the best.
In the end the Tahoe area didn't end up in the literal line of fire, and though we got our fair share of smoke from the fires raging further west, it wasn't nearly as bad as it was in the Bay. Still, we largely stayed inside our rented cabin, reading and doing jigsaw puzzles except for a couple of outings to alpine lakes--not the lake, but smaller, less crowded and still tremendously beautiful lakes nearby. Those swims and short hikes were wonderful, but came with the constant threat of shifting winds and, on one of the days, the need to head back early because of the demonstrably worsening air. We drove back to Oakland through even worse smoke conditions, which continued here until the major break we've gotten for the past few days.
Speaking of breaks: I've been on a social media fast since leaving for vacation, which means 19 days and counting since I last logged into Facebook or Twitter. (Though I've admittedly searched Twitter a few times without logging in. #catholicguilt #confession) I'm glad for the break, though it does feel weird and sometimes almost unnerving to have my collective experience of the intense things happening in this world limited to the people I actually live, text, email or talk with. How funny that this robust list of communication methods seems limited to me now! Though I wouldn't call it limiting. That breadth (depth?) of contact with community and subsequent context for understanding all that's going on, even within the further constraints of the pandemic, feels like plenty, especially since I'm not on a news fast.
And oh, the news. The fires, hurricanes, pandemic. Jacob Blake, Kenosha, again and again.
Allowing myself to not write or tweet or post more than that about all that's in the news these days is part of what I'm trying to give to myself during this sabbatical. It feels connected to how and why I'm allowing myself to take a sabbatical and truly, freely rest despite the backdrop of all that has happened, is happening, and will happen during these months. (November--I shudder to think.) I'm truly thankful to my fellow workers at Palante for making this possible in the first place; I'm also truly thankful to all of the many trusted friends, longtime fellow community members and compas who have reminded me many times over of the truth that Audre Lorde put so well: "Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare." (Or as one longtime compa put it, "Fly free, baby!") I take this break in the interest of returning to work on behalf of my movements and communities, Palante and otherwise. As I wrote in a post on the Palante site, I've been feeling burnt-out and in need of a major break for a long time now; that couldn't wait until things theoretically "calm down."
Better to be well-rested, clear-headed, and all the more ready for what is to come.