Bonjour! I begin the new year with the belief that everyone should take a sabbatical. Easier said than done, but how else can one better explore goofing off as well as explore ideas and transformational experiences? And perhaps produce something of surprise or merit or both?
But first things first…or at least second. I write from New York where Edward and I have enjoyed our year-end holidays here for the first time in what seems like fifteen years. New York is certainly special at this time of year—we literally had forgotten the New York City Ballet’s Nutcracker production. It doesn’t get any better than that…and holiday events from caroling in Washington Square to one-man-shows of Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, to the trees and lights and window decorations…and the “usual” world-class theater, concerts, dance performances, exhibitions and more. It was lovely to be a tourist in our home town. Except for one thing. It was the coldest holiday in anyone’s memory. Out and about in Manhattan on the second coldest New Year’s Eve on record, we scored a new memory for a lifetime. We also had to put the oysters in the refrigerator to keep them warm (almost kidding).
This time last year we set off to enjoy a sabbatical and define what “goofing off” means for us. It has been a super year, and we are once again grateful for our good fortune and humbled by our exceptional opportunities. The Bible tells us in Genesis, God rested on the seventh day, but he certainly must have had plenty to do on the eighth day. Goofing off involves not setting the clock on Monday morning, maybe not working on the eighth day, and being open to new and unanticipated possibilities. You never know. But a sabbatical, while related to the notion of the Sabbath, is not a day off, of course, it is traditionally a year off doing something different. Taking a break from the routine. The notion of a whole year of rest is cited in Leviticus (252:3-5), but that rest was for the field or vineyard. We mortals certainly aspire to take a year “off,” but are happy enough with even a few months “off” and call it a sabbatical. Should I have written just a few months? Some people today even speak of a week’s sabbatical, but they probably suffer from vacation anxiety. It is okay to take a week’s vacation or two without guilt, really.
From my days in the Champagne business, I accepted May West’s edict that “too much of a good thing can be … wonderful.” So, why would I contemplate a sabbatical or a year of goofing off that is less than a year? Happily, that year has another month to go. I will spend it being “productive” in a warm place.
One thing I learned about this past year is discount airlines. We did not set out to do that, but we had no choice. Often the only flights or convenient times turned out to be on airlines we had never heard of let alone flown. So we goofed off on Ryanair from Vilnius, Lithuania to Milan (for something like $30 per ticket), Norwegian Air from New York to Stockholm, Ryanair again from Marseille to Brest, Meridiana from Marseille to Milan, Southwestern from Baltimore-Washington to Albuquerque, jetBlue from Albuquerque to New York, jetBlue again from New York to Turks & Caicaos…and soon (as in tomorrow) from New York to St Lucia, La Compagnie from Paris to New York (and back), Vueling to Majorca (my poor Edward missed out on that one) and…and. All firsts and products of surprise. It turned out they were all fine (if in some cases the seats did not recline quite as much as devoutly to be wished). Busy, rich year, and then there were the flights on what used to be called, or soon will no longer be called the major carriers, including out usual basket of Air France flights. One of those flights to Strasbourg turned out we discovered upon boarding was branded “HOP!”, Air France’s budget airline inside Air France. That explained the $60 ticket. Who knew? What an evolving world.
One other thing we learned is that goofing off can be hard work…take for an illustration arranging for all those plane bookings, theater and performance tickets, restaurant reservations, and massages (oops). Are you feeling sorry for me? But we actually produced a good deal of substance as well (besides photographs), and we enjoyed the time to contemplate the difference between joy and happiness, both of which we experienced. Do exercise and increased mindfulness count as goofing off, or a sabbatical’s exposure to new experiences? Seeing many friends cannot be called goofing off, but breaking one’s wrist in Venice certainly counted as a moment of surprise and perhaps a transformational experience that led to more discoveries, mindfulness, and a new palate of appreciation. Reading and writing became welcome daily companions.
Returning to the notion of a sabbatical and its seven-year cycle… Recounting the past, I seem to have missed quite a few years of opportunity. Remembrances of sabbaticals lost. Consulting the scriptures, I have not seen it written that one cannot tap that unused bank. That’s reassuring and an invitation to all of us to make the most of the days ahead.
I wish you the best for the enigma of ’18.