I entered my chiropractor’s office with a slight limp. I hoped he had the fix. 30 minutes later I limped back out with a recipe for sore hips to add to my aching heel. So why am I pleased? It starts with my yoga instructor’s words.
“Step to the front of your mat,” she said quietly. We made a collective shift forward. “Now, close your eyes and think of the word vision … what vision do you hold for your yoga practice today?” Nice question. With a little word-smithing, it’s also a good mantra to repeat for the new year ahead.
This time of year is a perfect time for articulating a personal vision. Just for fun, I tested a new Google tool which graphed the prevalence of the phrase “personal vision” from 1800 to 2008. Our use of the word peaked in the mid-’90s, making personal vision a fairly commonplace phrase within our culture. I ask myself “What vision do I hold for 2011?” and after a three-month sabbatical from work, I feel pretty lucid about a couple of things. I no longer want work dominating my life. I want to create more space and lightness in my work so that it supports, not erodes, my physical health.
Taking a sabbatical was a huge leap for me; in my decades of working so far, I’ve never taken a substantial break (and now I know: three months off feels more like two weeks!). Yes, I’ve had wonderful vacations and quality time with friends and family; but I’ve never unplugged from work purely to recharge myself.
Mind you, I have no regrets about throwing myself into my career. From being an exercise physiologist to a corporate strategist to my current role at Wisdom Works, I’ve been blessed with great jobs. I’ve learned something significant from each new chapter of my career. The sabbatical, however, was a chance for me to stop working long enough to reflect on my beliefs about work. It provided the opportunity to understand if my work approaches were supporting—or thwarting—my overall vision of a life of well-being.
Beyond work, the sabbatical also provided a chance to pay more attention to a few health issues, such as the pain in my right heel. I’d fractured my heel bone late in 2009 while long-distance running. Of course I did what every good overachiever does: you know, ignore the signals of pain and keep running because running must be good for my health, right?! The stress fracture has healed, but has now evolved into a nasty case of plantar fasciitis. Hoping for better news, I consulted the aforementioned chiropractor. He informed me: “You’re suffering from pain in your heel, Renee, but the deeper problem is a lack of balance in your hips.”
So here I am, practicing new ways of standing and walking. Believe me: these feel like new ways of being in my body. For instance, he asked me to sink my weight over my heels instead of the balls of my feet and to allow a larger curve in my lower spine. Now I’ve got heel complaints AND sore hips! When I asked my chiropractor if this was expected, he suggested: “Your body is in transition. It’s as if you haven’t decided whether you’re going to continue in the old ways or adopt the new.” What a perfect metaphor for this time of year.
Most people I know still ache from the past couple years of economic troubles, ongoing conflicts worldwide, and unprecedented natural disasters (Good Morning America cited 2010 as our deadliest year on record). Within this ache, perhaps we can also feel a profound desire to find a healthier way of living and relating to one another. For me, one answer to the question “What vision do you hold for 2011?” is becoming clearer. I may be clinging to old patterns and habits, but I also seem to be in transition, ready to act on my vision for a healthier way of living and working.
In the meantime, we do what we can—each and every day—to become just a little bit better. You might drink one less cup of coffee or back away from that third slice of cheesecake. Someone else might take that last puff of a cigarette or get involved in a much-needed community project. Me? Though it may ache, I’m going to stand a little straighter and walk a little healthier right into 2011. Happy New Year!
P.S. And a big thank you, dear readers, for your gracious support of my sabbatical. I am grateful.
Photo by: D. Sharon Pruitt