“Wow! This first step looks like a doozie.” With that thought duly noted by my mind, it seemed a good moment to pause. From four stories up, standing precariously near the edge of the tiny platform, I took a deep breath of fresh air. Then I looked out over the beauty of the Tulsa skyline. My heart rate slowed closer to normal (but not all the way) and my mind seemed ready for that first step.
That was me atop the zip-line tower at HelmZar Challenge, an outdoor ropes course located in Tulsa, Oklahoma. It was my step-father’s birthday: one of his life’s bucket list items was to fly down a zip-line (a pulley rig that zooms you down a cable from intimidating heights at scary speeds). My husband and I rented the course for an experience my step-father would never forget; little did I know the day would be so memorable to me.
After tackling all of the other course challenges, our last obstacle was the zip-line. To get there, we would climb through, up, over, and around a vast contraption of walls, rope ladders, swaying steps, and swinging tires. That would bring us to a miniscule platform barely big enough for my size-nine feet. From there, our facilitators informed us, we would hold onto a bar—and jump.
Even those who are comfortable with heights should pause at such moments to grasp the situation. There I was, about to trust my weight to a thick metal cable and a set of rollers that would carry me down at a top speed of 40 miles per hour. Sure, there’s safety gear—a climbing harness and hard hat—but it seems unnatural for the human brain in this situation to simply say “OK, let’s go!”
My brain kept asking: “Is this safe?!,” “Have they got my back?,” and “Am I really ready?” And then, before I had found answers to all those nagging questions, I leapt. At that moment, I realized this felt just like my decision to take a sabbatical. A few months ago I declared that it was time for me to take a three-month departure from work. That set in motion a whole series of thoughts, questions, and emotions:
“I can’t wait for it to get here.”
“I wonder if this time off will hurt my business.”
It seemed there would be no end to the bedlam of thoughts and emotions I was careening through, up, over, and around. But then, just like the moment of my leap from that zip-line platform, one thought spoke loudest: “I’m doing it.”
I’ve been working continuously in one job or another since age thirteen. Yes, I’ve had great vacations. I’ve made time for wonderful experiences with family and friends. I’ve even become fairly good at taking pick-me-up breaks as part of my daily routine. But I’ve never taken a complete departure from the act of working—a retreat to recharge my batteries and refresh my perspective.
Although work has been a source of blessing for me, for the past four years taking a sabbatical has been on my bucket list. When I read articles in Forbes or the Harvard Business Review touting the benefits of taking time off, I’m not just thinking of my clients—there’s also me to consider. Each year, though, I’ve found a reason why “now’s not the time.” 2010 seemed like the year and I committed to go for it.
I’ve learned that a sabbatical doesn’t just happen. Like making sure the supports and carabiners are fastened for my trip down the zip-line, it has taken quite a bit of preparation. After many conversations with clients, colleagues, and family, I finally feel like things are very nearly in order so that my three months away can really be away. Everyone has been incredibly supportive—enthusiastic even—for me to take this time to focus on my own health and well-being. That’s one of the many blessings of working in the field of vitality for leaders.
With all of those preparations and words of encouragement, I find myself excited. Then scared. Then antsy. I wonder what these three months will bring. I trust that it will be good. Doozie or not, I’m ready to step to the edge and zip into the blue (with a smile).
P.S. Dear reader, while I’m away, you’ll still receive twice-monthly blogs. My incredible colleagues are pitching in to share their experiences, tools, and insight for enhancing your vitality and sustainability. I look forward to returning to blogging in 2011. Many blessings to you in 2010!
Photo by bobster855