As I write, I'm four days in to my first ever sabbatical. I never had a 'gap year' or anything similar, so this is the first time in all my adult life when I've not been working full time at something. It feels weird!
The closest I suppose I've come to anything similar is my 3 maternity leaves, but as anyone who has had babies knows, that is really not a break in any meaningful sense. Though to be fair to those of you who think maternity leave really is a break, when I was pregnant with my first I did think it was going to be a nice break. I even bought a piano, thinking that on maternity leave I would of course have time to learn to play it. (Cue hollow laughter). As it turned out, for the first few weeks I didn't even have time to eat lunch. And I was back at college for the second year of my theology training 2 months after he was born, as it was either that or take a whole year out which we just couldn't afford at that time (no maternity pay when you are training for ordination).
So this is the first time I've had anything like an actual sabbath period in my working life. I keep feeling that I should be doing something. In fact, I haven't yet broken myself of the habit of making a daily To Do list - garden, quilt, have a swim - and feeling guilty when I don't manage everything on the list.
I had a quiet day at Shepherd's Dene retreat house yesterday, and found that even then, I was stressing about not achieving sufficient 'spiritual quiet day' success! Do you find that a problem when you go on retreat?
The message I came away with was simply to relax and let be. As anyone who knows me in real life will testify, this is definitely the spiritual gift that I am most in need of! So though I started the sabbatical with a list of things I wanted to achieve, I am really hoping that I can relax, and for perhaps the first time in my life, find out who I am before God when I am not achieving stuff. I know the theory of 'being not doing', but putting it into practice in real life - in MY real life - feels like a real leap into the unknown.