Friday, September 4, 2015

Fractal Sabbatical

I often think of sabbaticals as a practice for retirement.  This year, because my husband is actually retired, the practice feels much more real.  

I read other retirees who describe the delights of getting rid of the alarm clock, waking up when they actually feel like it.  Sleeping in is definitely one of my husband's joys these days. But for me, I've found that this year's sabbatical has actually made me want to push my schedule in the other, earlier direction.  I used to wake up at 5:50 a.m. every day, but now I'm waking up at 5:30 a.m.  These quiet morning hours are precious to me.

I pushed in this direction, actually, to get away from my computer a little bit.  There's so much good stuff to do at the beginning of the day -- in my case,  pre-scheduled running/biking with friends, prayer time and planning time -- that I tried to convince myself to start my day WITHOUT checking email and blogs.  But after repeated excuses about why Day X ought to be an exception to the no-early-computer rule, I decided the exception should become the rule, and I gave myself a half-hour first-thing every day to catch up on the e-world before returning to the physical world.

In fact, I made myself this arc of a schedule as a picture of my day.  The shape pleases me because it makes me feel as though I'm rising through my early-morning levels -- email and blog first, then upward to exercise, planning and prayer, then a brief eat/dress time before start in on my math.  And so that I don't twitch about being e-disconnected, I promise myself time just before lunch for a second round of email.  Lots of open space in the afternoon as the day begins to descend into night.

Morning planning time is sort of holy to me -- not "holy" in the sense of being mystical/magic, but "holy" in the sense of being somehow set apart from the more mundane aspects of my life.  I got to do a Time Management presentation for young mathematicians this past summer, and to them I described this daily planning time as a sort of a mini-sabbatical.  Mathematicians sometimes study objects (like broccoli or clouds) where little pieces of the object look like the big object. We call these objects "fractals"--because if you "fracture" off a little piece of broccoli, it's a copy of the whole.  My daily planning time is a sabbatical within a sabbatical, I told these young mathematicians.
So making time for this early-morning planning while I'm apart from my kids and computer is just as important to me as writing that sabbatical proposal that gives me time away from teaching for a year.   Totally worth waking up a bit earlier, just to enjoy this time apart, this time of reflection.

And so here's where I've been most mornings once I've finished my run or my bike rides: I'm a little bit stinky, sitting with my paper planner, thinking about the day ahead, spending five or ten minutes enjoying my sabbatical within a sabbatical.  And, in fact, that's what I'm going to go do now.

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