Emerging on the Other Side

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At the end of August and we completed the renovation on our new home base in Woodstock. The contractors left, the mess was cleaned up and we had the family in for a "big reveal" of the new place. It looks a lot like a beach house- all bright light, white plantation shutters and water-green colored paint on the walls. It feels like home and that is a very good thing. Having sold our home of 35 years, we have been in a state of transition for some time. It feels good to have a place that is familiar, comfortable and permanent- at least as permanent as things are these days!

As we prepared for our New England trip we found it difficult to find campgrounds available for the Labor Day holiday, so we just postponed until it was all over. A week either way doesn't really make much difference in our current, non-scheduled lives. The renovation and move took almost three months, requiring us to stay close by rather than launch the next trip on our itinerary. We made the most of our time by spending it with our grandchildren. That is one of the goals for our sabbatical and we have accomplished it splendidly. 

We included a "driveway camp out" where the younger ones "camped" in the RV parked in their driveway, and a "girls camping weekend" for my older grand daughters. Weekly craft time with Nana is fun for all of us. But my favorite past time is just spending time listening to their concerns, celebrating their accomplishments and sharing time together.  

As for progress on other sabbatical goals, we have spent a good amount of time learning new things. Jim has begun playing the banjo after finding one in a closet. It belongs to our son-in-law, passed on to him from his grandfather. Jim took it to our favorite luthier for a little rehab and soon began plunking out the familiar syncopated rhythm. It won't be long before bluegrass music will fill the neighborhood! As for me, I have continued developing my skills on the uke and enlisted one of my sisters, a music teacher, to jam with me a few times a month. So much fun! Music is part of our family fabric and new instruments are a great way to keep the mind and heart joyful.

Since our very first trip, kayaking has become a subject of constant conversation. Our daughter-in-law and son got a kayak as did Jim's brother, so adventures on the water will become a regular activity for the family. We sold our tandem kayak and bought two single kayaks so that we can explore more areas, shallower waters and have races. This is a great preparatory step for returning to work- creating something to look forward to on the weekends! 

Similarly, the RV has become an extension of our home and will likely be a part of our lifestyle for many years to come. We have had our share of mishaps, but we have learned a lot in the past two years on operating, maintaining and repairs-on-the-run. The small space has also taught us to appreciate a downsized lifestyle and to enjoy each other's company - even on the rainy days in camp. When conversation runs a bit dry, we tune in to the podcast "West Wing Weekly" for a boost. We listen while we drive and then watch the episode being discussed when we get to camp. Thank you Netflix! Living on the road for a month at a time creates some unique challenges. From meal planning to solar panels and sea showers, we have had to adjust our lifestyle to fit the capabilities of the RV.

That adjustment has been a big part of our sabbatical experience. It has prepared us to flex with the uncertainties of where we will live, our non-schedules, and what we will tackle next. All of that has punched our "reset" button more than once. And, I think, all of the adaptation we have had to do this year is good preparation for whatever comes next. From new hobbies to a new home base to traveling to new places, our decision to "take a year off and see what happens' is turning out to be about change. In fact, I think we have inadvertently surrounded ourselves with change. 

Big, life style changes were not our intent for the sabbatical. The intent was simply to rest, refresh and reset. Yet I cannot imagine this time any better spent than challenging ourselves to stretch beyond what is comfortable and safe. We are just eight months into the sabbatical year and, If the next  four months offer as much expansion as the last eight, we may well end up as very different souls indeed. 

Robin North