Family, Winter

My Week in the Hermitage: Radical Lessons in Self Care

Nothing like a broken ankle to slow you down. I’ve been trapped in my house for a week, spending large chunks of each day completely alone. No bus stop banter or small talk with colleagues. No client calls or dinners with friends.

Meanwhile cities are freezing and Rome is burning. There are ice quakes in Chicago and arrests in Washington’s inner circles while I am safely ensconced in my recliner. Let the arctic winds roar and the snow fall. Two hour delay? No problem.

I am on social media more than ever and take immeasurable comfort in sympathetic texts from family and friends. My phone is my portal, and I mindlessly scroll it for stimulation and connection, until I catch myself and stop.

For mood regulation, I have budgeted a mere hour a day for NPR, eating my lunch on a stool in the kitchen, arms length from the radio and fridge that feed me. I have a reassuring routine that includes eating the same salad with bread and cheese everyday.

I work from my recliner, getting in full work hours and making progress on a number of personal and family projects. I am focused and prolific, writing and editing numerous blog posts in a day. My brain feels sharp and alert.

Robin takes the bus home each day from school. He’s a good helper, taking on new responsibility. He now knows how to operate a can opener, the microwave, and the stove and oven. When I butt-bounce myself downstairs, I find him proudly eating baked beans from the can for breakfast.

At first I am only bathing every three days, as it is so difficult and I feel so fragile, even sliding my leggings off over my ankle is painful. So I marinate in the same clothes until I can’t stand being in my own skin.

But it evolves into a bath every other day, using my son’s organic, tear-free, all natural son-of-hippies hair and body wash from the pump. No conditioner. No hair dryer. Just a simple soak, lather rinse, and air dry. Within a few days, my hair is shiny and healthy.

My Fitbit chirps from my wrist and makes me smile. My daily steps are in the hundreds, and I track with inverted goals. I have a valid excuse to decline invitations.

I have sat out the Polar Vortex in my recliner, with an array of good books and magazines. My skin is so healthy, my lips supple and soft. In the mirror and I look five years younger, like Venus in a clunky boot cast. Is this what it’s like to be a kept woman?

I like the simplicity of this life, though perhaps it is the temporal nature of it that makes the whole thing work so well, for now…

Art, City living, Family, Human technology, Travel

In Gratitude for My Sabbatical

“Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in awhile, you could miss it.” – Ferris Bueller, on school truancy

“They’re giving you time off for good behavior?” – A former colleague, upon learning of my plans

A sabbatical. Three weeks off, and then a week away at a work-sponsored conference/retreat. A full four weeks out of the office.

To be sure, I checked my email ten times a week and kept basic marketing functions going, but for no more than a day each week, on my own schedule, as if my employer were my client.

Everyone deserves an extended break in the midst of a loyal, long-term commitment to an employer. Sabbaticals, I am realizing, are a thing outside of academia. Some forward-thinking employers (with more staff and resources than mine) offer paid sabbaticals of 3-4 weeks to employees in addition to their paid vacation, and after only 7 years of employment.

It inspires loyalty while giving staffers space to nurture passion projects, projects that can enhance their skills. There’s space to pursue exciting new ideas and scratch creative itches without needing to leave the company.

It also staves off burnout, kindles creativity and self care, and refreshes an employee’s thinking. I needed a reset for sure, and I was damn lucky to have the vacation time banked up to get paid for this.

So what did I do? Let me get it down quickly, before the bliss evaporates completely.


Yoga, 3-4 times a week
I found a favorite new teacher at Twisters, stretched with friends, and spent happy hours on the mat at Tara.
I set up a website. It ain’t gorgeous, but it is presentable and gathers my portfolio together neatly for those who might hire me for freelance gigs.

Weekly lunch dates in Center City
I miss the life of the city, and I miss dates with Randy. I was able to connect with both, spending my morning writing at Elixr, running Center City errands, and then lunching out with my hubby.

I wrote, a lot
I wrote blog posts for this little rag, for Andrea Sz Communications, for Spotted by Locals, the Untours blog, Private Access Journeys and a couple clients. I banked up content to share throughout fall.


I volunteered
I worked for Project HOME, writing a profile of a brilliantly inspiring resident of theirs. I helped Weaver’s Way. And I volunteered at Robin’s school for the Book Fair, cashiering for my first time since college.

The beach
It was only for a long weekend, but Strathmere was a wonderful chance to spend time with my family, and to take long sandy walks and think.

I celebrated Septivus
That includes my birthday, Robin’s birthday, and our 15th wedding anniversary. I had space to honor our family milestones, enjoy my favorite month, plan celebrations, and ease us into the school year.

The B Retreat
I capped it off with the B Corp Champions Retreat in Toronto, a party of progressive business thinking, deep and thoughtful conversations, art and ecology, music and wine, and all in a glorious city, in a sane country.

These four weeks gave me time to digest the enormity of this fall’s relentless string of tragedies: natural disasters and man made carnage; I had time to feel the appropriate sadness. To let it sink in.

I also enjoyed long walks, lazy Sundays reading, off-peak errand running, tweeting, beers with friends, stalking paintings on Chairish, and discovering new spots in my city.

I would urge anyone who can to take a sabbatical, and to use it as such: not just as a staycation, but as a time to reset, build skills, nurture your mental and physical health, and take on personal projects that feed your vocation.

Use your talents for good. Reconnect with your gifts and your calling. Revel in the doing.