Time and Space

How many of you have thought, if I only had a little time and space I would…[write a book, travel the world, clean my house, insert thing here]. I am very fortunate to work for a company that offers a little bit of this – a sabbatical. Seven weeks off for seven years of service. Honestly, when I started with Tessitura back in 2015, seven years seemed like a very very long time in the future. Turns out that it is – sort of.

My life looks absolutely nothing like it did when I started this job. In 2015, I had one child in high school, one in middle school, and now I have a college graduate and a second one in college. After taking it one year at a time, and living through the weird time warp of the Pandemic, alternatively forever and a day, it seemed the time had actually come to really think about what I might want to do. The Universe seemed to align for us too.

As many of you know, my husband Joe worked for West Windsor emergency services for 25 years, and he decided he was ready to “retire” and collect his pension. I say retire in quotes, because he literally already had two other jobs, (see above: Two kids in college…) So it really was a question of rotating out of the fire department and the long shift work. I prefer the word: Evolution. Was he ready to give up that career, had he done all that he wanted to do there? The answer ended up being a resounding yes, especially the 24 hour shifts, which were only getting harder each passing year. With that decision in place, I decided it would be wise to line up my time off to coincide with his last shift so that we could enjoy some time together.

The other piece that sort of aligned accidentally, was our daughter Shannon’s plan after her college graduation last spring, to work in Disney as part of her Covid casualty postponed college program. In a different context, our son Joe had transferred to a different college, more transition as part of our family renewal/evolution.

As I started formulating plans, we thought we should take a big trip to celebrate all the things, and since Joe had not ever been out of the U.S., Ireland was first on our list, and London had ALWAYS been on my list. Shannon then scheduled her time so that we were able to drive her down to Florida and spend a couple of days in Disney with her as well.

So, the first thing we did upon my sabbatical (and Joe’s retirement) was – take a trip to Disney World. We were off to a good start!

After a hella-long drive to Florida with a very full car, we got Shannon settled in, and spent a couple of days with Pooh & Friends and enjoying Halloween decorations in Disney, then visited my brother and his wife who recently moved to Amelia Island, before heading back home. We promptly turned right around and went to Rhode Island to attend Family weekend at the University of Rhode Island and visit Joe. He was in the midst of pledging a fraternity, but he managed to squeeze in at least an hour or two with us… haha, (but actually true story). We were happy to have a beautiful New England day and take him to lunch, and also lucky for us, to stay and visit with my friend Julie in Newport, our Rhode Island “home”.

We zipped home to NJ, then left a day later for Ireland and England for 12 days. This trip was pretty incredible, so stay tuned for a separate post just about these adventures.

After we returned home and recovered from Jet lag, we were left with a few weeks just the two of us empty nesters at home – and not working. Weird.

I realized that if I had been working (from home) and Joe was enjoying his newly found free time without a concrete schedule, I would have been resentful – not in a bad way, but sort of just in the grumbly get up and start the daily grind, well, one of us has to work feeling. So we avoided that by being able to make spur of the moment decisions with our lovely New Jersey fall weather like, hey it’s a beautiful day, let’s take the top off the Jeep and take a nice drive! Hot Dog Johnny’s awaits! Or… Let’s drive up to Connecticut for a couple of days and see family…it was pretty awesome. I have worked basically full time since age 17, and I haven’t had significant time off other than maternity leaves (which IS NOT TIME OFF!) So, this was a profound discovery time for me.

Back in my professional dancing years with Princeton Ballet, (think late 1980’s) I was in New York City one day during a brief company hiatus, and I ran into Jennifer Scanlon, the woman who had set Jose Limon’s famed The Moor’s Pavane on us earlier that year. She was a lovely teacher and coach, and she had seen all of us as dancers through the most stressful of lenses, vying for a role, being in the studio 6 -8 hours a day staring at ourselves in a mirror, and when she saw me out of that context, she took my hands in hers and immediately said: You look so relaxed. I thought about that comment for a long time after that – and I feel like it was the same thing for me during this seven weeks. When you have a moment to just take care of yourself, and not be constantly thinking about work, or criticisms, or juggling a million things, it definitely feels better from the inside out. Note to self.

Other than the big things, and while working around our travel itineraries, I also made time to go to a Broadway show, I went into New York to have dinner with a friend, who does that? I mean, go to NYC just for dinner? Not this girl. I felt very cosmopolitan. I found great joy in just being able to plan to do one thing on a given day. As in, Today, I’m going to the chiropractor. Or…Today, I am having coffee with a friend. That’s it. I’m not answering 40 emails, squeezing it between meetings, or worrying about getting back in time for…more meetings. I went to appointments and then did something completely frivolous afterwards, like taking a walk around a park, or stopping at a store I never get to shop in. Time. Space.

I spent some time keeping up with my cat Poe’s Instagram account (@poekitty2022) who is a feisty black cat having adventures outside in our yard and inside our house, and frequently interacts with my sister’s dog’s Instagram account (@talleywoodside). Wildly silly and maybe ridiculous, but it’s so fun.

I planned future trips to Disney to visit Shannon – we just went back for Thanksgiving. I am going back with my sister in law in January. (I am not a fanatical Disney person, but since she’s only there for six months we have to plan accordingly…)

And oh, house projects – there are no shortage of house projects. I had hoped that in time maybe Joe and I would be on a track to become the next Chip and Joanna Gaines and start our own HGTV show, but he says I don’t have the skills. He may be correct. ☹

I guess what I could say was most impactful during this time was just reaffirming and understanding exactly who I am. There is no doubt that it is a complete paradigm shift when your partner “retires,” “evolves,” or simply changes paths. I’m grateful that I could take a moment and breathe that in, instead of barreling on to the next thing without the space to process it. We are still most definitely an empty nest work in progress, but we are learning and growing together into this next adventure and stage of our lives. Going back to work feels good right now, and my perspective has appropriately adjusted and refreshed. I can feel the possibilities. I didn’t clean my whole house, or write a book, but I certainly took more time for myself …even if you can’t take seven weeks off, spending time doing something that brings you joy and happiness is important everyday. Remember to create the time and space.