March 24, 2017

Sleep & One to Two Accomplishments a Day

I've got another 3 months or so left in the sabbatical, but I'm already starting to try to tie it all together and process it.

Sunset from the boat in the Galapagos.

What, exactly, have I learned from this process?

How have I changed?

What will I do differently in the future?

What will I appreciate more than ever before? (Ummm... LAUNDRY!).

One of hundreds of Galapagos Marine Iguana Photos.  My restraint is impressive.
Interestingly, quite a bit of the most intense thinking about this year and what I want to learn from it has happened on this latest stop back in the US.  While here, I could, if I wanted, opt back into my old lifestyle: insanely tightly scheduled, super productive, lucrative, exhausting, dependent upon everything being *very* Okay, but using that infrastructural support to GET SHIT DONE.

And, to be honest, I have picked up a little work, here and there -- if the project is small enough and I can fit it in, why not do something that will finance some of the EU leg? (Scared of the upcoming expenses!) 

Heaven on Earth -- Galapagos flour sand beach

I've also done the research and spreadsheet manipulation to opt back into a structured running plan with scheduled workouts for the first time since we left.  Oh, and I've returned to making todo lists and crossing things off of them, physically, on paper, again -- a habit I've had since childhood but more or less dropped unless SHIT GOT F'D UP while on Sabbatical.

It's like this 7 week visit to the US is an early re-entry program.  I'm testing the waters and figuring out what I'll re-embrace and what I'll try to leave behind.

Pier, long tails & much infrastructure that could (and probably would) go wrong.

So, what are the huge differences between pre-sabbatical and now, in the US?

Chumphon ferry landing -- gorgeous and not chaotic at all.  Refreshing.

1. Sleep.  I have so few obligations on me while in the US this segment.  While traveling, I've got language study, geography research, transportation logistics, laundry, figuring out where we're staying, etc.  Turns out, in addition to reading a bit more, watching some more video content, and listening to more audiobook content while walking and running, I am super happy to get more sleep than I used to in the US, even more than what I get while traveling internationally (which tends to be a solid 8-9 hours). 

I regularly wake up, enjoy the early morning light, and go back to sleep.  I am extra-aware of what a privilege this is because for more than half of our time in the US, we've been staying with friends and family who have young children.  The early rising to the gorgeous light is almost always due to the kids, but the ability to go back to sleep is 100% due to the low-stress adult sabbatical without children.  I am extremely grateful and am trying very hard to be openly appreciative without gloating like an asshole.  But, it does feel, on some molecular/fundamental level, like I did need to learn how to get some good sleep and I'm more than happy to take advantage while I can.

Bangkok Sunset

2. One to Two Accomplishments a Day.  I've always been a bit of an over-achiever.  If the average person can do X in a day, historically, I'd just tell myself that obviously I should be able to do 1.5X, and then I'd do my best to meet that standard.  It's ridiculous, arbitrary, etc, but it's one of the identifying characteristics that I've held close to my core as being part of my essence -- and frankly, other than occasionally compromising my health, it's served me pretty damn well.

So, imagine my shock to learn that international travel has actually chilled my inner over-achiever out quite a bit.  Thanks to the serious reality checks I've encountered and a general lack of infrastructure resulting in an inability to accomplish tasks on anything close to an agenda I'd consider normal, I appear to have internalized the idea that if you do a good job on one or two things in any given day, then that day is a glowing success. 

Axolotl! (Osaka Aquarium)
This sojourn in the US, I'm simultaneously lazy, inspired, and also at a loss for how to organize my time once I've crossed off the #1 and #2 goals each day.  It's such a fundamental mind-shift that I can only watch my new approach with fascination, a bit paralyzed with awe. 

I *am* actually quite happy accomplishing very little each day (but incrementally, something, to be fair).  And in doing so, I'm super free to hang out with people, relax, and make time and space for what sounds fun, is spontaneous, and, yes, going back to #1, more sleep.

Kuala Lumpur, Petronas Park
Essentially, the big sabbatical lessons so far for me are that I've learned how to sleep more and feel good about myself while accomplishing less.  If you'd asked me before we left what I'd hoped to achieve, I can assure you that neither of these would have been in my top 10.

And yet, I'm feeling pretty great about where this appears to be headed.

Oh, that reminds me, I need to start reviewing both French and Italian... leaving for Europe in 3 weeks, and old habits die hard.



Jen said...

Sounds like good lessons. Lesson #2 - I think this is why I've gone back to written to-do list (in the form of a bullet journal). It's a good reminder that: yes, I've accomplished a few things, however small, every day. And it's also good to write down all of the random thoughts floating around my head and actually tackle them.

bt said...

@Jen -- thanks.