Sabbath Year – After Five Months – Appreciating the Invisible

One of my favorite parts of camping is the bidirectional appreciation it inspires.

On one hand, camping allows me to go deep into the wilderness, to exist amongst vast forests, rocky cliffs or sprawling landscape, and to appreciate the beauty of things untouched by people. At the same time, the primitive living conditions I take on when camping make me appreciate the comforts of home; clean water I don’t have to filter or carry, climate control and food that has not been freeze dried, among others.

For nature, my appreciation is enhanced because my mind becomes focused on something I am otherwise so removed from that I do not take time to reflect on. With the comforts of home, my appreciation is enhanced because my mind becomes focused on something I am normally so immersed in that I do not take time to reflect on.

After returning from a camping trip I am more fond of both the wilderness and civilization. I do not give up fondness of one in order to gain it for the other – the experience is not zero sum – it ads to both columns of the register.

In the same way, this sabbath has been making me both more fond of my family life and of my laboring one.

By removing the physical and mental distance between myself and the majority of the day at home, I appreciate more of the subtleties of the ecosystem. By spending more time with each member of the family alone, I am able to see more of who they are individually in addition to who they are within the group dynamic of our whole family that I normally experience in the evenings and on weekends.

At the same time, absence has only made my heart grow fonder for many of the things I took for granted about my career. As I left I was eager for a break from projects that seemed to stall in the same place, meetings that seemed to multiply endlessly, coworker interaction that could be frustrating, a workload that kept me up at night and a stress level that occupied my mind constantly. Now, removed from those things, I miss the relatively fast speed of our projects, compared to the long slog of raising children. I miss interacting with other adults for multiple hours a day – even if that comes in the form of meetings. I miss being frustrated at generally-reasonable adults, rather than tantrum throwing, potty-talking, toy-not-sharing toddlers. I miss the sense of purpose that a heavy workload implies and I miss the excitement that comes along with the stress of deadlines, critical deals and constant surprises.

Stepping out of the routine to do something unusual can be dually beneficial in the way it highlights that which is typically invisible by distance as well as that which is typically invisible by immersion.

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