A hobby is an activity, interest, enthusiasm, or pastime that is undertaken for pleasure or relaxation, done during one’s own time.

According to this definition you would assume that work cannot be your hobby. But how can work not be your own time? What if we said that doing things for pleasure and relaxation is a hobby. Why would work by definition not be pleasure and not be relaxing? Because you get paid for it?

Anyway I had stopped working in terms of the steady job I had. There are things that I spend time on that I would certainly not call a hobby, like cleaning the house. But would I call meeting friends or doing meditation a hobby. Probably not. Though these are things that I do enjoy. It always seems that a hobby needs to be something substantial a bit more special. So what really is the difference between enjoying something and something being a hobby.

What I am looking for are those activities that would get me in some kind of flow, that would require my full attention and feel good during and afterward. I realised that I like to create things, find solutions, grow and have a good conversation. I also like to feel calm and in control, and have my regular piece of quiet. Realising this it seems that not one hobby is going to cover this and then again having clear what I like also helps to know what I do not like.

There is plenty of time to make up my mind, but I still had no clear idea what I want to do after my sabbatical. But I do not seem to be able to completely park it either. What I do know is that I want to get as close as possible to what I do like. Even though you may not want to call it a hobby. For now it would be good to spend my time on hobbies that a really liked and not because I should like it.

As a staring point I looked at what I had enjoyed in the past. During my school years I would spend many hours and practicing music and doing arts and crafts, create with paper to be exact. I used to write many letters to penpalls and read a lot of books. During my grown years I started doing different kind of sports and worked with foto’s and video. I also started practicing relaxation during my second pregnancy. I have started to try these out again and I notice ghat if it is something I feel like doing almost every single day, it probably is one to stay. Or at least for now.

Yoga and meditation in the morning have become some a fixed element of the day and gives me a good start. I feel refreshed and strong fully charged to handle what comes on my path that day. The morning practice before going to work did serve me well in the past. It really doesn’t matter to much what it is, strength exercises, a run or yoga/pilates. As long as I get my body moving before breakfast.

Learning something new like playing the piano, takes a lot of practice, but it is so enjoyable to work on something with so much focus and see (hear) the progress. I have been doing that almost daily as well. It means that my other music is in the background now, it just seems there is no room for it now, but it doesn’t run away. No pressure. I’d like to play more music with the kids, but we do not seem to be able to chime our music wishes and hours of practice. Well, maybe something for later or as we have done in the past, for a special occassion.

My photobook project is still in the early stages. I guess it just doesn’t appeal to me right now and feels more like a chore.

And the there is arts and crafts. I did work on a few pieces. And I notice I get annoyed quickly if it doesn’t work out right away. But also this get’s better with practice and I enjoy the focus needed for a more complicated origami piece. I feel it is a good activity to practice my patience and self compasion. What really is the deal when it doesn’t work out the first time, nor the second time, just try again and keep perfecting it. It may help me figure out why I have such a hard time accepting when I make mistakes or do not get it right the first time. Why do I set my standards so high? And worse even I do this to others as well.

Next time will be about blog writing. No matter if you could call that a hobby or not. Certainly writing could be, so why not blogging?

Being more mindful for me means letting go of compulsive behaviours. In some cases you could even call them addictions when they get really dominant. I feel that those behaviours are a not very concious reponse to some sensation or desire. We all find it normal that we eat if we are hungry and go to bed when we are tired. But when do we believe they are mere pleasures, responses to emotions or even unhealthy? That is when you need to be weiry.

For me it means I am still peeling the onion of compulsive behaviours as I become more aware of what I am doing and understand more and more why. A few things are so obvious that I changed them from the beginning of my sabbatical. I stopped drinking coffee and alcohol. It is not so much that I used so much that you could say they were straight addictions. But I wanted to get away from the ups and downs of caffein and wanting another cup to lift me up during the day. Having more steady energy levels through the day is much easier to achieve if I do not drink caffein. The first few days were not easy, but if you are committed it is well worth it. Every now and then I drink a cup of decaf just for the taste.

As for the glass of wine it is a different story. I would drink a glass of wine to just unwind and relax before going to bed or to be a bit more relaxed when meeting friends. But sometimes this would be more a way to console myself, if I felt lonely or sad. I realise now that those emotions are the ones I did not want to feel. Something was missing and I was umconciously trying to fill that void with a glass of wine.

Next to caffein and wine, to some extend also work was part of the compuösive behaviour. I have always worked busy jobs and have been taking on roles with a lot of responsibility. I really enjoyed what I did. It A significant part of my self-worth. It was never hard to find the motivation and it kept me sane after my husband past away. The question is at what point you could say you are a workaholic. When are do you miss to much of what is going on in your childrens life, have the feeling chores are piling up and when was the last time you really felt relaxed or enjoyed something so much you lost track of time. I do believe it is at least compulsive id you do it not to feel down or sad, if you try to avoid emotions and it starts to become unhealthy if you feel you can nolonger makenthe decisions needed for your family and yourself.

For seven weeks now I have been away feom work, have not drank any caffein or alcohol, except dor the odd cup or glass that doesn’t have any effect on me. Some Emotions are starting to surface and as I become aware of them it is my tasknto make the right decision. Do I choose the behaviour to numb them or do I take the time to feel them and let them be? I am trying not to get all busy again and make a nice cup of tea when I long for coffee or wine. Today I went for a long walk in nature when I got sad sorting through old cards and cd’s. And look at the picture. Doesn’t it look beautifull! It is so hard to make decisions on what to toss and what to keep and yet again I really want to declutter and get rid of those unuseful spacefillers. I guess I will just do smaller portions each time, but keep going at it. It will be such a relieve once I am done and these things are no longer in my way. Or is this wishfull thinking?

And then there is this mobile phone. It draws on me seeing if anybody is interested on the items I put for sale or checkimg out if there are any replies to my blog. Let me think of some internet free zones or time. Behaviours can be changed! Focus on one thing at the time, for quite some time and I will enjoy what I am doing and see some progress.

Please come back to my next post which will be about hobby, those things you really enjoy doing.

Here I am six weeks into my sabbatical and I am so for ever greatfull that I made the decision to take a long period off work.

Early on I joined a five day mindfulness retreat. This really opened my eyes again on how living in the now and decluttering my thoughts raised my awareness tremendously. Next to the meditation, yoga and mindfulness sessions the afternoons gave me a chance to explore the beautiful nature area. I noticed that during the first day I enjoyed being outside and went for a nice walk. The fresh air was pleasant and stroling through the wetlands gave me a sense of calmth. Though it being in the fall I noticed thee different kinds of flowers. But in the subsequent days my senses started to open up and feel amplified. I noticed how the birds made different sounds and that the light would chance by the time of day and the weather. Really seeing the plants I noticed many different kinds of flowers and was in awe about all the different colors of green. During the meals we were also in silence which helped me focus completely on the food, tasting all the flavours and textures, taking half an hour to finish my plate. How often had I eaten my food and not really tasted it? Over the years I had become the master of fast eating.

You can imagine this was a really great (re)start into my mindfulness journey. Why did I ever unlearn to enjoy life in this way? Let’s talk about that in a future post!

Being back at I started thinking about what had felt so good. Especially the meditation and yoga in the morning felt like giving me such a refreshing start of the day. Now every morning I practice at least a half hour of meditation and a half hour of yoga. When there is more time I extend my meditation sitting or do a second one. My teenagers are fully supportive no matter whether I do it in the living room or in my room. It is important for me to be there for them and with their varying time tables it has taken some getting used to, to find the right rhythem.

I started practicing piano. Having played wood wind in the past I can read the score, at least the upper part of it. But the left hand score I needed to constantly translate. I could not make it work to play a different melody with both hands. One day at the and of a meditation session I just tried to do it in my head. Without the hands. It was so clear to me now how the pieces fitted together. The practise on the piano requires my full focus and I enjoy any minute of it.

During the retreat I read a few sections of The power of Now – by Eckhart Tolle. The words that struck me most and really are starting to get meaning for me are: “the only place where real change is possible and where you can resolve the past, is the now”. And closely related to that “all problems are illusions of the mind. A situation needs to be either dealt with or accepted. Why make it into a problem?” Quotes like this really help me to raise my awareness and examen my behaviour and my thoughts. What assumptions am I making? Why did I behave in a certain way? I started several therapy session which also helped me to have someone hold up the mirror to me. She was quite strict when I started to intermingle situations and thoughts, being clear they are in reality not connected. This was the beginning of untangling and resolving those nagging thoughts. It gave me the resolve and calmth observe each of those worries and really look at how I felt about it, so I could let go. There is still much in this space, but at least it is not intertwined anymore and therefor seems much easier to handle.

What I do notice now, living a lot more mindful, is that I do much less multitasking. And to be honest as I focus on one think I am not able even to do it. It is datisfying to finish one thing before I start the next and it also means that I get better and better to have focus time woth the children again, which is especially rewarding.

7. Be not grumpy

Are you also annoyed by the fact that small little things get to you? You are looking for something it is not where it is supposed to be. Or the children leave all their stuff at the dining table. Or they have not put the cloths in the basket on laundry day. But why does this small stuff get you angry? Is it really that important? And why would it be okay to be unfriendly to somebody about it? All day in the work environment you try to be at your best behaviour. I call this the professional modus. At the same time at home you would like things to run smoothly. By the way, it doesn’t feel very smooth when you stumble over dirty socks. I guess that perfectionism is most of the time serving you well. The professional modus of always being composed, friendly, serious and hard-working is seen as a good trade and earns results that get complemented. But at what cost?

Let’s start with getting to the positive of this. It is one thing to say be NOT grumpy, but what am I going to be in stead? Be more patiënt, be more foregiving, be more enquiring? But if the situation is getting to you, what will change the situation? If those things didn’t happen, there would be no reason to get grumpy, right? Really?

One of the big lessons I learned is that if you are not happy with the situation, don’t wait for anybody else to change, or the circumstances to change. You can moan about it, because you are annoyed, feel like you are the only one that again needs to resolve this, or just because you feel too tired to lift your feet. The grumpiness pushes people away and you will only feel more lonely in your struggle. No, you are the one that needs to start the change.

What helped me enormously is getting more healthy and fit, see blogpost 5. When I started changing my habits I became more aware of what I was doing and this helped me reflect on why this happened. When I couldn’t find my gloves and was pretty sure my daughter took them without asking. In stead of saying: Can you gave me my gloves back!” I asked: ” Do you know where my gloves are?”. I am stil practicing this inquire style. It does feel beter to me, because I at least am not blaming someone for no reason. And it feels more like asking for help, which I do not do often enough. If I get stuck in a computer program, and I would normale try to resolve things ten times and get furious, I now would try three times, take a break before I get really annoyed and come back to it later with a fresh mind. Often I would find the solution quite quickly. But overall the biggest change was to just expres what my feelings were: “I am really hungry, tired or sad and that is why I don’t feel so well. Can you please help me fix this, or tidy it up, so …..” You find out that people do care for you and are more then willing to help, especially if you ask for it in a NICE way.

So what is the relation with the professional modus? I do think that during the work day, you hold in all kinds of emotions. If being composed and professional is important, you learn to deal with whatever comes your way. And in the type of work I had it can be very unpleasant things. Also work for me was a distraction. It felt good to be busy rather than being all sad and alone. Especially when my husband was ill and after he passed away. This seems all good and great as long as it lasts, but at home you can drop that ‘mask’ or the build up of emotions and tiredness is so much that you need to let off some steam. And then the stupid little things get you. And you are grumpy about nothing important.

With all the tension that had build up in my body over a long long period of time, this was off course not immediately gone after 6 weeks of sabbatical. And if I could not change the situation, or only partially influence it, one thing I could do is change the perspective on that situation. It was really hard to do it, when I was in the middle of it. I was sometimes able to talk to myself and say: ” Let go, it is not important.”. But especially now I notice that I try to at least park it and then see if it comes back up in my meditations. It may be that I felt that I had reacted the wrong way. And it would start with looking for acceptance about what is that is. Start with forgiving yourself for not being perfect. Often times a clue would come up about how to respond the next time or if there was a need to go back to that persoon to talk about it. The other thing was not to worry about the future and get worked up about it. Preparing for a lunchtalk ideas would come up about how it would go. I  just focus on what I needed to do to prepare and focus on my breathing again. The good thing was that I started to notice that during this meditation I had a good clarity of mind and it started to get easier to see solutions and move on.

This is a journey, but I am committed to get closer to my feelings and strive for being a friendly, care, loving person, without compromising my integrity. Please come back to read how things develop.

There are so many different ways to spend time with my children. When I decided to take a sabbatical it was really important for me they could continue doing what they were doing. I was not going to drag them to some lonely island, or take them out of school for world travel. I do believe that is not even allowed by the way. I have two great kids, that are caring, communicative, responsible, musical and creative. One of them is also very sportive. It wasn’t about now becoming that stay at home mum, nor was there any need for ‘correction’. They are teenagers now and actually find it very annoying if you take ‘too much’ care of them. I wasn’t all of the sudden going to become over protective. They want time with their friends and for their hobbies. But there are also things that they really enjoy doing together. And there were many topics that they really wanted to explore and discuss.

It took some time getting used to the fact that I was now home before they went to school and most of the time also when they got back. I noticed that weekday breakfast together was not as enjoyable as on sundays. Different starting times in school, finishing the last piece of homework or revision, packing for school. They were just too occupied and wanted to have that piece of quiet, not talking, before a busy school day. I decided to surprise them every now and then with something tasty to take to school and would cook a bit more for dinner, because they loved to take left overs for lunch.

What made an enormous difference is being there after school and have an open mind during the evenings. They started to discuss more topics with me and asking my opinion. Also there were quite a few important decisions to make in their live and we had time to explore and visit information sessions together. I had always spend a lot of time with them on important events like soccer games and concerts. And of course I was going to continue to do that.

Occasionally my daughter enjoyed sitting on the couch and watching a particular tv program with me. The greatest was to have some food or snacks with it. I had sometimes considered this a waste of time, but now I made sure I wasn’t distracted by phone or internet.

I encouraged them to bring their friends over so I would get to know them better and just provide them a safe place to meet. Though we had had many sleepovers I decided to always say yes, unless there was real big reason not to.

We all love food and like to explore different dishes. We decided to change our eating habits and not eat meat. Occasionally there would be some fish. This made our habit of trying out different restaurants more interesting, but necessarily easier. At home we would all try to cook something vegetarian. We had long conversations about how to eat healthy, cut sugar and stay healthy by eating a variety of foods.

One of the things they had always enjoyed was travel. Their wishlist of places to visit was rather long. We had been doing this regularly, but I was always a bit concerned about how tiresome it would be. Rather than recuperation before getting back to my demanding job. Now that I was on sabbatical I could start a trip well rested. And it wasn’t a problem to get things packed or drive longer distances.

It didn’t feel that different to the time before my sabbatical, other than really having the time to explore topics with them which resulted in very interesting conversations and have ample time for making arrangements, which reduced my stress level. I was less tired and therefor more present. The fact that we were not doing totally different things than before made me feel I had at least not been doing a bad job. When you are a single parent you always feel you are not good enough as you have to make up for the other parent too. Perhaps a topic for another day.

This was post number 6. If you enjoyed reading it, please come back or have a look at my previous posts. I am curious to hear from you, so please leave your comments.

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