A vocation, a calling, and a path forward
Pictured above: Meet my handsome grandson, Ryder Christian Owens. Born August 22 (7 lb. 14 oz.) to Mike and Angel Owens.
Here’s a life lesson: When you decide to take a sabbatical, it’s not like stepping into a world of simple freedom like you might assume. I’ve learned that over recent months. And it deserves to be shared with everyone, whatever your goals might be.
Early on and through out my journey of taking some time off, I’ve received invitations to speak, travel for engagements, join advisory boards, address groups on Zoom in the pandemic and more. My natural instinct is to try and say yes. Obviously, I don’t have any conflicts, right? I’m on sabbatical. Furthermore, I’ve always told myself that if my contribution could positively impact even a single person on the receiving end, then maybe it’s worth doing.
But the more I looked at my calendar and what I intended for this time in my life, the more I am torn between automatically accepting these nice offers and remaining committed to some legitimate time away.
I also had the good fortune of being on a spiritual retreat with Father Albert Hasse early in my sabbatical when I was facing this predicament. He’s such a cool priest – the kind of advisor who will hear your confession and take time afterwards to talk and listen even further.
I turned to Fr. Hasse with my dilemma one day and asked him, “What am I being called to do?”
I described my internal struggle in great detail. I also shared why this sabbatical felt like the right thing for me to be doing.
In return, he did the most important thing I could ask for: He listened. (This is a very important skillset in my own personal Code of Values!)
Then he told me, “You’ve got a true vocation, Dina. You are a wife, a daughter with an elderly mother who needs extra care, a mother to your own children, and now a grandmother. You have to ask yourself: What could be more important than these vocations?”
A special moment with great grandma.
Millie loves her cousin.
In response to doing other things at this time, he said, “An honest ‘no’ has more integrity than a stretched ‘yes.’”
His words were so inviting, so peaceful…and so right! His response fit with my values, and it was freeing, even though I knew it wouldn’t be entirely easy.
I’ve always known how important it is to spend time with my family. And I’ve always had a goal that if I cannot say yes to somebody, I will try to provide a referral to someone else. In most cases, those individuals are even better for the occasion than me.
That same mindset should apply to being on sabbatical too. Just because I’m not working in the conventional sense, doesn’t mean I’m not doing the most important work of my life right now in my own journey.
I look at the time I’ve had with my family in recent months, and it’s powerful to see the memories we are making together. I’ve gone fishing with my husband and enjoyed unplugging from the outside world like never before. I’ve been hiking with my daughter and daughter-in-law for girl time that we can cherish forever. And recent days are extra special with two people – my granddaughter and my mother – on opposite ends of the life spectrum. And now enjoying more time with my son and my new grandson.
My time with my mother as her memory starts to fade is more precious by the second. I know it’s time I will never get back. My time with my granddaughter and now my grandson who has just arrived, where everything they do is “a first,” is equally momentous. Through them I also see what I may have missed in years past. Maybe I missed my own son or daughter achieving “a first” while I was working. I know that I missed many hours and days with my own father when he passed away much too soon.
Today is a fantastic time to forge a new path. And I am empowered to do so when I remind myself that “an honest ‘no’ has more integrity than a stretched ‘yes’” to outside things.
As summer vacation season winds down and hectic schedules resume (even remotely and online), I hope you have made lasting memories with those you love as well. And I encourage everyone to keep carving out time for the special and most important vocations of motherhood, fatherhood, grandparenthood, friendship and more in every possible way on the road ahead.