Summer Sabbatical Update #1

I officially started my summer sabbatical on June 9, left for Maui on June 11, returned from Maui on June 20, had skin cancer surgery on June 27, and it’s now July 8 and I feel like I have been on a three-part harmony of sabbatical time, including 1) Rest, 2) Recovery, and 3) Wracking my Brain.

I thought I’d share some of my sabbatical experiences in pictures.

First, there’s me — and more specifically my emotional life, which is all over the board.


Some days contentment and confidence are my friends and other days I rotate from frustration to sadness to exhaustion. I found it’s actually hard work being on sabbatical. At least the way I am doing it. This summer is not only for taking a break from bodywork sessions, but it’s a time for figuring out what I really want for my life and for my business, and figuring out what I really want is hard — hard like pushing-your-entrails-out labor. I am swayed by what I read, influenced by what people say, impacted by the financial realities of life, called to help, questioning my impulse to help, and laughing and crying and writing and making art and taking walks and starting all over again.

Second, there’s Walter — my husband, my partner in this life — who is taking a sort-of sabbatical this summer, too.

IMG_20130707_154440He’s a college writing instructor and is (mostly) not teaching this summer. He’s been a man of glorious action this summer, with a solid and impressive regimen of activities, from practicing his ukulele to walking around Greenlake to blogging to learning to ride a longboard skateboard. As I type this right now, I hear his three-chord strums and some singing. It’s a lovely sound and I admire how he is so committed to a daily practice of all he is wanting for himself. He reminds me that diligence, practice, consistency, and intentionality can feel so rewarding.

And of course there is Selkie, my sweet cat who just turned 11 in May.

IMG_20130708_114747Selkie is a loyal companion, especially in the realms of napping, finding comfort, and remembering playfulness. Selkie has a bed on my desk and often sleeps as I work, and when he feels I have been at the computer too long, he simply sits on my keyboard and meows in my face. Big hint taken.


Books have been my friends over this sabbatical for sure.

IMG_20130708_203319I can’t seem to finish one book start to finish, but rather I find myself rabidly reading various chapters in several books, rotating them, and circling back again while foaming at the mouth. I did read a novel all the way through while in Hawaii, which was a lovely break from my book-hopping with business and self-help fare. My sabbatical books have a special spot in my office just for them, and I thank them every day for just being there, even if I don’t crack them open.


Ah, so many questions!  Soul-searching requires a lot of questions and frustratingly, not a lot of answers appear like a ka-pow! response. Here are some of my questions:


As an entrepreneur who has done bodywork for 11 years and who is also a writer, artist, teacher, mentor, coach, and [insert something else here I have forgotten], there is a lot to consider as I shape my business. The questions “what fulfills me?” and “what drains me?” have been essential questions for me and ones I think we should all ask ourselves. What enlivens you? What sucks the life out of you? Feel it in your body.


There has been art-making. Even on some of our hot, hot summer days, I have heated my plate of encaustic wax and gone to town.


I’ve been working on my own pieces, but also offering healing art sessions to those who want a “little a” artist experience. I LOVE introducing people to encaustic painting because the nature of the art form itself is so unpredictable that it’s easy to throw our inner critics out the window as we work.  So yes, yes, art is my friend this sabbatical. Sometimes it is even my saving grace.


I have made sure to play this sabbatical, too. This picture is of our rubber ducky floating in our kiddie pool. A kiddie pool that cost $8.96. Simple, inexpensive pleasures are the best.


Interestingly, I’ve had so many social engagements so far this summer that I’ve been kind of exhausted, introvert as I am.  But playing with friends and family has been lovely, especially with the kids and babies in my life who teach me about authenticity, simple joy, and curiosity. My little friend Tenley recently asked me, “If this is a kiddie pool, why doesn’t your kitty go in it?”

And last but not least, surrender has been my north star so far on this sabbatical. And oh yes, it is so so hard to do.


How do I surrender to this time off and allow what needs to surface to surface? How do I not force things? I have this finite period to “figure stuff out” and there’s (major) pressure there. Come September, my goal is to feel refreshed and to know in which direction I am going. How can I take action steps toward my goals AND surrender to life at the same time? It’s tricky business for sure, but my garden Buddha reminds me every day to breathe, let go of one thing that burdens me, and to surrender to the flow of the day.


So there you have it. There’s much I am exploring, discovering, uncovering, demolishing, rebuilding, and creating — and I will share more with you here. For those of you who have taken a sabbatical (or taken some time off in any form), what did you learn about yourself in the process? What was challenging? What was nourishing?



About Courtney Putnam

I first came to healing work through art and writing. Creating collage art and poetry in particular allowed me to deeply understand the benefit of self-expression in the healing process. But, I also began to see the benefit of bodywork (manual work in the form of massage and energywork in the form of Reiki) as keys to unlocking the emotional stresses we hold in our bodies. I became a Reiki practitioner in 2002, received an MFA in Creative Writing in 2003, received my massage license in the spring of 2006, and became a Reiki Master in 2010. In my practice I bring together these three areas -- the body, the mind, and the spirit (or energy body) -- so others may experience profound and positive change in their lives.
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7 Responses to Summer Sabbatical Update #1

  1. Terri Haaga says:

    Wonderful blog courtney – so you. Thanks for the update 🙂 Terri

  2. monk-monk says:

    “I have this finite period to “figure stuff out” and there’s (major) pressure there. Come September, my goal is to feel refreshed and to know in which direction I am going.”

    I’m going to challenge you on this, mostly because it’s something that I am struggling with. I want to return to work in September refreshed, but, as a mom, feeling refreshed and content comes in waves and really seems to be determined by how much sleep I am getting at a time. But, I came to this conclusion, that I will probably start the school year off tired, not in a pessimistic way, but even though my own summer sabbatical has had moments of refreshment, it has also had draining moments (much like you said about being an introvert). I keep hearing this analogy that my mom was told once, that, you don’t eat all your meals on Sunday and expect to not be hungry the rest of the week. So, while you can rest up this summer, it’s not going to be all you need 🙂 What happens if you don’t have it ‘figured out’ come September? What happens if you aren’t refreshed? Will you feel let down or like you didn’t accomplish something? What would happen if you start your business back up and then two weeks later you realize that, no, I don’t want to do this anymore? Wouldn’t that still be okay?

    Hugs. I think sabbaticals are lovely, but also hard. I notice that I have MUCH more time on my hands to contemplate…er…spin my wheels 🙂


    • You are so good, Jenna. You should be a therapist or something! (*wink*) 🙂

      Yes, you are so right: the world will not end if I am not feeling refreshed nor will it end if I haven’t “figured it out.” I have to have an income come September, but my journey for the bigger questions and yearnings may take a much, much longer time to suss out. Thank you for stating your truth and asking those deep questions that have helped my body soften and my spirit calm.


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