The Jolt of Re-Entry

The "ramp" helps us speed up or decelerate to get off of the Interstate. We need a ramp in life sometimes!When our sabbatical ended, I was not prepared for the jolt I would experience upon re-entry to my “normal” life. I had hopes that my sabbatical would be life altering. We really needed and wanted “things” to change. But then the unfolding of the fact that our sabbatical had ended: Finished. Completed. It was culture shock. I was taken back by the harshness, abruptness and violence I felt from leaving one world of rest and renewal and now entering a world of work I had left.I wish now, that someone would have warned me about this jolt. I could have used a longer, more gentle ramp to enter my life again. I needed a ramp to reengage with my work. I wanted life to be kind. Not violent. Without a ramp offered me, I got back on the freeway of life. Sabbatical stopped and I felt as if I have been strapped to a rocket speeding through the air. I have felt out of orbit and out of sync ever since I started my work again--if I am honest with you!This is how I feel upon "re-entry."When I enter an express way or interstate highway in my car, there is always a ramp where I am suppose to accelerate my speed gradually. The longer the ramp…the better it goes. I am not expected to go from stop to seventy miles and hour in less than ten seconds. Finding no ramp for me to gain momentum to re-enter the work world I had left, I just got back on the face track of work and it has not gone well for me. I think it has not gone for the dear folks around me. I see it in their faces. I have felt distress. I have oozed distress and I’m confident that my distress has centrifuged out of me into the fast lanes of those I encounter.The sweetness of my sabbatical feels now like a land I once visited years ago—a foreign land with a foreign tongue that I had learned to speak--sort of. I have a recollection of my extended times of reading, reflection and comprehension. Everything then seemed to make sense. I practices going slow. I was unhurried. There was time for everything that brought me life. I had a different perspective. My heart was renewed in a sort of “first-love” fascination with God, nature and all things spiritual.Now, I feel as if there is a steady leak in my soul—a leak that I fear will drain me. I do not feel as if my feet are on the ground—that I do not yet have my feet back under me to travel well. It does not seem I am living well right now despite the sabbatical. In my dark times, I wonder “Was Sabbatical even worth it?” “Was it really worth me taking that kind of time off and being away if now, upon re-entry, this is what I get for that precious time off?”If I had my sabbatical to do over, I would have built a longer, more steady ramp back on to the freeway of my life. My sabbatical revealed how much I disdain the freeway life anyway. Sabbatical offered me the time to "ruthlessly eradicate hurry" from my life and enjoy life not survive life. I would have built more time into my time off to prepare more to re-enter my life. I think I would have liked to be more kind to myself and also to others. My swirling seems to be contagious I find. When I speed up, the wake behind me gets bigger and seems to topple people I never intended to topple. Perhaps, I would have designed a way to work part-time for a couple of weeks—perhaps a month. What is the hurry about anyway?Did my hurry to re-engage stem from my own need to be needed---a sickness that drives so many leaders?I remember looking at my calendar with concern as the end of sabbatical approached. I recall thinking, “Well, it’s going to be full. It’s going to be busy. But, Steve, you can do this. This is life. This is reality.” I remember thinking and being coached that after sabbatical, the big word is this: integration. Integrate all you’ve learned from sabbatical into life and you’ll do fine. Well, that word “fine” is what I’m trying to find—attempting to experience. Things have not felt fine. It’s been a jolt and the jolt has dropped me to my knees and humbled me in a way to feel more powerless than confident. And the word "integrate"--just how do you fold in, blend in and absorb such life giving times when now everything feels like clock work and making me feel so "chop-chop".Within our first three weeks back in the saddle, I had spoken ten times; sat with 25 people in one on one sessions listening to their life and worked diligently with my publisher to make sure I was doing every necessary for the release of my new book, Inside Job. It was too much. For lack of finding a ramp, I found myself back on the fast lane.It dawned on me that I am being taken to the mat of life—now wrestling with everything I wrote in Inside Job. I am having to live it—to live the message in this book as if I never wrote a word printed on each page. It is for me. This is the time for me to continue my own Inside Job of redefining what success looks like, smells like and feels like and adjusting—yes—adjusting my new definition of success to my life and lifestyle. I’m being forced to find my own rhythm of walking to the cadence of a beat God has set for me—not humanity. My desires are on the surgical table it seems. My heart is being opened wide to having my longings filleted and exposed and forcing me to think like this: What do I really want? What is God’s best for me? How can I engage in my life with the hope that my own life will be marked by a robust sanity and a daily resilience.I greatly underestimated the jolt of re-entry. Perhaps you have too when you came back from a trip; a vacation; a time off where it seemed you tasted a different wine that was so good—so renewing that you vowed to never drink any other wine but that one wine you just discovered. It really is odd how we as humans make vows like that and then go buy the cheap stuff hoping it will taste the same. Cheap is never the same, is it?Now that I’m in the saddle, my work within my own work is to find my stride and now walk in that cadence with renewed determination and a deeper conviction. It’s just that it is far, far harder than I ever anticipated.The truth that discovered me in my sabbatical will, through time and in time, be integrated into my life—into my work. I feel like all is not loss--not loss at all. But it does reveal my need to continue to do my own 'work within my work. It will be a slow integration. It will be a process. This is to confess that I am not fixed; perfect and I am not yet where I want to be. What I know is this: I am not like I use to be. I am on my way. This is a journey. Not a race, right?