The topic? The possibility of going on Skabbatical — my own private version of a sabbatical-that-is-awesome. For three months.*

* Reassurances! 1) It won’t be happening for a while. 2) I won’t be skabbatical-ing from the blog or anything I’m currently teaching. 3) Selma and I will still be here. Promise.

Something I really wish for, but my monsters have massive, crazy issues with.

They were being all loud and sabotage-ey, so it was time to sit the biggest one down and have a conversation about why this is such a terrible, impossible idea.

The advocate shows up.

It felt too intense, so I asked for a Negotiator to mediate for me.

And then — weirdly, Writer Me (a tiny, only somewhat malicious giggling fairy with spectacles and strong opinions) showed up and volunteered her services.

Actually she said, “I will be your advocate.”

Which was funny, since the purpose of the Skabbatical (To The Skabatmobile!) is a writing project. So she’s kind of advocating for herself.

And so it began.

Writer Me: Bring it on. What’s not good about this sabbatical thing?
Huge Scary Monster: It’s bullshit. It’s a big, fat pipe dream is what it is. A stupid waste of your stupid time even thinking about it. It’s never going to happen anyway. And you know what? Even if it did, it wouldn’t be good for you.

Writer Me: Mmmm. Interesting. Sorry, about the “wouldn’t be good for you” part. Is that me-me or Havi you’re talking about?
Huge Scary Monster: (Shrugs.) It’s anyone who is on her side.
Writer Me: Got it. So you believe sabbatical is not the healthy thing to want. Is that right?
Huge Scary Monster: Yeah. But only because it’s true.

Writer Me: I’m not going to argue with you. I’m just curious. What about it is bad for us? Are there specific aspects that are harmful?
Huge Scary Monster: Obviously! For one thing, it’s a stupid pipe dream, like I said. Do you want to spend your whole life bitter and disappointed, everyone but you knowing that your dream is a fraud and a sham … totally achievable to anyone but you? Because of your own imaginary prison walls that only you can see?!

But actually my monster is my advocate.

Writer Me: Wow. I mean, wow.
Huge Scary Monster: I know!
Writer Me: So let me get this straight. You feel upset when you think about Havi being disappointed and not getting what she wants.
Huge Scary Monster: Uh huh.
Writer Me: And you feel … anxious? Fearful? You worry that people might feel sorry for her. And this is because you care about her. Is that right?
Huge Scary Monster: Yes. And also I don’t think she should waste her time and energy on things that don’t get her anywhere.

Writer Me: (unsure) Because you want her to be successful?
Huge Scary Monster: Obviously!
Writer Me: Whoah. That’s kind of neat. And crazy. Because you know something? Havi thinks you are against her. Like, really against her.
Huge Scary Monster: That’s good. She should keep thinking that if it keeps her from trying to have a sabbatical. She doesn’t need to know my opinions.
Writer Me: But secretly you’re for her, not against her.
Huge Scary Monster: Well, yeah. That’s why I’m her monster and not someone else’s.

And things start to get weird.

Writer Me: Fascinating! Alright. I’m sorry to keep asking questions, but this is all new to me. Would you say that your purpose is to keep Havi from taking a sabbatical — actually going on one? Or is it to keep her from thinking about one and wanting one?

Note: this part is completely insane.

I don’t know how to say this, but the Huge Scary Monster actually split in two.

Like a cartoon version of a science class mitosis film strip: explaining cell division by acting it out.

It split into two, and then formed back together, looking extremely self-satisfied.

As if to say: I can fill BOTH of these roles if necessary. It was wild.

Clarifying and more clarifying.

Writer Me: Huh. Okay. So one bit at a time, I guess. What’s wrong with Havi wanting a sabbatical?
Huge Scary Monster: I told you already. She’ll just be disappointed. That’s not a good use of her time. She can’t get stuff done if she’s wanting stuff she can’t have.
Writer Me: Got it. Thanks for clarifying. And what’s the problem (problems?) with Havi actually having a sabbatical?
Huge Scary Monster: [explodes and starts shouting a million things at once] Impossible! IMPOSSIBLE! It doesn’t exist. That’s like asking, “what if she actually takes a vacation to Atlantis?!” It can’t happen!
Writer Me: It can’t?
Huge Scary Monster: NO! And anyway, whatever pale imitation she might come up with would just be a waste of time.

I’m just wondering …

Writer Me: You seem really passionate and um, emphatic about this.
Huge Scary Monster: Well, yeah. Someone has to protect her from more hurt and disappointment.
Writer Me: Too true, too true. You’re right about that. So here’s a question. I’m just wondering. If you’re right (which of course I’m sure you are) about the sabbatical thing being a mythical, unattainable impossibility, why are you getting so worked up about why she shouldn’t attempt it? I mean, if it’s impossible anyway

Huge Scary Monster: Because she’ll try. And that will be a tragedy.
Writer Me: I’m sure it will, honey. And I apologize for being dense, but can you help me understand where you’re coming from? What is, exactly, the tragedy that we’re trying to prevent?
Huge Scary Monster: I can’t tell you.
Writer Me: Alright. That’s okay. Pauses. Do you know what it is?
Huge Scary Monster: (indignant) Yes.

Preventing the tragedy.

Writer Me: Mmm. How can I be on your team and help prevent a tragedy if I don’t know what I need to look out for? Can you give me a little information? What happens if Havi actually goes on sabbatical?
Huge Scary Monster: She’ll discover.
Writer Me: What will she discover?
Huge Scary Monster: That it’s meaningless.
Writer Me: Tell me more.
Huge Scary Monster: Look, there isn’t anything special about sabbatical. It’s not the unicorn she’s making it out to be. She’ll feel really distraught to realize that her dream is meaningless, that she put something so stupid on this giant pedestal.

The impasse.

Writer Me: And if you’re right, is it possible that it could be good for her to learn this?
Huge Scary Monster: Havi has had enough dreams smashed in her life. Let’s not take this one from her too. You’re supposed to be on her side.
Writer Me: Okay, I’m going to let the lack of logic slide, because you strike me as really sincere.
Huge Scary Monster: I am.
Writer Me: So we’re at an impasse?
Huge Scary Monster: You’re the writer.
Writer Me: So I am. Am I to write a better ending?
Huge Scary Monster: That’s why you volunteered, no?

The ending.

Writer Me: You’re pretty wise for a monster.
Huge Scary Monster: Set me free. You can set me free.
Writer Me: By looking at you.
Huge Scary Monster: I will show you my essence and you will set me free.

Writer Me: I’ve never been flashed by a monster before. First time for everything, I guess.
Huge Scary Monster: But you will set me free?
Writer Me: What’s in it for Havi?
Huge Scary Monster: My freedom is her freedom.
Writer Me: Show me.

And what happened then.

The monster tugs at his heart.

Before this, he was kind of a big amorphous smoky blog. But now he looks like one of the sweet coloring book monsters. And he takes the little heart-shaped pin (it’s red enamel and surprisingly soft), and hands it to Writer Me.

Huge Scary Monster: Read it.

Writer Me grasps the heart and she folds it into her hand until the heart is completely swallowed up beneath her fingers. Closes her eyes. Intent concentration. When she speaks, it’s very slowly and her words come from somewhere that is not here.

And the part about the essence.

Writer Me: Your essence is protection.
Huge Scary Monster: Yes.
Writer Me: Your truth is that we all have the ability to delude ourselves, to get tangled up in dreams, to burrow pathways to disappointment.
Huge Scary Monster: Yes.
Writer Me: But you also know that there is incredible power in wanting a thing, and taking steps to make it happen.
Huge Scary Monster: Yes.
Writer Me: And the key to this whole thing is being present with what you want and need.
Huge Scary Monster: Yes.
Writer Me: Because then your focus is on your conscious relationship to desire, and not on the object of desire itself.
Huge Scary Monster: Yes.
Writer Me: And what you want and need can then change and grow without fear, and you can never lose yourself.
Huge Scary Monster: I am free now. Thank you.

The door is open.

Writer Me: So Havi can go on her Skabbatical?

But the monster is gone. The door is open.

I turn to Writer Me and ask, what now?

Writer Me: What now, nothing. You know this stuff. It’s what you teach. Go journal it up about your Skabbatical so you can learn more about it.

Comment zen for today.

Talking to monsters is hard.

We all have our stuff. We’re all working on our stuff. We’re here to support each other. And part of how we let people have their own experience is by not giving advice — unless someone specifically asks for it.

I’m not sharing this (incredibly personal) thing in order to be told what to do with it. I’m sharing it in the hope that someone else gets a glimpse of something useful. Kisses to all the commenter mice, the Beloved Lurkers and everyone who reads.

The Fluent Self