Sabbatical As Social Cover Cropping
I am three weeks back at work, and I’m still adjusting.
Social cover cropping is how I think of the mid-October to mid-January sabbatical I took in 2021/2022. I structured life according to my mental, emotional, physical, and spiritual health (mostly - I’m still a mom of 2 under five, after all!). I cooked A LOT, and I got dressed or didn’t. I re-set our family routines around meal planning, digestive health, and sleep. I had multi-day conversations with my husband about our home and school plans.
Soil can produce astonishing yields and co-benefits, but only if the soil rests regularly. Not every few years (like most “sabbaticals”) - but annually, or close to it. In one method of cover cropping, “rest” means planting crops that will feed the soil microbiome and allowing those crops to decompose (instead of harvesting them). Then, much more organic matter remains at the end of the process than at the beginning.
Pondering cover cropping allowed me to engage my own “rest” time as a proactive regenerative exercise.
Instead of "slothing it out," I “plant” activities that feed my joy and connection microbiome - cooking, overnight friend and family visits, a decadent birthday trip, and deep work with my trainer. This type of annual cover cropping gives me a different frame of reference for what I need when I say I’m “tired”. It gives me an ecological context for what creates vitality.
It allows me to view rest periods with an eye toward inputs and outputs, understanding that activity never stops, but activities’ pace, quality, and goal can shift.
I’ve experienced the way a natural collapse at the beginning of an extended break can last beyond its period of usefulness. Cover cropping reminds me to get out of bed, turn off Netflix and do restorative action, even when I’ve convinced myself that all I need to do is veg out. Cover cropping also encourages me to step outside our social context for what “regular” means when referring to breaks.
Last Autumn was my seasonal cover cropping time, which I’m designing to occur annually. It’s the flow that honors all parts of my life, from mother to sexy woman to CEO to wife to Jazz singer. A big “but” to this gorgeous concept is the way I tend to lean into polarities. If I know I’ll host an annual cover cropping season, I might use it as an excuse to hustle way too hard the remainder of the year.
As I pondered this, my dear friends and conspirators Elaine Patarini and Kelly Mulville reminded me about a different form of cover cropping - a continuous method. Continuous cover cropping allows “…a crop [to act] as both a cash crop and a cover crop.” The key? The crops must be of a quality that regenerates the soil and adds diversity, like “growing alfalfa and corn next, or growing green beans and then lettuce.”
I’m grateful that I already practice ensuring that my “cash crop” business activities are regenerative and diverse.
My daily rhythm allows for movement and meditation in the wee morning hours; cooking for my family breakfast and then dancing to Afrobeat while washing dishes; working 4 - 5 hours Monday - Thursday with inspiring clients; spending the afternoon and evening with myself or my family. I’ve created the space to notice myself; to connect with my shadow; to breathe into discomfort without needing to accelerate my capacity beyond healthy limits; to rest.
Now that I’ve sustained this growth and pace healthily, I can explore expansion from a place of overflow.
It’s beautiful watching our coaching clients do the same. Particularly two women of color in tech. They have long-term practices of advocating for themselves, giving them the resources to create their “cash crop” work-life as regenerative.
Between them, there are weekly spiritual advisors, personal trainers, physical trainers, Chinese medicine practitioners, and a host of other supports.
I’m just a part of the tapestry as an Executive Coach, as it should be.
My wish for us all:
Plant successful regenerative activities this year.
Discernment when a restful cover crop is needed.
Stamina to advocate for necessary boundaries to weave cover cropping into our lives daily.