I broke my foot. Don’t ask. It’s my right foot, too.
And it’s the beginning of the summer. Oh, yeah,
and absolutely no driving. I’m stuck here in the
house feeling kind of like Jimmy Stewart in Rear
, except I’ve traded in the wheelchair and
binoculars for a set of crutches and a laptop.
It takes a lot of planning before I move from
one room to another, making sure I’ve packed
enough supplies to keep me going for a few hours.
I’m like a nomad. Survivorman. My wife (Grace
Kelly) tied a small canvas bag to the side of one
crutch, and before I hit the road I make sure it’s
packed with all my essentials: phone, pen, paper,
food, book, ChapStick.
So I spend a few hours on the deck, then move
the whole party inside to the den. To the kitchen.
Back on the deck. To the kitchen. Well, you get
Before I broke my foot, my life was on automatic.
Like Bill Murray in Groundhog Day, I woke
up every morning at 6 a.m., but to the sounds of
NPR’s Robert Segal, not Sonny and Cher. Showered,
dressed and eating my bowl of Cheerios at 6:30 a.m.
In the car at 6:50 a.m. Same route to work every day,
sometimes not remembering most of the trip. Arrive
at work at 8:10 a.m. A large mug of Earl Grey tea.
Check voicemail, e-mail, and I’m off. Leave work at
4:30 p.m. or so. Get home around 6 p.m. Dinner.
Some reading, maybe a movie. Bedtime. Wake up
and do it all again.
Sounds like fun, huh? Maybe your routine is a
little different, but for the most part if you have a
full-time gig at a corporation, chances are you’re a
creature of habit, feeling like you’re on the hamster
wheel from hell.
When an injury forces you to slow down
because well, basically, you have no choice, it takes
time for your system to wind down to a steady idle.
It’s like driving 90 mph for three hours and then hitting
a 20 mph school zone. It’s hard to slow down.
When taking our annual family trek down to
the Jersey shore in August, it always takes me about
four days to flush the routine out of my system.
Then, just when I’m relaxed and have forgotten every
password and PIN in my head, it’s time to leave.
So now that I’m entering week two of my
disability leave, I’m feeling less anxious and thinking
this could turn out to be a good thing. Why? Because it means I have more time to think, dream,
plan and laugh—and do nothing. More days unfettered
by routine. More quiet time. More time spent
observing. It’s a chance to clean house and get some
Windex on the lens of those antennae. A chance
to see less. Feel less. Rest the mind. Feed the soul.
Nourish the spirit. And do nothing.
Whether you’re a designer, director, actor,
executive, whatever, if your everyday responsibilities
require you to perform on demand and make magic
on a daily basis, then sooner or later you’ll be empty.
You’ll find yourself digging deeper and deeper into
your creative well and coming up with less and less.
Now, I’m not suggesting that you go out and
break some bones just to get time away from the
office. But it would be a good idea to schedule some
downtime. Time alone. If you already have a vacation
planned and are traveling during your time off, make
sure you build in a few extra days before you return
to work to do nothing. To lose yourself. To surrender.
It takes time to dissolve the structure from your
days until time and schedule have no meaning. Shed
your corporate skin. Wear baggier clothes and let the
air in. Rediscover your purpose, your essence. The
insatiable thirst you once had for creative expression
may return, breathing huge breaths to fuel your curiosity.
Ideas and thoughts that were previously inaccessible,
undeveloped or unrealized will rise to the
surface and come into focus like never before.
It’s up to you to find ways to keep yourself
motivated so you can be in top form when you
return to work. No one is going to do it for you. If
you’re stuck, develop new interests or revisit some
old ones. Wander. Wonder. Visit the Area 51 in your
mind. Staying inspired takes inspiration.
Well, I’ve gotta go. I think I see Raymond Burr
digging up my neighbor’s garden.