Eleven weeks ago I fractured three vertebrae in my spine due to a shoddy, bumpy skydiving landing. The almost three months that have passed have been one of the most memorable and life-changing blocks of time in my life – thus far.
Being forced to slow down to the point of a standstill for hours, days, and weeks on end presented me with an opportunity. I am not exaggerating when I report I spent 21 to 22 hours a day, flat on my back, mostly alone, in my bedroom for weeks.
Yes, I continued to work on and run Kuel Life. Yes, I binged various and sundry Prime, Hulu, and Netflix originals. (with that much time you need access to all the platforms.) But there were still countless hours to get through – to fill.
“Got the twelve o’clock news blues
And I’ve given up hope for the afternoon soaps
And a bottle of cold brew
Is it any wonder I’m not crazy
Is it any wonder I’m sane at all” – Styx – (wonder if Tommy Shaw had a bad accident too.)
Too much time on our hands is often presented as a negative. We see it all the time.
In the lyrics above of the obviously titled: “Too Much Time on My Hands.” And in Professor Harold Hill’s plea for a boy’s band over a pool table in The Music Man:
“Friends, the idle brain is the devil’s playground!
… Trouble, oh we got trouble
Right here in River City!
With a capital “T”
That rhymes with “P”
And that stands for Pool”
Full Calendars, Long To-Do Lists:
“Imagine driving a car without the brakes?”
It’s no wonder we feel the need to fill our agendas and keep our to-do lists long.
I recently read this analogy for “doing” versus “not doing”. Psychology Today equates the concept of doing something to being the fuel of productivity and that the absence of doing is productivity’s brakes. Imagine driving a car without the brakes? Yeah, me neither.
So, why do we feel the need to keep busy, all the time?
The skydiving accident drained my productivity tank, leaving me completely empty. Yes, at first, in the height of the crisis I cared very little. Surviving basic self-care activities and pain management were at the top of my Maslow hierarchy for a while. But, over time, I was allowed to allocate more and more mindshare to what actually had been in that tank for so long prior to the fall.
What To Do With The Time?
“Forced to stop my daily grind, I was gifted idle moments to quietly process and contemplate my core values and desires.”
I had time to contemplate my day to day existence. How had I been showing up? What, exactly, were my priorities? And, are those the right priorities moving forward? Forced to stop my daily grind, I was gifted idle moments to quietly process and contemplate my core values and desires. Doing nothing gave me space to incubate and cultivate my “What do I want from my life?” and “What behaviors must I cultivate or maintain in order to achieve it?”
Finding and maintaining equilibrium between the fuel (doing) and brakes (being) is tricky. Especially when we have society touting the value of BUSY. We are all taught that the more we do the more we are worth. I am absolutely positive that I would never have stopped my roller-coaster life to lie around, days on end, to ponder the essence of my being. I am fairly certain that without this accident, I would not even have slowed down.
When we’re hit with something that literally stops us cold. When our everyday life is no longer an option. It opens up the possibility for a complete reset. We are given a clean slate.
How Lucky Is That?
Seriously, as an adult, when was the last time you had the opportunity to examine, reconsider, and change your course?When have you been required to have every behavior, those that have been around for days, months, years, and even a lifetime, stopped on a dime? Lying still allows us the time to think about what we’ve been doing. Does it make us happy? Are our efforts in alignment with our vision?
Next week I visit my neurosurgeon for the last time. I presume I will get my passport back to life, my “clean bill of health” pat on the head. Allowing me the ability to return to my NEW “normal” world. As I approach this landmark, I am working on deciding the look and feel of my new normal. And while I never, never want to be injured to this severity again, scheduling a period of “too much time on my hands”, every now and again, sounds like a wonderful new addition to my clean, but quickly filling up, slate.