Gardening Leave? Meh.

“So today will be your last day in the office” I was told by my manager. It was 5:30pm. I handed over my work phone and shut down my computer. I had resigned about an hour earlier and was within minutes of being out of the building. I had never expected nor planned for it to happen this way – it all happened so quickly.

But as I started walking home I had the realisation that I now had nothing to do for the next three months. And I was going to get paid for that time. Welcome to gardening leave. You can check out, but you can never leave.

The timing of my leave was no coincidence. It was three incredible months in which I spent every day with my young family as a dedicated husband and father. I bonded with my baby son, deepened my relationship with my wife and shared so many new, amazing experiences with them both. I also took the time to appreciate how life had constellated to allow me this time to spend with my family.

My gardening leave got off to a great start – I had planned to spend the weekend in Somerset to attend one of the workshops and healing courses offered by Serge Benhayon and Universal Medicine. My newly found time off meant that I could now attend for the week and participate in an additional course, which felt like a really supportive way to start my leave.

Week two rolled around and I took my young son swimming and to stay-and-play sessions almost every day. I went from seeing him for an hour a day to being with him all day, every day. It meant I was able to provide support to my wife, who was still on maternity leave, and that we could spend much more time together. We even joked that every day had become a Saturday for me.

By the time my third week of gardening leave had begun, I noticed I was starting to become a little irritable and was feeling pretty flat – the exact word I used was ‘meh’ (for those who are unfamiliar with this expression, say it out loud and shrug your shoulders – that’s kind of what it feels like). In my head, feeling meh didn’t make sense because I had nothing to really feel meh about. I’m living the dream here right? No work, all play and pay. Despite telling myself this, I couldn’t shrug that flat feeling in the background.

I had gone from working 9-10 hours a day, servicing dozens of clients a week, answering endless calls and emails, working from my phone after hours and supporting an office in more ways than by just doing my job – to doing no work at all. I wasn’t just being busy, I was committed to my job, and doing it well.

But now this. I went from having purpose to having none. I went from serving countless people daily, to no one, not even myself. So what was behind my feeling so meh? A lack of commitment to life. Ouch.

It was clear that in the previous weeks, while there were great upsides to having this time – namely being with and supporting my young family full time – my daily life felt like it had no direction or purpose. My lack of commitment and the comfort of doing nothing actually created a tension within me that left me with that flat, meh feeling. This is just a truth that awareness won’t hide.

Hold on, my head does not compute. Back up a second. You’re getting paid to do nothing, dude! Why are you being such a downer about it?!

Well let’s get real here. We are not put on this planet to be on gardening leave and do nothing. Neither are we here to work until we’re 65 and then spend our remaining years looking out of the window. We have a responsibility to commit to life, for ultimately, this is committing to ourselves – and therefore, everyone. Anything less is holding back. And believe me, I know all about it. Deep down, we all know this. And hence that tension, that feeling meh.

So back to the story. I had booked myself an appointment with an esoteric practitioner at a London clinic. I’d been seeing her for a few years and always valued her support, direct approach and ability to see the root of my self-created problems (namely my holding back!). And her observations were and remain crystal clear. That session was no different.

She suggested that while I was on gardening leave I start doing something on a daily basis that would help me to work on my commitment. From that point onwards I began spending 10-15 minutes a day reading the news from my industry. In addition, having heard about some of the blogs that students of Universal Medicine were writing, I started reading and writing comments. It was the first thing I did when I woke up in the morning and it felt like a great foundation to my day.

I related to people’s stories, I became inspired, I was challenged, I learned, I understood, I expressed what I was feeling and I began to re-connect to myself on a deeper level.

And ultimately, as this reading and commenting practice became part of my daily routine, I began feeling that sense of purpose and commitment I had been lacking. It became a foundation, a building block to do more, because I felt to. And it’s no surprise that the meh feeling soon passed.

I really appreciated the time I had off and I feel like it was a ‘once in a career’ kind of opportunity. I learned over that period how important it is to commit to life – and that doing nothing all day isn’t actually all it’s cracked up to be.

I’m now in my new job and am enjoying a renewed sense of purpose and commitment. And I still enjoy reading and commenting on blogs on a daily basis.

I am forever grateful for the experience I had over my gardening leave as it showed me that when life gives me an opportunity, I must bring my full self to it and leave nothing behind. In building simple activities into my daily routine, I created foundations that supported me and acted as building blocks to serve others and myself. More of a learning than a ‘meh’stake.

By Nick Probert, London, UK

Related Reading:
The ultimate commitment to life!
Commitment to Self – Commitment to Life
Myth-busting retirement and valuing your contribution at work

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795 thoughts on “Gardening Leave? Meh.

  1. Great blog Nick, I am sure we would all love to be doing nothing and getting paid for it, yet it is not the body’s true purpose, it loves to work until it is physically too tired, and putting commitment back into your daily rhythm is a great reminder that we can’t just switch off from the world, we have to be connected to ourselves all of the time.

  2. It is interesting to read such an observant view of time off from work, when what has always been dreamt of as the perfect set-up, actually shows itself to be a set-up of a different kind, where one can loose their sense of purpose and rhythm. For me, connecting with people each day makes everyday a day lived well, wether this is in work or not, because everyday is an ‘on day’ when meeting people are involved.

  3. Without a sense of purpose and a commitment to life we can so easily drift along not really participating in life. To build simple structures into our day is so important for our health and well being we are not meant to lead sedentary lives our bodies are built to work.

  4. Often people facing ‘retirement’ feel at a loss because routines, structures, relationships, income streams established over decades are coming to an end. On courses I present, I invite participants to turn round every so-called loss into an opportunity as a path towards regaining purpose and commitment in life. Like you Nick, most people need guidance and a few baby steps to truly understand what is being offered

  5. Being in between jobs can feel scary and lead us to question self, life and purpose. What you’ve achieved with the guidance of your esoteric practitioner to use space as an opportunity re-build commitment in simple ways.. When I found myself in a similar situation a few years ago, I became a volunteer counsellor at a local centre offering support for long-term unemployed. It was the medicine that gave me a foundation until the new unfolded.

  6. ‘Gardening leave’ awakened in you your own lack of purpose and commitment to life. Great example of how every opportunity is a doorway leading to our own expansion should we choose to see it.

  7. A close friend of mine has a lot of pains, aches and tension in her body and thinks because of that she cannot work full time. But what if it is the other way around, what if she is being invited to commit to life in full and that surrendering to purpose will support her body immensely?

  8. Nothing is more fun, nourishing and vitalising than working in purpose. There is always so much to do including at times doing nothing when that is what is there to be done.

  9. It is so useful and supportive to read this blog today, as I’m between jobs and looking at my own commitment to life and to me without having the regular 9-5 routine or often later that I’m used to. Like you note here it’s about a deeper level of commitment how we are with us in each and every day and you’ve just reminded me of this, thank you.

  10. When all the entertaining and distraction have run as flat as they have always been and cannot deceive us anymore with false promises and pictures of a comfortable tension free life we get to understand that without purpose nothing makes sense. It is purpose that brings the spark to everything that we do by being everything that we are.

  11. Witnessing a close relative in his retirement is very revealing to me. This man worked until his 75th birthday and actually would still love to keep working and now is finding ways to get through the day. Shopping online is suddenly an almost weekly activity and the days seem very very long. In less than a year I have seen this man shrink and develop complaints. Proof for me that we are really made to work as long as possible and that working is actually vital for our health.

  12. Gardening leave sounds very interesting. A good time to work on our education and an interesting taste of retirement much earlier in life, giving us an idea what it will be like.

  13. Having no purpose and living with a lack of commitment to life actually causes a lot of tension in our body. We are designed to have purpose and commit to life, so when we go against this we feel the effects instantly.

  14. The more we commit and engage with life, the more we realise that we are sorely needed to bring ourselves even more fully to life to address the growing illness and dis-ease in society.

  15. Many of us exist in life in drive and in nervous energy without any true purpose, we are like fish doing aimlessly what the rest of the shoal does. But when we bring the quality of commitment to even just one area of life we start to feel purpose which ripples into all other areas of life.

  16. It’s amazing how even just bringing in a couple of simple things a day done in a quality that we know is truly committed can have a ripple effect throughout the rest of our life and be built on.

  17. There is a flat feeling when we stop using drive and nervous energy, either by choice or because they are not needed. But behind that flat feeling something much truer can arise – purpose and joy.

  18. We often forget how important it is to set a foundation based on a truth that we can connect to in our bodies because false foundations, just like in a house are fraught with problems.

    1. And we then look at those false foundations and have to admit that they are false and, at times, have to undo them. Initially that isn’t fun, but later …

  19. Interesting that you felt flat after a week. I took almost three years off in my 40s and loved the time. It is much better now but I actually enjoyed the time then.

  20. Nick thank you for your blog, reading your story again today it occurred to me that when we work and commit to life we have an opportunity to bring forth all the aspects of ourselves, to express who we are in full and put ourselves to use for the benefit of the all. We can learn so much about who we are, and may realise aspects of ourselves we may not have otherwise due to the challenges that draw more of who we are forth.

    1. Yes, it can take a bit of time to switch from directed work to self-directed work but it is a great opportunity for us if we can acquire the skill of designing our own work.

  21. When you truly connect to purpose – and then you loose it – you feel it. All of a sudden it doesn’t feel right to just do nothing and check out. It shows that our bodies naturally know and connect to purpose and this sharing really highlights how by having purpose in our lives we don’t actually need the time off or down time.

    1. I agree, I’ve tried the time off and it’s quite aimless, what we are sold as the dream of not working doesn’t actually feel that great, but having purpose does feel quite natural and brings a sense of wellbeing.

  22. Could there be a difference from time “off” from work and time “off” from life? What occurs to me is that perhaps it is not the time off, or the days off or the gardening leave that’s the problem, but our approach to this time and how we use it as a time to switch off or relax or as a form of relief and so the key is to remain committed both in and out of work.

  23. I love your point here: “It showed me that when life gives me an opportunity, I must bring my full self to it and leave nothing behind.” I reckon you’ve hit the nail on the head, life is full of constant opportunities that we might miss because they don’t look or feel how we planned, or we might recognise the opportunity but not bring everything to it. Your blog also really highlights the importance to bring our all to the moments where we are not working, and make sure we bring everything to these moments too, and not switch off.

  24. I feel it is revealing that being at home and building a foundation of deepening love and connection with your young child and your wife is perceived as ‘doing nothing’. Everything we do, work outside the home, relationships and domestic tasks call for the same and equal attention to the energy in which we do them.

  25. Great observation, how many people could have just gone through their gardening leave and carried on as if nothing was wrong, even though ‘meh’ had been upon them. When a situation ticks all the temporal boxes and we still don’t feel right it’s a great point to start questioning, could there be something else to look at with the situation.

  26. Thank you for sharing, Nick. Your blog confirms why there is no such thing as ‘retirement’, where people who have worked full of joy all of a sudden have to look for a way to get through the day and feel ‘useless’. Purpose is important in every stage of our lives.

    1. Yes, for many it is a good idea to prepare years beforehand so they have the skills to do something they enjoy in ‘retirement’ including having a choice whether to get paid.

      1. If you stay connected to people and to what is happening in the world there will always be purpose and something loving to do. Evolution offers us opportunities to grow and learn until our last breath and purpose adds so much to life, because in truth life is not about having a good time.

  27. I have read your blog before and I never noticed your joke at the end!! a ‘mehstake’ – love it. Feeling that sense of self-worth beyond what we do in life is core for good mental health.

    1. Thanks for pointing this out Lucy, I didn’t notice this and I’ve read Nick’s blog many times. You’ve reminded me to be more present while I read because I tend to skip things and miss out on what been presented.

  28. When we don’t have purpose we often fill life with distractions and this then brings us down and makes us flat. When we connect to something deeper within and live with a connection to purpose there is a vibrancy and joy and a pulse to life.

  29. Our only purpose in life is to return to Soul and this simply means to peel back the layers that have impeded the expression of who we truly are. As you so gorgeously say Nick – to bring our full self to life and leave nothing behind. There is no joy on Earth greater than this and therefore when we connect to our true purpose, there is no need to run from it via the various avenues in place.

  30. Nick this just confirms to me I am never going to retire, I love work and I want to work till the day I pop off ready for my next cycle. When we are committed, work can bring us such purpose and focus which adds so much value to our lives.

  31. “I learned over that period how important it is to commit to life – and that doing nothing all day isn’t actually all it’s cracked up to be.” Even doing nothing for a couple of hours is not all that it is cracked up to be either…when I check out to watch a TV show, I find it flattens me not truly relaxes me. I still get caught in it often, but it does not feel really good in my body.

  32. You beautifully frame the great lie of modern life here Nick – that we want more ‘time out’ when in actual fact it’s our lack of responsibility and connection to truth that is killing us.

    1. Yes. We keep glorifying time out and holidays because they give us a change from our routine and the novelty is a great distraction, but there are ample stories like Nick’s that once the novelty runs out there is that “meh” feeling.
      “It’s our lack of responsibility and connection to truth that is killing us”. Beautifully put.

  33. It is a joy to wake up in the morning with a sense of purpose and commitment, willing to be there. Your sharing makes me ponder on my relationship with space. I used to be self-employed some years ago and even though I was free to structure my day and have it as I wanted, some days would just pass by as if they were leaking, so I did wonder if I had to fill up my days with a list of things to do to feel engaged in life.

  34. Thank you Nick for your sharing. It is very true that we need something that challenges us to grow in this life and definitely not just purposely drifting or “looking out the window”.

  35. I remember being on a long sick leave and people telling me that it was great to have this time off and I never understood that. My reply would always be that time off is only great when you know it will end soon and you have things to do again. Today I understand commitment to life and purpose far more then back then and I am learning to not have time ‘off’ at all because it does feel ‘meh’. This does not mean I do not take time to rest and regenerate but when done in purpose this too is ‘on’ time.

  36. The absence of purpose catches up with us fairly quickly it seems. I feel we are innately purposeful beings and that ‘doing nothing’ is not part of our nature. Even our time off work must be purposeful…including today…Christmas day!

  37. Through committing to ourselves we commit to life. It’s interesting as it knocks the belief on its head that having money is the answer to our woes when in truth life is about people and commitment.

  38. I recently had 3 months between full-time jobs and it was an interesting time for me too. What I appreciated is that the first few weeks were about enjoying the space, getting those jobs done that are hard when you work full time, and then I settled into a committed rhythm of doing what needed to be done and was very committed to life. So when I returned to full time work, the transition was quite seamless.

  39. It is the first thing to my day too. I read and I write comments every morning for several years and I have found that my expression has expanded in ways I did not imagine.

  40. Living without purpose and commitment feels aimless and can lead to listlessness and even depression. It has been shown that retired people who have a purpose- whether it be caring or volunteering etc, have more vitality in life.

  41. When we bring commitment and purpose to anything that we are doing we cannot help but get inspired and want to bring more of ourselves.

  42. I love how you share that commitment to life and the quality of purpose that we’re living with can actually be truly enriching and enlivening rather than how sometimes they are associated with being a drain…

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