“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