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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716 thoughts on “Gardening Leave? Meh.

  1. There is the expression “Living the Dream” or a “Life of Leasure” – but more often than not, those who appear to be living the dream and a life of leisure are actually deeply unhappy. Without purpose in our lives we are indeed lost, as it is our deepest call to be here and bring to the world the very qualities that only we can bring, Another expression comes to mind – “Use it or lose it” – and in this case I feel it is very fitting – if we do not live our every day with true purpose and sharing the unique qualities that only we can bring to the world, then we are lost and everyone else loses out too. So perhaps living the dream is actually not about a life of leisure but rather a life of purpose and loving toil that shares who we are with the world?

  2. We have just finished an Easter long weekend in the UK and this blog felt quite relevant to read. Across the 4 days, my husband and I did a lot of work related stuff and one person said it was a shame we weren’t having a holiday. This is a perfectly normal thing to say, but what I have come to understand is that as soon as I switch off and ‘put my feet up’ – that is where I detach from my sense of responsibility and purpose. Sure we’ve a had a little more down time as we’re not working 9-5, but we have stayed committed and in response to what is needed for the business, and I feel as rested and refreshed as ever.

  3. Brilliant blog Nick. I’m on ‘gardening leave’ at the moment and it is revealing many things. My false relationship with time has been revealed. I used to think work was what stopped me from getting things done at home but I’ve discovered that work actually supports me to be more productive at home. When I return to work it will be with newfound appreciation and purpose.

    1. So true, I have found the same. When I am not working I find myself indulging and very unfocused. It is not what I do but how I do what I do and there needs to be a sense of purpose at the core of it all.

  4. There is a beautiful message in this piece of writing, a message about what is there to be committed to and how when that commitment is reduced to only a select few, like only our immediate family for example, we can actually start to feel a sense of loss. This is something I have experienced too, and it constantly is a reminder that life is about being with each other and not ever is it about isolating ourselves within our family units, because we all have so much more to offer than just that.

  5. I’d say free time is actually when I get in the most trouble, I am super thankful for the rhythm, routine, purpose and non-stop lessons I get from my job. Work is amazing – it’s where we learn about life and it’s where there are the biggest opportunities to evolve and grow. It’s in free time I would say most of our bad habits creep in…

  6. ‘When life gives me an opportunity, I must bring my full self to it and leave nothing behind.’ How true this is – and taking every opportunity to bring all of who we are to all our interactions.

    1. Hello Ariana, sure this is key to our life and actually brings value to it but can only be experienced in full when we do not hold back and bring our full self to it and leave nothing behind. I love it…

  7. Everything in life is there for us to learn and evolve from, so too a gardening leave that is able to let us feel the purpose work has to us individually but also to all of society. Our contribution to our family and societies we live in do matter and give real value to life and no gardening leave whatsoever will be able to beat this.

  8. It is gorgeous that in constellating an experience that showed you the importance of committing to life, you share a blog of your learnings and are able to inspire many through the power of embodying and expressing a sense of purpose in your foundation.

  9. The importance of rhythm and routine cannot be overemphasized…our bodies just LOVE these ongoing daily rituals that enable the ‘chemistry’ of our bodies to really do its thing.

  10. A great demonstration of what purpose and commitment bring to our life and that, for a man, being the provider by virtue of his pay, is not the end all and be all, far from it.

  11. What you have expressed here Nick is so true; life is continually presenting opportunities for us to bring all of who we are to, with purpose and commitment;
    “When life gives me an opportunity, I must bring my full self to it and leave nothing behind.”

  12. This is a great article. I find myself on a prolonged “gardening leave” given the dearth of jobs in my area… My days are full of activity, but I think I do need something more and a bit of a change. Thank you for this. It’s given me something to think about.

  13.  ‘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’. When we do nothing all day we soon get to feel stagnant and miss our connection with the world and our contribution to it. We can pretend to ourselves that all is well but we know, in truth, that this is not so and that our sense of vitality and purpose is hugely compromised.

  14. A great experience to share Nick, when we lose purpose we lose our rudder, because we often drift without direction, really inspiring how you brought your gardening leave back to purpose.

  15. It’s amazing the difference having simple, daily tasks makes and how when we stay connected to the wider world, it takes us beyond ourselves and into an understanding that it’s not just about us but that we have a purpose here, to commit to life in all it’s fullness.

  16. A great learning here Nick. It seems like the old story “be careful what you wish for because you might get it”. Much of what we want in our lives is not all its cracked up to be and we don’t know this until we experience it.

  17. This really struck me “when life gives me an opportunity, I must bring my full self to it and leave nothing behind.” Thank you for those words – they are for every day.

  18. There is nothing wrong of course with taking time off. The danger is when we take time off from being present with ourselves, and that is where the real harm is done, and often why we struggle to get back into work after a long holiday, or even a weekend.

  19. When in connection with our bodies we can easily see the big picture at play, for there is nothing that happens by coincidence as our soul perfectly constellates moments for us to repose, work hard or get challenged. Once we can understand this it is easier to live with a greater purpose no matter is presented for us.

  20. Reading this article takes me to a point of commitment that my body has actually committed to, but my mind feeds me with many excuses and reasons as to why I allow this commitment to waver. What I realised in this sharing is that when I let my commitment falter, I feel meh in my life. Yet when I honour it I feel vital alive and so very supported.

  21. There is nothing more demoralising than not having purpose in one’s life, for with out purpose there can be no commitment . If there is no commitment there is no true living , as there is nothing to live.

  22. “We have a responsibility to commit to life”. Yes we do, it is one of the most energising things we can do, commit to life, in full, bringing all of you, but with no expectation on how that should look like. The gold is in the commitment, not the outcome.

  23. So great to read this at this moment as I am in my way home from work to start a 6 week holiday – not paid but regardless still a lot of time. I decided yesterday to commit to getting through some hours for a qualification and I instantly felt more purposeful about what was possible in this time. Rather than just opting for the usual clear out and lunches.

  24. I love reading this because I can relate to it so much. There is only so much ‘time off’ one can have before starting to feel that lack of purpose. What an awesome suggestion by your practitioner to commit to something daily to help with overall commitment to life. So supportive and it makes perfect sense. The alternative is no longer an option for me, because all it’s done in the past is seeing me be ‘meh’ for a really really long time and it drags everybody down with me.

  25. We can always find meaning and commitment in all that we do. Such a great reimprinting of what could have been simply check out time, but your decided to make it meaningful.

  26. Reading this I am remembering the times in my life when I was ‘bored’ and went looking for stimulation and adventure – I could actually be in a full-time job yet still feeling flat. Thank you, Nick, for exposing that the lack of purpose hence the commitment to life debilitates and retards us.

  27. Nick from reading your blog, I have learned much about the importance of committing to all areas of my life whatever I am doing and whatever the circumstances. I feel it is commitment which keeps us vital and in the flow with all of life.

  28. As I read you blog Nick I am pondering on your comments about purpose and commitment to life and I am realising how frustrating and what a struggle it must be for those who want to work but can’t get a job – while simultaneously eroding their confidence and self-worth.

  29. Such a great blog Nick, and you are absolutely right, in that without purpose we flounder and have no direction, as our bodies naturally move with purpose and thrive so beautifully within this environment.

  30. It’s interesting we convince ourselves that if situations could change things would be ‘better’ eg. if we had more time, money, a better job, different people to work with, a holiday, a new car, etc, etc, but would it? Our issues, behaviours, hurts, ideals and beliefs are not going to go away even though we may have all or some of these changes. ‘Real’ change comes from making changes within us first and it does mean taking responsibility and commitment to ourselves and in life.

  31. Much of what you share is relevant to the so-called ‘retirement’ years. When we retire I will….. And out comes the wish list of all the things we will do, not realising our retirement years can stretch to 30 years. The question is of what use can we make of this precious stage of our lives? There is inevitably the honeymoon period, but what then. Without purpose we serve and entertain ourselves, are busy, even active, but this comes with a feeling of emptiness. Retirement years can often be ‘wasted’ years. With purpose and a commitment to live and give fully to ourselves and our communities, each day feels like a blessing and lived to the full.

  32. The beauty of old age is the opportunity presented to be renewed and evolve. It is not a time for sitting down, but stepping up and embracing life.

  33. I love coming back to this Nick as I work for myself and there are days where I can feel the ‘meh’ creep in. “it showed me that when life gives me an opportunity, I must bring my full self to it and leave nothing behind.” Your comment here reminds me of the purpose we can bring to every moment in life, that if we are feeling ‘meh’ we have lost the purpose of what we are doing, because everything matters, therefore nothing can be ‘meh’!!

  34. It is amazing how committing to something, however small, every day, builds a sense of commitment and purpose. When I reflect on how I used to live, aimlessly wandering and coasting from one activity to another, lost in the busyness and excitement of it all but without really deeply committing to anything, I realise how much I – and my life – has changed. Life is fuller, richer, and so much more amazing, as I’ve committed to myself, to life and to others.

  35. Four years ago I planned to leave a job I had for 20 years. There was writing on the wall that because we were soon being privatised and as head of this department would be the first one not to be needed. The whole family, wife and two daughters decided to have a change, sell our house in a small quaint village and move to London. I knew there would be a few months of closure for selling things and planning to move and everything involved with this process. I knew there would come the point where everything would finish and the waiting game for when the house would sell. I had planned for this waiting time and renewed my forklift license before I left my job. I had reached the Meh point two months in where everything was done and was now in the waiting game. Meh, lasted two weeks. I went to a job agency and got a job the next day driving a forklift in a large printing publisher that ran 247. I got paid to do something I thought was fun and put purpose back in my day.

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