Learning To Be Still

This past year, I spent 4 months pretty much flat on my back in hospital, thanks to an E-coli infection that wasn’t nipped in the bud like it would have been in the best of all worlds.

One of the things that happened as a result of this, which was surgically treated, was that I lost most of the use of my legs. Oh, I can feel them. And I can exercise with them, and with the right support, I can even hobble around on them.  But because my balance was also affected, I doubt I will ever be able to walk without some sort of assistance again.

But it is what it is, and I have never been one for looking back at things that have happened to me and playing the ‘if only’ game. I wouldn’t even know where to begin.

Instead, I concentrate on the pluses.

One of the big pluses is that I am still alive because this shit could have killed me. One of the other big pluses is that my writer brain survived, which was a miracle considering all the drugs I was on. The other big plus is that I was able to come home to a house that had been nicely modified for me, thanks to mat amazing wife.

But to me one of the most important personal things that happened was that I learned to be still.

All my life I have had an affliction called tic syndrome, which is actually a mild form of Tourettes.

One of the things I noticed about myself after my surgery, was that the tics had noticeably subsided, and I was able to deal with the confinement without making myself crazy.

When I came home from the hospital, I found that I was able to sleep longer than 4 hours a night, which had been the norm for me, and that I was also generally much more comfortable in my own skin.

A lot of this had to do with the fact that I was nowhere near as active as I used to be before I got sick. The energy I expended, mostly riding my bike wherever I went, contributed to the general level of energy I had in my body which, in turn, contributed to the intensity of the tics.

Now, I certainly miss riding my bike. But like I said, there’s no use crying over spilt milk. Right now, I’m just very happy to be able to sleep for 6 or 7 hours and use the energy I get from that to propel me through the following day.

The other thing that this learning to be still has taught me is that time still moves at the same breakneck pace it always has and the stillness has given me a much greater depth of focus, which, in turn, has allowed me to tackle much larger projects and just generally make better use of my time.

Just last week I completed work on a screen story for a limited TV series.

The script was one large story in three parts and ran 305 pages. In my old life, I really doubt I would have had the patience to spent 2 solid months on a project this large.

So learning to be still really does have its advantages. Whether I sell this property or not doesn’t matter. I did it mainly to make sure that my writer’s brain was still firing on all cylinders. Anything beyond that is gravy.

A lot of people work very hard at things like yoga and meditation to find the stillness inside them. Others, like me, have stillness thrust upon them through force of circumstances.

Whatever floats your boat, learning to be still is a skill worth acquiring.


Jim Murray
Jim Murray
I have been a writer since the age of 14. I started writing short stories and poetry. From there I graduated to writing lyrics for various bands and composers and feature-length screenplays, two of which have been produced. I had a  20-year career in senior positions in Canadian and multi-national agencies and a second career, which began in 1989, (Onwords & Upwords Inc), as a strategic and creative resource. Early in 2020, I closed Onwords & Upwords and effectively retired. I am now actively engaged, through blogging and memes, in showcasing businesses that are part of the green revolution. I am also writing short stories which I will be marketing to film production companies. I live with my wife, Heather, in the beautiful Niagara Region of southern Ontario, after migrating from Toronto, where I spent most of my adult life.

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  1. Jim, great message as usual. Society seems to push us toward “being active,” but there is joy and peace and pleasure in stillness. Someone once wrote that “A quiet mind is able to hear intuition over fear.” It takes a conscious effort to buck tradition and, instead, pause and let the muse do her job.

    I appreciate that you are a screen writer. I have lost myself for hours in that exercise. Some people think it’s a solitary exercise, but it’s not. Create the right characters, and they will join you at the key board.

    • Thanks Jeff

      I agree with your insights about creating characters. I think writers are lucky in that they can be along for long stretches and never feel lonely.

  2. Jim, I really enjoyed this post. Reading about your experiences succeeding in so may areas of your life in the face of adversity is inspiring. The precious things you lost, “riding your bike” and walking unaided. To embrace the changes that have in part compensated for those significant losses, in the way that you have, takes not only courage but an enormous fortitude and inner strength. Your observations are selfless, you just seem to be looking forward, embracing the change and the new opportunities and future that brings. It is quite humbling to read and you deserve a happy, contented and successful future. Good luck my friend, someone once said to me, luck is intelligence meeting opportunity, so true in your case.