Taking a break can lead to breakthroughs.
―Russell Eric Dobda
I realized it was coming, like winter in the middle of summer – in June, my birth month. An avalanche of ennui, in the form of creative boredom, was there, but not yet. The actual feeling emerged as signs of familiarity with the process, where the colors of my imagination were turning grey, and the flowers of my garden were blooming only in black and white.
I had a plan that was on cruise mode – to get 6 books out this year. I would have handled this fatigue with my bad-day discipline, but rather than being hit by that external colossus, I chose to walk away.
I walked away from everything I love to do. Writing and reading fiction, reading poetry and reviewing them, writing for BizCatalyst 360°, and my beloved friends on social media. During the week I was away, I did nothing.
Believe me. Even things that we are passionate about can cause stress. Stress is something I am working to avoid this year. I had some jitters about my health, and so all the more I had a reason.
The last act, I did was to journal the first half of the year. I liked what I had achieved and I felt thankful to those who made it possible. Two anthologies and two books are no mean feat. So I am a bit humble bragging, that’s all.
The feeling of ennui is familiar for many creative people. It is a vortex that can suck us in and dip us into depression. We don’t know how we can survive or if there would be any aftereffects of such a phase.
This feeling does not come often. I get depressed even during the course of the day, like the passing clouds that hide the sunshine away for a while. That micro-depression is more recoverable and even that forces a break. A short walk or some babble with people around resets. Sometimes it is the music – I love to listen to jazz or western classical.
There are two reasons to take creative breaks. One is to avoid the stress and the ennui, and another is to recharge.
I realized the reason why nights appear in our lives. Even the sun, our live givers needs a regular break. Similarly, we need sleep. It is the night that gives birth to a new sun the next morning. It is our sleep that gives birth to a new us the next day.
If our days were designed like that, why not our lives? We need to break, and a break that is designed rather than thrust upon us. If you are a painter, the rest gives a colorful imagination and a steady hand to hold the brush, and if you are a writer, the rest gives the imagination and introspection needed and flying fingers on the keyboard.
I am tired of myself tonight. I should like to be somebody else.
―Oscar Wilde, The Picture of Dorian Gray
This is exactly how I felt when I finished my journal. I wanted to be somebody else. I was desperate to shed my author-poet-investment banker clothes and jump onto something else.
Walking away from everything I loved to do was the first thing. It was like quickly shedding the garbs of the poet and the investment banker, and walking around naked. The freedom of being stripped is heavenly, even if it is for a short time and nobody is seeing. It is a mental thing. The shedding of the garbs makes us naked and free, and even, emboldens us to look at the mirror.
I’ve no idea when I’m going to wear it, the girl replied calmly. I only knew that I had to have it. Once I tried it on, well… She shrugged. The dress claimed me.
―Isabel Wolff, A Vintage Affair
The dresses we wear claim us. The roles that we take on lives consume us. We become the roles. Whether we are sons or fathers, employers or employees, artists or bankers, we still are wearing the dress. People identify us with the dress that we wear. The garb gives you the identity and not the other way around.
The weight of the garb is therefore exponential when we step off the pedal. For me, the garb was hidden behind my Mac and Samsung phone screens, and all I had to do was to walk away from the ‘windows of the world’. Away from your eyes, I was free and naked, in the mental sense.
I did not do anything that was routine. Each moment of that week away was to enjoy my garb-less freedom.
I watched Netflix and Prime, flipping channels. Well, that is not me. Finally, I sat alone, staring at the blank screens of my television, Mac, and Samsung phone screens. They were lifeless. They were dead unless I woke them up. I had the power to flip the switch on, but I did not.
I walked around the garden, watching two butterflies fight for the nectar in a flower.
I tried to identify dogs and cats on the white-grey clouds that floated away, tempting to rain first and then cheating and sneaking away.
I smiled at the security at my gate, and they smiled back. Normally, I would be staring at them as I drove past, and they would nod their heads with somber faces. The sweaty cabins and the humidity of this seashore city can make lives difficult. But this time, my smile was returned. Perhaps, the smile was part of the garb-less me. And they seemed to like it.
A sense of silence had sent in. I could even listen to my breath. I walked around aimlessly around the apartment campus. Boisterous kids and cacophonic birds felt very natural.
I walked back home, climbing the stairs instead of the usual elevator ride.
I sat on my sofa and saw the faces of my wife and son. They seemed human, more human than I met them during the last few months. Maybe, my beholding eyes created that impression. As they realized that my face was not sunk on my screens, they turned theirs off. They started to see me, after a long time, as a human. This was another universe, but we ended up fighting over trivia and laughing at the mundane. A life that looked interesting – remember, I was naked, without the garbs that I wore on the screens.
Suddenly, I felt lonely. Being garb-less was new, and I knew that I might not last the week. I walked towards the music keyboard and unpacked it. And for the first time in my life, I pressed the keys of a different keyboard. No words appeared on the screen, but the sound of music came out in response.
The sound was garrulous, but it was still sweet. I had discovered the other keyboard in my life.
Music was my refuge. I could crawl into the space between the notes and curl my back to loneliness.