I was driving to work today, and I passed a gentleman walking on the sidewalk carrying an umbrella. Although that statement on the outset, appears somewhat bland, the way the man walked with the umbrella drew my immediate attention.
The man himself was not striking in particular. He was a typical “dad” or maybe even granddad. He wore khaki cargo shorts, had on a golf shirt and was middle-aged to possibly in his sixties.
Despite his carbon-copy, dad/granddad-like exterior, this man, or should I say “gent,” walked with his crooked umbrella handle hanging over his wrist! I was so taken aback by that one small detail, that I realized this gent, or should I say “gentleman,” had made himself James Bond cool!
This fellow was scurrying across a busy intersection, trying to catch up to the rest of his family. Most likely, the iconic coolness of that umbrella weighed him down somewhat and caused him to lag. His gray hair was parted on the side was windblown, yet he did not bother to brush it back in place with his free hand. Amazing!
This incident led me to ponder how the fact that carrying a traditional umbrella could be so freaking cool.
First of all, it was cool because it was a traditional umbrella and not a lame folding umbrella.
Folding, shooting, springing umbrellas may be convenient to keep in the floorboard of your car, but they have zero “coolness” factor. How many of you would you want to see your man hanging a tiny, folding, see-thru umbrella the size of a Subway sandwich over their arm? Who needs a see-thru umbrella anyway? Is it for people who doubt it’s raining, but are afraid to stick their hand out from under the umbrella to see if it comes back wet?
Oh no, my man, carried his umbrella in the stylish, classic, iconic, style. He was a man-about-town. I wondered if he were British, then I noticed he was too tan. His umbrella had the classic crook handle, not the springy little button on the side handle. Although, I must admit to the guys reading this, how many of us feel like secret agents when we push the little button and the umbrella springs out and opens?
What have we learned? The genuinely cool way to carry an umbrella is to own a traditional non-folding umbrella with a curved handle “possibly made from bamboo.” Hang the handle over your arm, near the wrist. That’s it; instantly cool.
Ladies can get away with a folding umbrella but remember, even Mary Poppins umbrella didn’t fold, so keep that in mind.
If you whip out a golf umbrella anytime other than a golf game, you look like an idiot. Are you trying to keep the entire city block dry? Does your umbrella have a sports team on it? That screams, “Hey, I hate being wet, but I love the Dolphins,” which is ironic.
Just hang the handle over the arm and walk, eyes ahead. Did I mention, it wasn’t raining, nor was there a cloud in the sky when I saw this guy?
I used to be one of those people who scoffed at those folks who spent time working on their lawns and piddled in their flower beds.
My neighbors must have nothing better to do with their time. I can recall making fun of them to my wife as I watched them from our window. I was an idiot then. I was too ignorant to understand the truth; I had many things backward. What exactly, should they have been doing with that free time, I never stopped to ask myself. Should they be working to make more money, perhaps? Something more “productive,” I’m sure I thought. At the time, I didn’t stop to wonder if maybe, they were enjoying the simplicity of just existing as they did their yardwork.
“Their grass is going to need mowing again in a week anyway,” as if that should be a reason not to give attention to a lawn,
If you are visualizing this scenario and your mental picture is of older, retired folks as the people I was scoffing at, you would be correct. They have the time to garden and work on their lawns, and although I made fun of them, isn’t what we all fantasize about is having more time? Again, I had it backward.
Around a year or so ago, I began to study Stoicism, Taoism, and other Eastern philosophies. The study of the significant Stoics, Seneca, Marcus Aurelius, and Epictetus taught me how backward my thinking of“time” was.
I am a Christian by faith; however, I find it helpful to understand various philosophies and Stoicism interested me regarding their ideas on how to spend time as well as how to control negative thoughts.
I suppose I felt my aging neighbors who spent so much time on their knees in the garden were wasting their time when they could be doing something more “productive.” What I didn’t grasp then, was, why do we want to be more productive in the first place, unless ultimately that productivity leads to the free time later on?
Ultimately, what we desire is the “time” to be able to work in that garden, be it an actual garden, or a hobby. Maybe it’s not a garden at all; perhaps it’s playing chess, writing a book, studying, or perhaps learning how to build a kayak. My retired neighbors are achieved what we all seek, even if we do not know it yet, the ability to “do,” “exist,” and “be.”
No boss demands my neighbor mow her or his grass. No supervisor requires the height of one neighbor’s lawn to match the height of another neighbor’s yard. There’s no management team meeting inquiring why the hedges aren’t taller than they were the last fiscal quarter.
For some strange reason, this year, I began to want to spend more time outside, particularly on our screened backyard patio. It started with me having my breakfast on the terrace every day. My wife began to join me and said, “in all the years we’ve lived here, we’ve never spent this much time outside.”
Soon, we bought some more comfortable outdoor patio furniture and then, I did what I would have said a year ago was unthinkable, I planted a garden in our backyard.
I planted grapes, cantaloupe, green and jalapeno peppers, cucumbers, and raspberries. I hadn’t tended to a garden since I was a teen on our farm in Tennessee. Mine is not a large garden at all, just a single strip of plants, here are a few photos.
Those who can piddle with their petunias on a Tuesday afternoon have won, you see? They have accumulated enough of that invisible, expensive commodity called “time.” That product that we all wish we can somehow earn even if it’s already available to us if we delete the unnecessary and refocus our priorities.
I’ve begun to appreciate that time outside on my patio. I’m not rushing for anything. Instead, I’m allowing myself to exist and be in the moment. Possibly, that’s the secret that takes so many years for Western culture to understand. All the toil, the long hours, stress, and hard work, for what? Ultimately, isn’t it to be able to play in your garden of choice? You may think you must wait until you are retired. I’m not yet retired, but, I have retooled my thinking about how I spend my time. Ditch any time-sucker be it, scrolling social media, mindless television, soul-crushing relationships, I think you get the picture.
I tend to be selective about who I take advice from when it comes to creativity, attaining better focus, stress relief, and the like. I’ve found that one of the terrific aspects of Medium is the wealth of knowledge and the varying viewpoints available to us here. I try to decipher if the writer of an article which I’m reading has walked the walk and is not just talking the talk when suggesting ideas which may, or may not, enrich my life in some way.
Here is a little background on myself so you can determine if I’m worthy of you continuing reading and taking to heart anything that I am eventually going to suggest.
I have worked in the entertainment field full-time since 1992 as a comedian, actor, magician, and writer. For the past nearly nineteen years, I have produced and performed in the “Outta Control Magic Comedy Dinner Show” in Orlando, Florida. Although it hasn’t led to worldwide fame, since you probably have no idea who I am, I am currently living a beautiful life, I am not forced to travel for my job, I’m happy, treated very well, and have provided well for my family.
In my tiny niche of the entertainment industry, which is a magic comedy dinner show, it is paramount that I stay current and continuously update and even reinvent myself when changes happen in the culture. Creativity is a necessity for me because I do not have the budget to compete with the likes of Disney, Universal, SeaWorld and the many other multi-billion dollar companies which are located just a few miles from me. Early on, I realized I had to take a different approach, which would not rely on millions of dollars, flash, and advertising to create a buzz about our business and hopefully repeat customers.
The approach which I settled upon involves me doing things on my own, writing original material and build props and set pieces if it falls within my skill set. Because I live and work in a bustling tourist town, I have to cater to the masses from all walks of life and every corner of the world. Also, I do not have a director or a “team” of any kind, other than my wife and kids who occasionally give me advice. I do have an assistant named “Ruby,” but since she is a mannequin, she rarely provides information.
Then, What’s The Problem?
Dealing with burn out is a major issue with me. I have performed thousands of shows during my tenure in Orlando, so many in fact, that I must continuously stay self-aware of whether or not I’m reaching the point of “hitting the wall,” to use the runner’s term. You may have seen live shows when the performers look like they are phoning in their performance? Most likely, they have hit the wall and are burnt out. Performers and entertainers are human beings and live shows take a toll, not only on the body, more importantly, the mind. After a time, performing the same show becomes monotonous, and one needs to find a way to make it fresh again. I tend to slip and slide into and out of dry spells, bouts of depression, and bursts of creativity, most likely, possibly just like you. The way I attempt to deal with burnout is to try to keep the show fresh and to do so, that means I need to find new ways to flex my mental muscles.
What to Do?
Meditate. I’ve found that ten-minute blocks of meditation once or twice daily has dramatically increased my creative juices. The mind is like a drunken monkey, scatted, and out of control. The mind races from one thought to the next, which fights against your ability to control stress and maintain your concentration. I use a free app called Insight Timer; it offers guided, self-guided meditations, and music to listen to while relaxing, meditating, or trying to drift off to sleep. For years, I ignored the idea of meditation and wrote it off as something that “wasn’t for me.” I didn’t understand the real benefits, although I had read that there are so many. The beauty of meditation is that there is no wrong way to do it. You cannot fail.
The Beginning of my Journey
Just by attempting mediation, I began to see results. Firstly, I started to understand just how quickly my mind wanders, which, in turn, caused me to realize how much I needed to rein in my brain. I set the Insight Timer to ten minutes and found a straight back chair, in a quiet place alone. I didn’t even allow our dogs to be in the room with me.
Often, in the beginning, I could barely get through the ten minutes, and sometimes, I still can’t, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t have benefits. I began to have creative flashes in my sleep while driving, eating, and various other times during the day, but never while meditating. And that is the point, during meditation, the mind is allowed to halt those and the twenty million other random thoughts that are racing through your brain.
That reboot, that, taming the drunken monkey does something remarkable to your mind. So amazing in fact, that science has yet to determine why or how it works, and since it doesn’t allow for hard, quantitive data, many have dismissed meditation as some mystical hocus-pocus, even though the ancients have known about and praised meditation since the dawn of recorded history.
I know you’re familiar with the basics of meditation, and it may seem silly or rudimentary to you, and if that’s the case, may I suggest you do some research. The following are a few links to articles found here on Medium:
You may wonder how could meditation possibly help me if I’m not in a creative field, or I don’t consider myself a creative person. My answer to that is, we can all benefit from being more “self-aware,” can’t we?
Meditation has helped me see aspects of myself, which I was unaware. It has made me aware of my surroundings and my lifestyle, which in turn has led me to be more grateful for what I have.
I began to see results after about a week of doing two, ten-minute sessions a day. Give it a shot, and please let me know if you see a difference.