There are some days when I have absolutely nothing planned. No meetings, no work, no babysitting, no social activities. Big ol' pile of nothin. Yesterday was one of those days.
In the morning, I ran over to a friend's place to see her before she leaves town again. Mostly because I love her a lot but also a little because it made me feel better about the day. This way, I would definitely have something to report. Look at me, so fancy with my plans. As I got home, my phone lit up with a text from one of my favorite humans. The generality of his message and the fact that it was early in LA told me he was bored, looking for someone to talk to. I immediately fessed up:
"My day is too empty today, makes me uneasy."
His reply came quickly, "Me too".
I was totally taken aback and then laughed at myself. This man is someone I regard to be one of the most successful people I know. He is living his dream, making damn good money at it and has a full life outside of work. In many ways, I admire him and look to him as a role model for my career. (Don't tell him any of this, k? Great, thanks.) Here was this person who has achieved so much, with a whole day of nothing planned. I thought over the past few days of his texts and realized this was probably the case for many days now.
Lightbulb: What we do, as artists, comes with the inevitable downtime. Long stretches of time between gigs. Days on end where you have a lot of time for the internet and no use for your craft. The kind of days where your employed friends make jokes about how lucky you are to be able to sleep in or do whatever you want. The kind of jokes that sort of burn. This is as big a part of our career as the time we are actually working. Perhaps even more so.
Second lightbulb: These are the days where the art you make is conceived. The days you spend wandering Manhattan alone will later turn into a short story that will eventually become a full length feature film. The lonely hours you find yourself trapped in will be birthed into the hit song you write. The times you look at your calendar only to see absolutely nothing scheduled will become the joke you tell that sparks the interest of the agent who gets you your first big break. This is the part of your life you will draw on for inspiration in your acting class, your improv group, the piece you are choreographing.
Everything you're waiting for is actually beginning right now.
Words and truths are comforting but action, at least for me, always feels better in the moment. So, what do I do when an all too free time hits?
1. Stop feeling sorry for myself. As soon as I start climbing on to the self-pity train, I jump off of it as fast as I can. I remind myself that I'm damn lucky to be alive, healthy, intelligent and pursing my dreams.
2. Bust out my certainty staples. I've found that if I have certain things that I do every day, I feel much more balanced. These have become the things that fill the void for certainty in my world that currently has none. For me, this means: going to the gym, meditating twice a day, finding time to write and making a fresh juice. I can rely on these things when my world feels shaky.
3. Get a change of scenery. I love my apartment but girl has got to get outside to shake the I-have-nothing-to-do blues. In addition to changing my locale, I'm also forced to get some fresh air. Fresh air = fresh perspective.
4. Do the things I actually need to do. You know those 547 emails in your inbox that can be cleaned out? Receipts that need organizing? Tedious errands that need running? Texts that, oh I don't know, should be answered? Do all of those things. Hell, do ONE of those things. You can not imagine how good it will make you feel.
5. Think/Write/Figure out what it is I want. Make action plans. Imagine what I would be doing if I could be doing anything right then and then do it if possible or create steps to get myself there. Paint the perfect picture of my perfect life so I'm always moving toward new goals.
6. Relax. Attempt to relax. Attempt to relax for at least 5 minutes. Or, okay, at least 3.
7. Make phone calls. I kind of hate being on the phone. My best phone usage in suburbia was when I was driving but it sure is hard to call friends from underground in the subway. However, while I hate the phone, I sure do love my friends. Hours of free time means I can make a few calls without worrying I will lose my entire day. I can have two hour long conversations and still have enough time to do other things.
8. Listen to myself. This is a fun game called "shut up and hear yourself" and comes via sitting alone quietly. I especially enjoy the version "what do I want to do now?" where I think of what I want to do and then go do it.
9. Practice that art form I love so much. You know how all you need is that one meeting/audition/etc that will change your life and/or give you a job? If you use the free time you have to practice, you're ready for the job. If you're like me and sulking on your couch about how you have no friends/job/life/etc, you will not be. When I pick up my guitar and sing, I feel ready to sign my record deal.
10. Fucking revel in it. When I hit my most mopey place, I remind myself that I won't ever have this time again. Not only will new jobs come but obviously I will then be famous and almost never alone again. Plus, I'll be married with kids and dogs and houses and I will pine for days gone by when I had so much free time. I'll wonder what the hell was wrong with me that I didn't enjoy it. So, to please my future self, I revel in the glory that is right now.
I honor this truth: I am exactly where I am meant to be right now. Even if it is my couch.
Oh, and my yesterday full of nothing? Turned out to be a pretty damn good day after all.