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Spending the past four weeks on crutches gave me the opportunity to view my life from a different perspective. Some of what I experienced was challenging: opening doors without falling over, climbing stairs on one foot, and staying clean without getting my foot wet.

Some of it was painful: you wouldn’t believe how badly your palms and armpits ache after a day on crutches. (I have bruises and calluses to prove it.) To make matters worse, I developed tennis elbow from all the crutching, which made it difficult to do things like lift a coffee cup, blow dry my hair and pull up my pants.

Some of it was funny: did I mention I couldn’t pull up my pants?

And some of it was surprising: it turns out, having Dave do all the chores, cook all the meals and wait on me hand and foot was nice for the first few days, but then I just felt guilty. I also discovered how much I miss the gym when I can’t go and that there IS a limit to the amount of comfort food I can eat.

The most surprising thing of all, though, was how quickly I lost my leg muscle. Despite years of running, hiking, skiing, swimming and biking, four measly weeks of not using it caused my right calf muscle to shrivel up to half its original size. Seriously. If you glance at me quickly, there’s a good chance you might mistake me for a pirate with a peg leg.

It made me think about how creativity sort of works the same way. Have you ever noticed how rusty you feel after even a few days off from doing the thing you love? If I go a little while without writing, I find it’s hard to get my creative juices flowing again. I forget plot lines, struggle to find the right words and totally lose momentum. It’s like creative atrophy. But when I’m writing every day it feels like the ideas are abundant and the prose flows without effort.

If we start thinking of our creativity like a muscle that needs to be exercised every day, rather than a hobby that can only be indulged when we have some free time, I think it can help us become more committed to its strength and development. Though you won’t find it any anatomy books, think of your creativity as a muscle that exists within your heart and mind. Treat it with same devotion you have for the gym, a yoga class, or your daily walk, so it will grow stronger, perform better, and be there when you need it.

How often do you exercise your creative muscle?

Does life ever get so hectic that you wish you could just hit the pause button and lie around with your feet up for a week, doing nothing?

Yeah, me too.

In fact, last week was one of those weeks. It seemed that every aspect of my life demanded my full attention; the phone didn’t stop ringing, nothing was going smoothly and Murphy’s Law was determined to make me pay for some karmic wrongdoing of the past. Usually, the only way out of a week like that is through it, but last week was different. Last week, I had foot surgery scheduled in the middle of it all. So instead of forging through the chaos with a loose grip on my sanity, I got to hit the pause button on it all and lie around for a week with my feet up, doing nothing…just like I always wished.

Not only did I get to lie around with my feet up, doing nothing; I got to lie around with my feet up, doing nothing…in a super nest.

What’s a super nest, you ask. Let’s venture back a decade, when my then-fiancé got his wisdom teeth out. To help him recuperate, I built what became known as “the nest”, which consisted of cushions stacked carefully next to the couch, creating an extra-wide, extra-soft expanse that we could snuggle in while he recuperated. When it came time for my surgery, he took the nest concept and revolutionized it. The resulting super nest is comprised of two couches facing each other with two ottomans between them, piled high with a downy blankets, facing the big screen TV, that looks something like this…

In other words…heaven.

After my surgery I returned home, groggy and in pain. I spent the afternoon asleep in the super nest and it was, indeed, heavenly. The first day post-op, we loafed in the super nest’s soft warmth, feet up, watching movies and picking through the array of comfort food we’d positioned within arm’s reach. Everything was going great, until Day 2 rolled around…

Among my family and friends, I’m notorious for my love of napping, sleeping and anything else in the relaxation department, which is why what happened next was so weird: I became completely and utterly restless. My eyes wouldn’t stay closed and my mind wouldn’t stop churning. My body simply would not cooperate with the week-long nap I’d been dreaming of.

By Day 3, despite having the perfect conditions for a nap – gray skies, rain beating gently against the windows, the splashy melody of the dishwasher running in the kitchen, and the drone of a nearby fan – I couldn’t sleep. And not only could I not sleep, I couldn’t even sit still. I was itching to get back outside to our biking path, our hiking trails, our happy hour spot by the river. I got so restless that I even scoured Craigslist for “recreational wheelchairs” and “jogging strollers for adults”; anything to get me back to the activities I love.

By Day 4, my muscles were sore from disuse. The pain of my broken foot paled in comparison to the stiffness in my back and neck. This was right around the time I reached the point of saturation. I couldn’t eat any more comfort food, I couldn’t watch another TV show or movie and my mood grew grim. I even lost interest in the book I was reading. And despite the comfort, beauty and structural integrity of the super nest, I just couldn’t lie around with my feet up, doing nothing, any more.

By Day 5, I cancelled my remaining vacation time and returned to work, life, and the chaos I’d left on pause…and I welcomed it all with open arms.

If my week off, lying around with my feet up, doing nothing taught me anything, it’s this: when life gets overwhelming, take a day off and rest. Then start anew.

And also…be careful what you wish for.

According to a recent Bloomberg article, 28 million Americans are stuck in jobs they would’ve left in ordinary economic times. As the article points out, that’s a lot of dreams deferred.

But it doesn’t have to be. If you’re one of those 28 million people, use your “stuckness” to your advantage by asking yourself what you can do right now to prepare yourself to take the leap when the economy improves. Maybe it’s taking a night class, working on your business plan, attending networking events, saving some extra money or finally writing that book.

Whatever you do, don’t let your stuckness render you helpless. Instead, let it motivate you to take action now so you’re better prepare to get unstuck when the time is right.

What are you doing to get unstuck?

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