As I write this, my father-in-law was just released from hospital (Chaim Leib ben Miriam Bayla). During zman simchaseinu, when we reflect on the fragility of life, I dedicate this column to him and the Holy One that gives wisdom to humans to create medical technology and bring healing. Early in his protracted stay, inspired by reading research that quantified the improved outcome (and reduced ICU psychosis) for patients that had a window in their room, I had a vital question for his physician: Could he be next on the list when a room with a window becomes available?
I remember a certain period in my life working many hours at a stretch in a windowless office, knowing there was a beautiful park across the street and feeling increasingly depressed that I got to see so little of it. I had read a related study regarding using decorative tapestries of nature (waterfalls, mountain scenery, etc.) as curtains in patient rooms that led me to Amazon, where I bought some easy peel/stick wallpaper of a forest scene to bring the outside in, and allow me to relax a little more. (Email me and I can send you the link!) I even got some ceiling tiles of a sky scene – you may have seen something like this at your dentist’s office, but if not, just imagine looking through your sukkah’s s’chach. When I leaned back in my chair, I occasionally imagined that I saw birds up there as I looked “skywards.”
Sometimes however, a change of scenery is insufficient, and bringing in a plant or forest, whether real or virtual, achieves little more than rearranging the deckchairs on the Titanic. You have to know when it’s time to leave the setting behind (and hope that your successor is clearly able to see the wood for the trees).
As mentioned in a previous column on the topic of moonlighting, one advantage to a side hustle is an opportunity to get some distance and de-stress from a draining job. Examples could include: A passion project, investing in family or a hobby, helping our neighbors, beautifying our surroundings, supporting community or learning/teaching Torah. Rather than porting items into our work environment, we port ourselves out – albeit temporarily to a different physical or mental space. This distance can enable us to gain an “outsider” perspective on our primary job, making it more tolerable and even enhancing our performance.
I offer special thanks here to the Career Center’s executive director, who knows my tastes and shipped a beautiful tapestry to my home last Chanukah, helping transport me outside each day at a time when few of us were venturing outside. It now hangs in my office and I took a quick break from writing this column in order to browse Amazon for more nature (and Israel!) tapestries for my sukkah this year. Not that I need Sukkos to prove my point, but stepping outside temporarily in order to re-appreciate the people and things that surround us the rest of the year – or at least provide a different perspective and inject more energy into our daily lives – is certainly an important take-home message for this column. And perhaps this theme is apropos more than ever this year when times have been especially tough and the landscape for many still seems inhospitable, bleak, or barren like it did for our ancestors in Egypt. May we all merit that our perspectives be heard and enriched by others and that our spiritual, existential, and physical journeys be expansive, awakening renewed commitment and energy.
What are you doing this season to bring the outside in, or the inside out?