When the Hum Stops

It’s funny that someway, somehow, life gives you something right at the perfect moment. It is as if for some reason, when you’re about to give up and every thing seems to be hopeless and meaningless, the world gives you something — something that inspires you and nudges and pushes you back right on track. That something may be a call from a friend, a kiss from a loved one, a passage from the Bible, a story form a stranger that you just met, a hug, and that something ultimately makes you feel alive and whole again.

That something for me was this Ted Talks video from my idol Shonda Rhimes. For those who don’t know her, Shonda Rhimes is the “titan” behind all of my favorite shows like Grey’s Anatomy, How to Get Away with Murder and Scandal. I suggest that you watch her in this talk from TED.

I woke up, feeling better than I did last night. Last night, I had tummy cramps every so often and each cramp left a trace of pain that would build up and build up and build up. I found out I had GERD (Gastroesophageal reflux disease). And the funny thing about having it is that I was not surprised it happened. When I work, I lose track of time. I forget to eat, but surprisingly, I don’t forget to to drink coffee. I think of coffee as food and as something that keeps me going and it keeps me sharp. This is actually how I live and I’m not proud of it. I know that this kind of lifestyle isn’t healthy and I know i’m just waiting for attacks of pain, just like this one.

“When I’m hard at work, when I’m deep in it, there is no other feeling. For me, my work is at all times building a nation out of thin air. It is manning the troops. It is painting a canvas. It is hitting every high note. It is running a marathon. It is being Beyoncé. And it is all of those things at the same time. I love working. It is creative and mechanical and exhausting and exhilarating and hilarious and disturbing and clinical and maternal and cruel and judicious, and what makes it all so good is the hum. There is some kind of shift inside me when the work gets good. A hum begins in my brain, and it grows and it grows and that hum sounds like the open road, and I could drive it forever. And a lot of people, when I try to explain the hum, they assume that I’m talking about the writing, that my writing brings me joy. And don’t get me wrong, it does. But the hum — it wasn’t until I started making television that I started working, working and making and building and creating and collaborating, that I discovered this thing, this buzz, this rush, this hum. The hum is more than writing. The hum is action and activity. The hum is a drug. The hum is music. The hum is light and air. The hum is God’s whisper right in my ear. And when you have a hum like that, you can’t help but strive for greatness. That feeling, you can’t help but strive for greatness at any cost. That’s called the hum. Or, maybe it’s called being a workaholic.” – Shonda Rhimes

Going back to that something that comes at the perfect moment, when you least expect it, it happened just about 30 minutes ago. I’m here lying on my bed, because this stupid pain on my tummy keeps bothering me. I know i’m sleepy so I try to watch a a few movies on Netflix, but nothing catches my attention. I decide to open TED instead to watch videos (wooohoo! This is my idea of fun!) and the one that catches my attention is obviously this video of Shonda Rhimes, my ultimate idol (yes, I know, I’ve said that). I have admired her for the longest time and when I saw the title of her talk, “My year of saying yes to everything”, I wanted to watch it immediately. I thought she was going to talk about how saying yes to everything gave her this successful career and status that she has, but it was about saying “yes” to playing with her child for 15 minutes.

After watching the video, I cried. I kept on saying “Damn, you Shonda! You’re just amazing! I hate you” over and over again. I hated her because she hit me right on the mark. I hated her because she made me feel better; I felt like someone understood how I was feeling.

The honest truth is that I love working. I love working, and at times I think I’m wonderful, noble, admirable, impressive, but sometimes, I think i’m irresponsible, unreasonable, pathetic and pitiful. My life has become unbalanced. This annoying pain in my tummy makes that evident. I don’t know how to go out on dates anymore with my husband, as I constantly need to check my phone. I don’t know how to play with my daughter, as I constantly think of the next business strategy that I need to map out while building lego blocks. Planning my daughter’s birthday party has become an event with a matching keynote presentation that I planned to present to her teachers. Things that can be turned into a business excite me now over things that I used to love, like new restaurant finds, new flavors of ice cream, a new dress, etc.

Then there came a time during the past few months when the hum stopped for me. I was overworked, depressed all of the time, tired, frustrated, angry a lot of times. And now I know that it was because, I lost that inspiration — I couldn’t hear that “hum”.  I was so focused in working my ass off that I forgot to “play”.

I have forgotten how it is to live and appreciate the seemingly mundane things in life. I have set aside going out on dates with the husband, playing with my daughter, going out on night outs with my friends, watching movies, going on ME-time shopping sprees, etc. I have forgotten that these simple things but are really important and it’s what makes living fun and life worth living.

So, thank you, Shonda Rhimes, for showing me that working is okay, for as long as I inject “play” time. Thank you for reminding me that work hum becomes more meaningful if mixed with play hum and love hum.  Thank you for singing out load to make me hear that hum again.