I’ve been in an unmindful hurry in the last few months. rushing to be creative, introspective, helpful, attentive, and healthy. With the best of intentions I spread myself too thin. In hindsight I see how, in increments, I knocked myself right out of balance.
I work three days a week. On those days it is my job to be there for people who are in difficult life situations. I provide a safe, accepting environment in which people can examine their thoughts ad feelings and make the changes they want to make in their lives. It is an unbelievably rewarding career. I have learned more from those who have walked through my office door than I could ever express in words.
On the four days I do not work one might think I had plenty of time to break out of professional mode, put on my sweats and….read, write, cook, daydream, garden, blog, ….an organic, rejuvenating flow of energy. On paper it works nicely. In reality, on my days off I still have to answer work calls, schedule doctor’s appointments, and wait for the cable man. On some days off I may still be so tired from the three long days I have worked that it is a struggle to be as creative as I would like to be.
I was juggling it all flexibly enough until late October 2013 when I impulsively signed up for my first NaNoWriMo challenge. All of November I hunted and I pecked and I came up with the required number of words. I loved, loved, loved, participating in NaNoWriMo. And what do I have now? I have a teeny tiny little novel that needs big editing. I’m convinced that my characters deserve to be brought to life in print, where they will be loved and cherished by all. With all the pride of a new mother, I think my baby book is uncommonly beautiful.
Now, on my “off” days I am trying to teach myself what we do after we write a draft of a novel. Do I know what I am doing? Not at all. Do I have a writing group? Not at all. I spend my time reading books about writing books, searching on the internet for what to do with a book manuscript, and on the actual editing of the book. Also, for a person with the technical skills of the main character in The Gods Must Be Crazy, being gifted with a new computer for Christmas proved a mixed blessing. I can’t tell you what all the problems have been because it will cause flashbacks of my having talked to every single Apple support employee, except to say that I did not have Pages ’09, and therefore for a time could not open up my poor little book on the new laptop. Sigh.
On a more serious note, in the middle of the frenetic NaNoWriMo month, I learned that a very close friend, not a blogger, has a life threatening illness. I spoke with her on a Tuesday while she was getting ready for work. By Saturday of that same week, after an emergency room visit for severe pain, she had a diagnosis and was meeting with her treatment team. While she wasn’t looking, she left her old life and started a new one. The gods really MUST be crazy.
Even now when I say to myself that she is sick, part of me says, “No she’s not.” But she is. For now she is doing well, but still has a hard uncertain road ahead. Though her illness is not my story, my role as her friend has changed. I need to gather strength in order to be a person who to whom she can say anything, especially those things she cannot say elsewhere. I need to pay attention in order to be a person who steps in when needed, and out when not. I need to be a person who does not always treat my friend as though she is a sick person. I need to be honest with myself in order to accept my powerlessness to change the progression or outcome of her illness. I am honored to assume these roles, but of necessity I have had to learn them on the fly.
The realities of the last few months left me feeling frantic on days when I was not working, longing to be alone, and to be needed by no one SO I COULD GET SOME WORK DONE!!!! Yet when alone, I did not experience the peace I and contentment I sought. Fear that I would run out of time on this earth, that I would never be able to learn and do all I want caused me to try to wring every productive moment out of every day. When was I going to get around to editing my book? Knitting? Working on my new scrapbook? What about that online photography class I needed so sorely? When would I research my trip to Paris? What about my blog post? I began to feel overwhelmed with that dread that says “You should be _________ right now.”
I do know better than to try to be a “human doing”. Because of my vulnerability I must have deluded myself into thinking that because I enjoy learning, making, and doing, that it would be appropriate to do them all at a breakneck pace without savoring the individual moments. I worked myself into ignoring the part where I was going ninety miles an hour. I’ve been here before. But apparently learning to just be is one of those life lessons I am destined to learn over and over again.
The funny thing is how I came to notice all of this. I knew I felt unsettled, not right. Good detective work on my part. But guess what my solution was? I TRIED TO ADD SOMETHING ELSE TO MY SCHEDULE WITHOUT ASKING ME!!!!!!! That’s right folks; I decided that just a few minutes of scheduled meditation, along with study of same, would bring me back to a peaceful place. Part of the absurdity of this is that I purely cannot stand for my time to be taken up, even if it is taken up by me. I want to do what I want to do WHEN I want to do it.
So when I tried to implement my ill conceived plan, I heard the most distinct voice inside myself saying,”NO. NO. NO. This is the problem. YOU are the problem.” At least that time, if not for the preceding weeks, I did listen. And I knew I had to start back at the beginning. For me, that means with a notebook and pen. That means every day, not just some days. That means asking me what I want to do, and listening to the answer. It means that once I check in with myself, I have accomplished the most important task of the day. Whatever I do afterwards I will do more mindfully by default. That’s what matters.
I am a few days into my reset now. Once I attend to myself through my journal I find I am quite ready and willing to meditate. Though everyone’s experience is individual, I can report feeling less rushed and less anxious. When I breathe I am aware of more inner space. I am also aware of a deep weariness in my shoulders. What better way could my body tell me I need to let go?
I am still busy, but I am busy differently. Busy noticing. Busy being. Busy starting over and feeling more balanced. I will never have time to do everything that interests me. I will never be able to control the passing of time. But however I do spend my time, I want to feel alive and present in that moment, for it will never come again. It is comforting to know that if from time to time I veer off of the course I want to follow that I can simply reset.
What about you? Do you ever need a reset? And if so, what works for you?
This is so profound and beautifully written–it should be required reading for every human! And everyone should be so lucky as to have a friend like you. I know exactly what you mean, since I happily inherited many of your passions: I always have 7 or 8 projects going at once, and new things catch my eye all the time. It was a real bummer not feeling good to work on things, but now I am facing a similar frustration. There are so many things I really want to be doing, but the book proposal is the one that’s got a clock, and it has to come first. I am so, so, so close to finished with it, and when I get there, I plan to party down. Writing is always a ship that steers me toward home–what’s better than a pen against paper? But I also feel so rejuvenated when I clean or organize something. Eric replaced the burned out light bulbs in our kitchen this weekend, and that one simple thing has been filling me with glee for days! And I too hate to have my time taken up, even by me! Hahaha! I am grateful for all I have learned about listening to myself and being gentle with myself, but I know I have a lifetime more of learning to do:)
Hopefully you won’t have to hit the reset button too often, but you know how to do it, and I’m so pleased and proud that you do. Thanks for your ever sweet remarks!
Oh, and I forgot to say that your book is amazing and must see print! I wish I could be of more help, but I don’t really know the fiction proposal world. However, I am sure you are tackling it very well on your own!
I’m working’ on it!
I am facing a similar situation with the grave illness of a close friend. I loved your thought that “I need to pay attention in order to be a person who steps in when needed, and out when not.” Wise words that deserve much thought. Thank you.
And thank you for reading and commenting. When someone we care about is ill we want to help but not overwhelm. It’s a fine line to walk. I hope things go well with your friend.
I’m in the midst of a reset. I’ll let you know how it turns out. 🙂 Glad yours is working for you and calling to your muse.
I would hope you would give yourself a huge reset. You’ve just finished such a monumental undertaking! It’s time for some relaxation!
Balance-that’s what I try for. Sometimes I go too far in one direction or the other. Sometimes I get a bit obsessive over some new discovery or other. Eventually I try to reign myself back in again. But balance is what I seek. As a father of four children I don’t always attain it. 🙂
As for your book, if you don’t go down the publisher route, you could self-publish it on something like Lulu Publishing. I am sure you would feel much satisfaction on seeing a labour of love in print.
Thanks Andy! And thanks for reminding me of the Lulu option. I have actually bought something from them before. I am open to all suggestions!
You know me well enough to know that when I read this, I just want to fix it for you. But I know I can’t. But I can offer you whatever support you need. Don’t hesitate to ask.
Thank you dear. Caring is all the support I need in this particular arena!