The Writer and Balance

balance ground relaxation rock balancing
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

The days have grown dramatically shorter in my mountain home.  The sun was setting as we walked the dogs.  The Autumn Equinox is upon us and it at this time of year that I think of what I will banish my from my life.  The idea is to banish something in the fall that holds me back from balance.

There are a lot of things on this list; debt, self-doubt, along with a few bad habits that no longer serve as even inadequate coping mechanisms.

The truth is that I have gotten to the point a lot of American’s do in their forty’s.  I am talking about the middle aged crisis.  Life has started to slow down or at least I have. The aches and pains have grown into MRI’s and iced knees after every walk.  The weekends are too short to recover from the work week.

I haven’t been so lost and so happy at the same time.  My home life isn’t perfect, but I love my family.  I love the jokes we make and how we work together. I love my boyfriend and the freedom that our relationship gives me to be myself.  A year into dating and it is only getting better.

Things are good and they are bad at the same time.  An ex used to tell me that I needed to get my shit together. He meant it as an insult.  But,  The thing I realized is that adulthood is a continuous cycle of getting my shit together, watching and predicting obstacles, trying to avoid them and then the crash as everything comes down. Balance isn’t an easy thing.   It requires a lot of re-balancing and adjustments.  Yes, I do need to get my shit together just like everyone else.

No one has the perfect life.

I don’t have an answer for the one thing that is going to bring me closer to balance once I cast it out.  This equinox, I think is going to be hectic.

Or maybe I do.

I think I will work on banishing the idea that I can do everything, that I should do everything and there is time to do everything.  Writing is happening more and more.  I am not writing as much as I would like, but progress is being made.  Exercise is happening on a daily basis even if it is only walking the dogs. I am getting more sleep than in the past.  My life is good.  My art is developing.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The Writer and the Stress Monster

The start of school this year as been harder than usual.  I haven’t gotten much writing done in the last five weeks.

I haven’t gotten much done at all.

No going to the gym, keeping up with family or working around the house.  I go in early and I leave late and nothing seems to get better.

And then there is the manuscript sitting on my desk.  It is a sad and lonely thing waiting on its author to return. I can hear it crying at night; begging me for attention.

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Notes for my upcoming book. 

The stress monster took me down hard these last couple of weeks. My body clasping on the bed so many times with sheer exhaustion pushing me down. It creeps up and steals time and energy away from things I love and want to spend time on.

Friday was by far the worse. Friday, I cried at work.  Friday, I came home and put myself to bed with a stress induced migraine. I had to cancel plans with old friends.

It is in ways a never ending battle between the stress monster and myself.  I try to be proactive and plan, but if you have ever been in a classroom or even step outside your door in the morning, you know that planning doesn’t always workout.  You also know that going without a plan also doesn’t work.

Planning helps keep down on the stress monster attacks and if you like my godfather has contingency plans which have contingency plans. This won’t stop the attacks, but it will lessen their power.

This weekend, I rested, did lots of self-care and was able to get my mind back in thinking order. Self-care is important.  You need to  keep  taking care of yourself before and after attacks. Routines like walking the dogs and eating dinner with my family are all forms of self-care.  They are like taking vitamins. Life is full of stress and if you think the only way to succeed is to never take care of yourself and just go go go, you might be superhuman or headed for burn out.

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The Morning Walk

Push yourself, yes, but also take care of yourself. Mediate or pray, whichever feeds your soul daily.  Yoga and going to the gym on a regular basis.  Talk to and take part in the lives of your friends and family. My family life is incredible important to me.  I make time for it as well as for my writing.

Last week, I didn’t make writing goal.  This week, it is tempting to double the goal in order to catch up.  Some sage writing advice from years ago warns against this and over the years, I have come to value it.  Doubling the goal isn’t going to get me to a finished draft faster, it will just make me a little crazier and invite the stress monster.  However, if I set a reasonable goal for the week ahead and I surpass it then I feel more accomplished.

You can’t get rid of stress or how much is piled on to you from day to day.  You can change your reaction to it and take better care of yourself.

This week, my writing goal is to write five pages a day or 2,000 words.  My fitness goal is to make it to the gym at least once and my work goal is to leave at 4:30 everyday if I don’t have a meeting planned.

As for the stress monster, I plan to combat him by getting a little more rest, drinking plenty of fluids and leaving my superhero cape in the closet.

 

Three Movie Weekend

Three movies, one weekend and one exhausted writer.  Strangely, it was the exhaustion which enabled the movie watching along with Amazon Prime.

Movie 1: Late Night staring Emma Thompson, Mindy Kaling and John Lithgow.   

This is the movie that started the spree.  Emmy Thompson is on fire as the failing talk show, Katherine Newbury. She brings a lot of depth to the role. I loved see this character’s emotional development. While parts of it were disjointed and I wish they had done more with Mindy Kaling’s character, Molly, I enjoyed it. It left me with a sense of catharsis after a very stressful week.  A feeling that no matter how badly I mess up there is a chance for redemption.  It didn’t hurt that there were genuinely funny moments mixed with deeper emotions.

One reviewer didn’t like Molly’s romantic subplot calling it wispy, but I thought it fit.  The story isn’t about Molly, it is about Katherine’s redemption.   Katherine is unlikable in the beginning of the film. By the end, you are rooting for her success.  I think were the writing when wrong was that from the start of the film you expected there to be more between develop in the relationship with Katherine and Molly.  The film seemed like it was on two different tracks with these characters.

Overall, I loved the film and would watch it again.

Movie 2: Book Club staring Diane Keaton, Jane Fonda, Candice Bergen, and Mary Steenburgen.

Dianc Keaton and Candice Bergen are two of my favorite actors and I don’t think that Mary Steenburgen gets enough credit for her acting ability.  She brings something to every film she is in that is unforgettable. This movie was no exception to that.  Jane Fonda plays perhaps the most shallow of the bunch and has the most growth through out the film. Although it does take an intervention from her friends for her to final make the chance.

This is a chick flick that proves just because you are older doesn’t mean you life is over. The story line with Candice Bergen was the most surprising.  Candice’s character is dealing with watching her ex-husband marry a woman half his age.  Instead of going for revenge (which would be ill conceived as she initiated the divorce) or belittling the relationship, she wishes them well and gets on with her own life.

I loved this movie for being both unrealistic in the romance department (except for Mary Steenburgen’s storyline) and emotional validating that life isn’t over when you hit 60.

Movie Three – John Wick staring Keanu Reeves.

I watched this film mostly because some good friends of mine loved it and were raving about the third film that was recently released.  I get it now. I really get it and will watch the rest of the series in time.  Although, if anyone had told me the bit about the puppy, I probably won’t have watched it.

The take away from this film was don’t mess with someone’s puppy. Seriously, if anyone hurt Luke, I would go John Wick on them.  It would be nice to have a body disposal service like in the film.  And I would love to see a story or film about the day to day life of those cleaners.

This weekend was all about recharging although that wasn’t my intention at the start. I wanted to be productive and do things.  I did do things.  I did a big editing past on my next book, the Devil’s Due.   The biggest one was to take care of myself.  In doing so, I found myself reflecting on characters and storytelling.  There were unpredictable elements in each of these films which made me love them.  The characters were flat.  And each one had a element of escapism that helped me step away from my stress for a time.

 

 

 

 

 

 

No Spoons, Today.

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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

I ran out of spoons on Monday when forces combined to make my normal day, mentally three times longer than usual.  There were some physical challenges as well. All of which resulted in this writer feeling like she had been run over by a semi. A semi that backed up and did it again and again for three hours straight.

First, I went into to the day job on Sunday.  Four or was  it five hours later, I walked out the door without having accomplished what I had come to do.  There was no time when I got home to commit to my normal self-care/maintenance. The morning rolled around and the list of undone things was weighting me down before I even got in the car for the drive down the hill; unknowing leaving the dogs unsecured which would lead to the demise of some unattended baked goods.  I wouldn’t know about that until after my workday had ended.

The spoons ran out, because they aren’t limitless.  No one has limitless amounts of energy in adulthood when it comes to doing our day to day tasks; especially people dealing with chronic illness.  Think about your day and what exhausts you the most. Everyone has task they do that wear them out.Now, sprinkle some anxiety and depression and the number of spoons you have in a given day may not be as many as you think.

Even if I had been able to come home and do my thing on Sunday night, the spoons would have run out.  No matter how carefully you take care of yourself, bad days are going to happen.  It is like that expression, you can’t change how people treat you but you can’t change how you react.  You can’t change the bad day,but you take care of yourself afterwards.

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My latest Minecraft world. 

So Monday night, there was a detour on the way home to replace the baked goods and get a bottle of wine.  After talking the dogs for a walk and declaring that I had no spoons left, I retreated upstairs.  I did the bare minimum of writing work, mostly composing the first draft of this post, played some Minecraft and went to bed.  Yesterday, I did much the same except for making sure that I took twenty-minutes to eat my lunch and compose myself before tackling the second half of my day.  The day went much better, still exhausting, but better.  We had pizza for dinner. Although I was prepared to make dinner as plan, I did not turn down the offer to eat out.

This morning, I woke up rested and feeling much better with eight hours of sleep under my belt.  The day is going to be long.  There is a meeting first thing and then the day gets into full swing.  I may feel drained at the end of the day or I may be alright. Either way,  there will be self-care tonight in the form of dinner with my family, a walk with the dogs and a glass of wine before curling up with a good book.

How do you take care of yourself? Is self-care a part of your daily routine?

Lucinda Rose is an author and teacher living and working in the mountains of Virginia.  She is the author of Blood Child, a paranormal mystery and is working on her next project, Shadow’s Tale.  You can follow her on Twitter, Facebook and Instagam

 

Slow to Rise…

When there is sun, I rise with the dawn. Winking at it as tendrils of light as they weave their way into my room.  Mornings are a time of silent reflection.  No, that’s not right. Mornings are peaceful. They are quiet and time seems slower.

I can coax my brain into focusing which is why even with my love of mornings, it is hard to get myself up. If the snooze button wasn’t on my phone, it would broken by now. When  my feet finally hit the floor, there is usually only one other person awake.  We say morning because who knows if it is going to be good or not.  I get my coffee, maybe a spot of breakfast and listen to the radio.

NPR is my drug of choice. During the summer, I listen all morning and well into the afternoon.  The only break walking Luke.

Luke knows my routine well.  As I write, he has parked himself on my freshly made bed.  He will wait napping on and off until I get my shoes.   He is a most patient pup. img_0966

Often I see things comparing morning people to night owls.  My mornings help prepare me for the day.  I wasn’t always this way. More than a decade in education has transformed my relationship with the dawn.

According to a 1998 study, cognitively I am doing just about the same as my night owl friends. Although, they may indeed be wealthier.  Another study in 2012, pointed to them being more prolific lovers, but also having a tendency to have more bad habits like smoking and drinking.  You can read more about larks (morning people) vs owls here.

There are a lot of articles talking about the benefits and success of larks.  Contrary to the mythology of morning people, I don’t jump out of bed with a spring in my step.  I am not always chipper and coffee is my fuel of choice. I am not healthily, wealthier or wiser for my morning habits as Ben Franklin predicted.   It just works for me.

Good friends function quite well as night owls.  The early morning or late night depending on your point of view are perfect for them to work uninterrupted.

What works for you? Do you thinks larks are better than owls or vice-versa?

 

 

 

The Stories We Tell Ourselves

The most dangerous and powerful stories are the ones that we tell ourselves about ourselves.  Our self-talk can lift us up or take us down.  We sometimes tell ourselves stories about how others perceive us.  We tell ourselves that we know what they are saying about us. And for the most part we are wrong.

Sometime back, I took a series of classes on meditation and mindfulness.  This was my first steps into looking at the stories I was telling myself.  Shockingly, they weren’t all good. Some gave me false pride, others put me down.  After every heartbreak, I would swear that I would never love again or that if I just reached out and talked to them I could coax them back into my life.  This for the record, only worked twice and in both cases it wasn’t good for anyone involved.

By far the most dangerous ones, I’ve told myself are the stories about how much work something is going to be or not be.  In the latter case, I assume something is easy and then I am mired in self-doubt when I get stuck or it turns out to be the latter.

As you know from my previous posts, I am list kind of person. I write lists to keep myself motivated and on track.  Somethings are harder than other.  Those items are the ones that are necessary but rile my anxiety.  Anything that involves making a phone calling or asking someone for something/help will generate a story that only feeds my anxiety.

It is those stories that we tell ourselves about how much work or how awkward something is going to be that are dangerous.  We delay and don’t get what we need to get done which sends us into a negative spiral.

A lot of us complain about adulting. It is a word that some people snicker , others chastise people for using it and some embrace. One of the reasons, why so many of us complain about it that we weren’t prepared for adulthood.  We weren’t prepared to deal with the thousand things that happen in a day at work then to come home to more work.  We didn’t really pay attention to all the things our folks did to make our world work, if we had responsible folks which some of us didn’t have.

We didn’t realize that our folks were just as lost as we are at times.  They just didn’t tell us.

There were twenty-six items on my to-do list this morning.  Six of those things were stress inducing.  I’m now down to to only three items. One of which is a shower that I will get after walking the dogs this evening.

Those six anxiety/stress inducing things involved telling a friend I couldn’t do something, chores I had been avoiding and asking for something.  Everyone of them is done.  How?

Well, first, today was a good day. I slept over eight hours last night, didn’t have to leave the house and I’ve been in comfy clothes all day.  The last several days have been good as well.  I’ve talked a lot to my sweetheart about his anxiety lately and it has helped me to look at mine.  So, I put them on the list, starred them and then looked at them.  The chores needed doing so I spaced them out. The asking and telling, I asked myself what as the worse that could happen.  And then did it.

I’m a storyteller.  We are all storytellers.  It is time that we took control of the superpower that we all have and used it for good.

Love,

Lu

Work-Life Balance vs. Dreams

Tomorrow, I will go back to the day job for the first time in sixty-four days.  Summer is over for me in less than twelve hours.   Nearly half that time traveling and writing; it has been wonderful.  Next Spring if the editing gods are kind I will have two new pieces ready for publication.

But, my wonderful summer is not what this post is about. It is about balancing work, life and the pursue of my writing dreams or as I like to call them goals.

Education does allow me to have time off even if it doesn’t pay well.  It does allow me to have that sweet, sweet health insurance and believe it or not, a lot of job satisfaction.  I love my daily interactions with students and staff.  There is, however, no denying that it is a hard job and balancing it with a healthy home life is hard.  Trying to figure out how to balance all three is more than a little challenge.

This past year, I have gotten much better at it than I have since I started teaching thirteen years ago.  The biggest thing I did was move away from a life that wasn’t working for me.

The life that I have built in the last year contains a lot more boundaries than the one I had.  I don’t let things bleed into one another.  Work, even as a teacher, stays in the building with a few rare exceptions.  I can do this because I get to work early and organize myself.  I keep a calendar that has both writing and work commitments on it so I know ahead of time when things are going to get tight.

This also includes scheduling time to write, date nights and chore days. Chore days are days that I set aside to work with my godfathers on big household tasks like fixing the barn roof or putting the pool together.  Come to think of it, I schedule a lot of things.

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One of three calendars, I use to keep me on track. 

 

And it works for me.

Why? Because as much as I schedule myself, I also forgive myself if writing doesn’t happen or if the dust bunnies start creeping out from the corners.

I forgive myself if having dinner with my family means that I don’t have time to write before bed. I forgive myself if I get into the flow of writing and three or four other things on the to-do list don’t get done or I stay up a little too late. Or when I get sick and the only thing I can do is take care of myself.

Balancing things can at times mean letting some things have more time as they need.  img_10851-1The beginning of the school year means that for the next month, I am going to be more tired than usual.  It happens to me every year.  I will write about half as much as I normally do.  Any writing deadlines that I have must be adjusted.

Balance isn’t giving equal time to everything, but giving things the time they need and letting go of things you can’t tend to.

What works for you to maintain work-life-dream balance?