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.
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. The 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?
Two weeks in France and I was writing everyday. I am twenty pages and a few plot wholes away from a finished draft of The Devil’s Due.
I wrote well when I was away from my writing desk.
Back at my writing desk for two weeks and I have two pages. Not so good when I was averaging a page a day and a blog a week.
Travel is good for me or at least getting away from my house where I intend to write and settling in to some place I do write. Next Spring, I plan on spending a week in Richmond researching and writing a new book.
Do your thing.
If you write best at 4:30 am when everyone else is asleep in your house, then get up and write. Or maybe you work best at the local cafe. Where ever you work best, go there and do the work. Neil Gaiman wrote parts of American Gods on a train going across the country.
Some people have writer’s rooms or corners in their house. Others go to work early and write in their offices before the hustle and bustle of the day.
I wrote parts of Blood Child on the sofa of a friend’s house. Whole chapters were composed sitting at the bar of a friend’s restaurant. They gave me wine and food, in return when things got busy, I ran food and drinks for them. I miss that place and the friends who tended me to while I worked on my dream.
I’ve written on my front porch and in airports. Sometimes a new place to write is perfect because it gets you out of your head and lets your creative brain free.
Write where you are inspired or in my case where you aren’t distracted.
This morning, I woke up in a strange room in a city that neighbors the one I grew up in. As my traveling companion slept fitfully in his bed, I moved through the room making coffee, showering, reading and doing my morning exercises. The nervousness and tears that had marked my first day of travel were gone; now it is onto the adventure.
An adventure that as a writer feel compelled to chronicle. This is my first vacation in over a year, the last being a weekend trip to Sanibel, Florida, with a dear friend after the death of Papa. It was a healing trip, the waters of the Gulf of Mexico washing away some of the stress and agony of loss. More than a year into my new reality, I know that there are no waters that can wash away sorrow and grief, only waters that can comfort and refresh the heart and soul. I still miss Papa, he would have worried about me taking such a long trip.
Sanibel, if you have never been, is a small island off the west coast of Florida. It is known for its peaceful beaches and for the prodigious amounts of shells that wash up on its shores. You can find 250 different types of shell on their more than fifteen miles of beaches.
I’ve been fortunate enough to visit three times and each time brought with it a sense of serenity that just speaking the name of the island in my mind brings me joy. Each time, I have gone I’ve stayed at the Sandpiper Inn, a colorful and very affordable spot on Donax street. It is a quick walk to the beach to collect shells from there and they have bikes which are free for guests to borrow. It was truly delightful to hop on a bike and ventured off to breakfast. There are over 25 miles of bike paths.
The best and strongest memory of that trip was driving over to Captiva and renting a boat for the day. We sailed around the bay for a couple of hours and were delighted when a dolphin joined us for a bit. We sailed back and forward trying to follow him only to realize that he was playing with us. It was absolutely marvelous. The experience of a lifetime.
Now, in a few hours I will be boarding a plane with two friends heading to Paris where we will meet two more friends for another experience of a lifetime. One of those friends is the same extraordinary soul with whom I went to Sanibel.
My heart at this moment is light. I know worry will return. For now, I am delighting in the adventure ahead as I look out the window towards the towers of Dulles seeing the tips of airplane tails among the trees.
First Friday in weeks that I have been home. First Friday in weeks, I haven’t been sick although truthfully, I am not completely well yet.
My first thoughts on this evening entailed going to bed early and rising in the morning with intent. Instead, I played some Fallout Shelter, practiced my Spanish and tried to see what dog I would be on Facebook. The results of that particular quiz will not be shared.
There is writing to be done. Writing and editing that has been on my to do list for over a month. Writing, I want to do, but somehow whenever I sit to do it, something else always pulls me away.
My favorite pair of boots died, today. The soles are coming falling off. Some glue may fix them. There is money to replace them. Funds that my brain says should go else where. My mind was considering all the sensible options when the phrase “Fuck my life” popped into my head. I’ve heard it more than a dozen times something goes wrong and suddenly everything goes. My shoes aren’t a big deal. The deal comes in the fact that I just played off a credit card, this is the second pair of boots that have suffered damage this week that will be need to be replaced, along wit some other expenses another new set of boots would drip the budget in red ink. Combine those thoughts with the ones where I am no good at my job, a fraud who is about to be found out and dozen more demons poking around in my noodle. It would have been easy to say “Fuck my life”.
Not justified, but easy.
Easy to think that everything is crap, because life has a way of doing that just like my cold turning nasty and spending that couple of weeks sick.
Life is still pretty good. Actually, it is damn good. While I am not where I want to be and far from accomplishing my goals and dreams, I am a good place. A place, where I can write on a Friday night undisturbed. A place where I can make mistakes and work way back to where I want to be from where I am.
Recently, I read “Becoming…” by Michelle Obama and it has helped me to not only see the former First Lady in a new light, but look at my own story with less judgement and more honesty.
How did I become a woman who not only embraces her curves but also her gray and silver hair? How did my fourth decade on this earth become the one where I feel more at home with myself, my past and my pain? How did I become a person who takes selfies at the gym?
One blog isn’t going to answer that question. Ten blogs won’t, but that isn’t the point. Becoming or being my true self isn’t about reaching a mystic destination. It is about excepting where I am, where I’ve been and working on being the best version of myself. My New Year’s blogs were about goals. Goals are about getting closer to the version of myself that I wanted so many years ago.
There is a TED talk about being the person that you needed as a kid. I am not sure the person I was then would have had the strength to listen to who I am now and who I am becoming. So much of my life has been defined by lost. Something I learned to do from those around me. The lost of loved ones, a home, innocents and so on. It is a long list. I don’t know if she would have been able to conceive of actually living life closer to her Aunt Judith’s life than the one her mother and grandmother lived.
I love the life I have right now. I love going to the gym after work with my little brother. I love living in a house where we eat dinner together several times a week and walk the dogs around the high school track. I love waking up and being able to see the mountains. I love how the moonlight touches the corner of bed at night and how even though depression and anxiety are still deeply entrenched in my psyche, I am better today than I was last year.
Last night, I challenged myself to write a hundred words on the current project after having spent the last three days sick. I did it and a bit more. Today, I went to the gym without my little brother and pushed myself to complete our normal routine. Tomorrow, I am not sure what I am going to do, but I will do something.
I have become… no, I am becoming the person I needed to be when I was younger. The one that pushes through the mental muck and finishes what she started. I do it little by little, with a plan, but also with a mirror. One that reflects the whole me not the me that I want to be or the me that I fear I am, but one hundred percent me. The good, the bad and the depressed. All of me including the scars is beautiful. And it is that me that isn’t going to stop working towards her dreams and goals.
I may get sidetracked by cold or by a hectic day at work. I may given into my personal demons from time to time. Still, I am not going to stop working or becoming.
Thank you for reading. Please feel free to share your thoughts below.
This last year has been rockiest of my life. In early July 2017, I wrote about my heartbreak when my relationship of over a decade ended. By early August, I had decided to move.
It was a long time coming; little of the move had to do with my Ex. He only helped in determining the place. My beloved fairy godfathers had offered several times to help me move back to Virginia and get settled. Looking around, I realized that there was nothing holding me back anymore. Well one thing, telling Papa that I was going.
September came with Hurricane Irma. My little yellow house, my precious little house survived the night. The power lasted until 5:20 am. It flickered on and off until going out with a crack. It stayed off for four days, I was out of work for a week while they worked to restore power.
On the second day after the hurricane, I got a roommate and lost my office. It’s a long story and only parts of it are mine.
One causality of the hurricane was my purple PT cruiser. The hurricane froze the brakes then electrical system decided it wanted attention. For two weeks, I had to pop the hood every time I stopped the car to remove a fuse.
My incredibly wise sister convinced to go looking for a car. I came home that day with a new car. The man who sold it to me turned out to be a distant cousin. (thanks again, Cousin Martin) Papa was there helping me make one of the biggest purchases of my life. It was one of the last times we went out. The next time would be my birthday.
Since May 2017, Papa’s was growing worse. His cirrhosis which we were lead to believe was treatable was not so willing to be treated. He was and out of the hospital. The road ahead for my parents looked bleak and was bleak.
My second year as a middle school teacher wasn’t going any smoother than the first year. Mentally, I was checking in and out at work knowing that I won’t be at the school for another year. Professionally, I had a lot of things to do to prepare for my move. Motivation to move was strong. The motivation to do the things necessary for the move was not. The paperwork for my new teaching license was left to the last minute.
Eventually all the change meant putting my plans to start a page on Patreon on hold. I was writing, but not finishing much of anything. I couldn’t see myself asking for me to support my heart if I wasn’t producing it. Starting and not finishing projects. My mind was too scattered. My life was being to be summarized by a series of things that I couldn’t get myself to do.
Thanksgiving came and Papa was in the hospital. We celebrated our last Christmas as a family and then Papa went into the hospital for the last time.
He passed on January 8th of this year. Momma, my brother Eric and I were with him. The whole night remains surreal.
Two weeks after he passed, I reconnected with an old friend. Not only did I have a mini adventure on Sanibel Island, but I am now planning on going to France next summer.
June 15th, I moved back to Virginia. Papa wasn’t told I was going. It was an open secret before his death. Before I left Momma handed a framed picture of Papa to me. It sits on my writing desk.
I feel at peace here in my new writing nook looking out the mountains. There are walks everyday. The writing routine that was pushed aside is coming back.
I still miss Papa. I don’t think I will ever stop missing the man who choose to be my father.
This Thursday, Papa will be interned at Arlington National Cemetery. Our family hero will be laid to rest with dignity and respect. I can not thank my friends and family enough for their patience, love and understanding this last year. The brightest spots in the year were because of all of you.
My heart broke recently. If my life was a book, the reader would have seen it coming before me. They might have been screaming at me to see what was a happening. Cursing at me for seeing it myself. Most of my friends did. They saw the doom on the horizon and braced themselves. But, I am stubborn and kept sailing toward it; right off the edge.
Once I love someone I don’t know how to stop loving them.
So I cry. I write. I cry. I plot and I write. I’ve done a lot of writing in the past week. Last night is the first night since it happened that I got any sleep.
In years past, I would have pour everything into expressing that heartbreak as if that is all I am a broken, tangled heart. There would have been lots and lots of bad poetry. Some drunken texts and heartfelt emails. Tears in the grocery store and at red lights. Days and weeks where I would gave shut down. My work would have been suffering.
Whether it is an increase in maturity, a lack of fucks to give or the way it ended, I am not a hot mess. I am still a mess. You don’t love someone for over a decade to be over it in a week. We first got together when I was twenty-eight. A year out from a devesting heartbreak and I fell completely and utterly in his thrall.
Maybe he is fine, right now. I don’t know. He had been pulling back over the last couple of months. He would say he has just been busy and this is true. As a writer and director, he has a ton of work obligations on top of other things.
From his perspective, I am the one to blame. I see it as both of us, but ya mostly him. I didn’t speak up when things bothered me. He keep putting off phone calls and visits. I looked for and saw reasons to explain his behavior. A recent health crisis only added to the list of reasons. But the postponing of things I needed to stay health in the relationship was a constant. Samantha on Sex in the City might just have turned to me and said “Honey, he just isn’t that into you.”
And she would have been right.
It is also true that I set the pattern where that behavior was acceptable. I was always waiting for him. I wanted to do it. I believe that by doing so I was being supportive. I own my own behavior. I own it so I can forward.
Asking some of my friends, why I got so much venom tossed my way at the end? Why did his last message not only kill our relationship but scorch the earth. It didn’t make sense. I wasn’t asking for much. I wasn’t trying to put anything on him. I just wanted to see him. Yes, I am just as naive and innocent as they statement sounds. That really was the intent of my last communication. I just wanted to see him.
I have waited for the time to be right and finally I got tired of always waiting. I have been supportive over the years to his career. If a job meant that our time together had to be rearranged, I was ok with it. I helped in any way I could. He did support me just not to the same extent. Truthfully, that bothered me.
The physical distance didn’t do communication any favors.
I accepted a smaller place in his world just to stay in it. A place I now realize means that many of the people who call him friend, don’t know about us. So why when I asked so little did I get so much venom.
The answer is simple. It makes this whole thing easier for him. If I am the villain or at least trying to make him one then it is easier to move on. He doesn’t need that negativity. He really doesn’t. If I am crazy and obsessed then he doesn’t owe me anything. It is in his best interest to get the hell away from me. People will congratulate him on getting away from me. If I was cheating on him, something he insinuated more than once over the last couple of months then even more reason to do the hell away.
I am not any of those things. I didn’t cheat on him. If I was approached by someone, I told them I told them I had a boyfriend. I didn’t make a big deal of it. Still I would get text implying that I was?
I did distanced myself as soon as realized what was happening. When I realize that this was the end. I didn’t wait. Weeks ago, I had decided that if we broke again I would do what I needed to make sure this break was for good. I only begged a little and tried my best not to demand answers. Mostly I was in shock.
Would I like those answers? Yes and no.
Yes, because my heart wants to understand. No, because the mind knows that even with the answers the likelihood that I am going to be comforted by them is slim.
Heartbreak gives me insight into my own character as well as how to write characters. Fear has ruled me for most of my life. I could have moved to New York, I was willing to move, I just needed a word from him. I was afraid. Afraid that he didn’t really love me. Afraid I won’t be able to find a job. Afraid I couldn’t deal with being up close to his other partner. Fear of rejection was a big part of the decisions I made. Some of which he didn’t ask me to make. I did it because I thought it would help. I was wrong. Hear that I was wrong.
While he has been in New York for the last couple of years, I dreamed of seeing New York with him. I wanted to go to shows and see the Met. It is one of my favorite museums on the planet. I daydreamed about the changes that live in one of the greatest cities in the world. I didn’t voice those desires to him. I didn’t say that I wanted more than to visit. When he mentioned me being there as an aside. I jumped on it. I didn’t discuss it. I was too afraid. I kept waiting for him to say more.
My own motivations are messy. How could I think that my ex or my characters motivations would be simple?
Sometimes they need to be messy. If they are too straight forward then they are boring. They need have layers just a like an onion and they don’t alway smell pretty. (Thanks Shrek) They have to have that human quality of relatablity.
Recently, I finished reading the Prisoner in his Palace by Will Bardenwerper. It is the story of “Saddam Hussein, his American guards and what history leaves unsaid.” History leaves a lot unsaid.
Saddam Hussein was sadist, a tyrant and a whole lot of evil things. He had two of his son in-laws gunned down after convincing them to return to Iraq. He was also an affable old man who expressed concern for the soldiers guarding him. He even gave one of them his watch before being excuted. He is a villain, but he was also a husband, grandfather and friend. Although, the latter provide to be quite dangerous to many Iraqis.
The book showed the complexity of Saddam’s character and how even knowing the evil that he did, it was hard not to like the guy. Reading it was eye-openoing in a lot of ways. Saddam was a villian, but his motivations were complex. He did awlful things because he thought they were the good things. He wanted the best for his people. His methods were evil. His intents according to him were only good.
Thank you, my love, my characters have just gotten a whole lot more interesting. The character that I patterned after you will still continue to make appearances in my work. I know you were pissed when Anthony was created. You thought people would judge you because of him. You didn’t see that Anthony was one of the heroes. I promise not to take my heartache out on him.
And thank you for all the things that you did to help me on my journey as a writer. This blog is here because you encouraged me. You gave me advice when I needed it. You are an amazing man, writer and friend. I miss you, but I get it.
If you’d like more information on Lucinda’s work subscribe to this blog, follow her on Twitter or like her page on Facebook. Her novella, Blood Child is available on Amazon. You can also find her on Instagram where she posts pictures of foster critters and other adorably evil things.