I’ve been having a tough time trying to re-focus and get back into writing since the holiday break. It has been incredibly frustrating.
I knew I wouldn’t be writing during the two weeks my daughter and her fiancé (and their dog and cat) were here, and I was fine with that. Time with them is rare and precious. I planned for that. I worked damned hard during the weeks leading up to their visit in an effort to make up for that.
And I really wasn’t surprised when I was too sad in the days after they left to get much done. That’s familiar territory, missing them and the commotion and noise and energy they bring with them. Although it did seem to last longer this time, and to feel more like depression than just sadness, than it has in the past. But still. An entire third week of not writing. At all.
During this past week, the fourth full week of not writing, I still couldn’t seem to focus and get on with it. Every day I woke up with a vague feeling of something hanging over me. Almost a feeling of dread. Like there was some unnamed threatening thing out there, only I had no idea what it might be. I was lethargic and unmotivated. Exhausted, even though I’d pretty much done nothing at all, certainly nothing tiring.
And I felt guilty as hell, because I NEEDED to be writing. I just couldn’t.
And then I had a dream in which my former employer called, saying what an awful mistake they’d made and begging me to come back to work. In January. The most stressful and demanding time of year, dealing with year-end financial reporting. And in my dream I couldn’t speak, couldn’t answer. The damned thing just kept repeating, over and over, him begging me to come back, until I woke up in an absolute panic. I wanted to go back to sleep so I could tell him, “HELL NO.”
Mind you, in real life, this is just not going to happen. Not even a slim chance. It’s not something I’m even remotely worried about. Besides, I’d just say no. Nicely.
But I finally realized what has been wrong with me. I’ve been conditioned to dread this time of year. It has never been a time for writing. This is the time of year to be overworked and underappreciated and exhausted and stressed to the max. A time when life narrows down to the overtime demands of the job at the expense of everything else. And I’ve been feeling that way even though there’s no longer anything causing those feelings.
What an idiot. I’d like to believe I have more self-control than one of the subjects of Pavlov’s experiments. Geez.
My initial reaction was to have harsh words with myself and tell myself to suck it up and get over it, dammit, and just do what needed to be done. Regardless of how I felt. Except, you know, I’m really sort of fed up with sacrificing my sanity for the “greater good” at this time of year.
So rather than beat myself up about it and add more stress to my life, I decided that this might just be the time of year when I need to be kinder to myself. To give myself a break and lower my expectations. A time to relax and slow down and breathe deeply and let go of all stress. To be accepting of decreased productivity.
So that’s what I resolved to do, this year and every year from now on. Well, at least until I stop foaming at the mouth every time I hear that damned bell tolling its less than dulcet tones of “year-end tax reports” in my head.
That was Friday. I decided to take the rest of the month off. An extended vacation, no pressure. I’m telling you, I woke up Saturday feeling so relaxed and calm. Refreshed. Energized. Optimistic. Like it wasn’t even January any more.
And then . . . somehow . . . I, um, spent the next two days writing. Thousands of words.
I am so contrary. Maybe I don’t need that extended break after all. We’ll see.
Do any of you have a time of year like this that just destroys you? I hope you don’t. But if you do, maybe consider finding a way to be kinder to yourself until you get past it.
Oh, I almost forgot. I did try again before Christmas to write that sweet short story. Sigh. The characters were insipid and boring and so incredibly sweet — really, you would have hated them too — and I decided to consign them to the unremarked obscurity of the happily-ever-after they so richly deserved and never write about them, ever. Be patient, there are far more interesting people on the way. Now that I’m writing again.