Tag Archives: stress

Sometimes, you are the problem

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.

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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.

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Filed under health and well-being, writing

Turning it off

I’ve written and deleted this post several times now, because it keeps emitting these irritating high-pitched noises that sound a lot like whining. Well, damnit, I’m in the mood to whine. Here, I’ve filled a glass just for you. Help yourself to the cheese and crackers.

This summer has been difficult on all fronts and has left me feeling depressed and discouraged and fatigued and, yes, whiny. The unrelenting excessive heat and humidity have made everything that much more miserable, and combined with increased stress at the day job and the looming possibility of unemployment, the decision not to attend conferences and feeling left out of meet-ups, the inability to travel to faraway gatherings of imaginary friends, trying (and mostly failing) to concentrate on writing, watching the slow implosion of traditional publishing, worrying about BEARS . . . and attempting to be outwardly cheerful and upbeat and entertaining through all that has taken a toll on my optimism and ability to concentrate.

I need a break. I need “a piece of quiet” as my daughter used to say when she was little. I need to reduce the distractions that are sapping my energy and cluttering up my brain. At least for a while. Hell, I need to pretend I live in Europe, where August is optional.

Nobody realizes that some people expend tremendous energy merely to be normal.  ~Albert Camus

The coming month will see some big changes in my life. More specifically, in the lives of my children. After two years of job demands keeping them in different cities, my son and his girlfriend are now employed in the same city (my city, yay!) and will be moving into an apartment together next weekend. I’m delighted for them, especially since they’ve said I’m not allowed to lift any of the heavy boxes.

My daughter will be coming home that same weekend, after an exhausting but exhilarating summer spent taunting BEARS, to pack up the rest of her belongings (and The Intruder Cat) and will spend a couple weeks here before relocating to New Orleans, where her boyfriend is starting med school and where she will (we hope) find a job in her career field. I’m delighted for her too, even though I hate that she’ll be so far away. I figure if I tell her BEARS have been sighted in the wilds of the back yard, she’ll visit often.

Also during the next month or so, I suspect the economic fate of my employer will be determined, for better or worse. And during this same month, I hope to finish the final draft of my manuscript so I can send it to beta readers. Yeah, I’m not holding my breath on that one, but it’s a goal. Putting it in writing here makes it seem like it might even happen.

That’s a lot of stuff. It’s going to require, and it deserves, my attention and energy. Quite honestly, to retain what’s left of my sanity, I need to stop doing the things that are not strictly required of me. And most of those things involve the internet.

Escaping the Web*

I’ve already told people on Twitter not to expect to hear from me for a while. In fact, I’ve shut down TweetDeck and don’t plan to re-open it anytime soon. I’m also going to stop reading blogs. All of them. Yes, even the CB blog. For now, anyway. If anyone really truly desperately needs me, the form on the contact page goes straight to my email inbox. Use it wisely.

I don’t know whether I’ll continue to write posts over here in August. Most of my blogging “breaks” have been unintentional — every time I say I’m going to take a break, I find fifteen things I just have to write about. We’ll see how that goes. Probably I’ll post more of Aunt Mabel’s letters. Meant to do that earlier this summer and . . . got distracted.

So that’s the plan. I don’t expect it to be easy. The thought of closing my browser and not opening it except to check email and the weather is, well, scary. Plus, I’ll miss everyone. But right now the internet is not my friend. I’m sure I’ll resume the addiction relationship once life calms down. Believe me, you all will know it when I come back.

In the meantime, behave. Badly or well, I’ll leave up to you.

*Isn’t this cute? (well, for a spider) For more fun badges (and to see which ones you might have “earned”), visit the Merit Badger blog.

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