My crazy life… (Believe me, you’ve only been privy to the tip of the iceberg.) My daily writing… (There, too, only a sliver of dedicated hours finds its way to these virtual pages.) And the intersection of the two?
These days, I write less. Less often, certainly.
So what’s the story? What am I up to? Am I asleep on the “job?” Not writing?
(Several people have asked.)
In the past year, I’ve written online about half as often as I used to. Then again, isn’t writing quasi-columns, researched articles, and the occasional sonnet some 1,400+ consecutive days — that would be the first four years of this lovely adventure — a scoche on the obsessive side?
No? Not obsessive? Better positioned as self-discipline on steroids? Tell me… By writing two, three, or four times a week instead, more respectful of the elusive muse (and my need for beauty sleep), have I become a slacker? Or is the real story that Real Life is demanding my time?
Routine is a Cagey Ally
Routines make powerful personal assistants. They direct our days, fend off distractions, and they comfort us when we are dizzied by disastrous events as we seek ways to reestablish “normalcy.”
If our new normal is not the life we expect, routine can help us digest it, and incorporate good moments in which we recognize our strengths and gifts.
Lest I regale routine to overflowing and overblowing its regulating and compensatory advantages, let’s admit that too much self-imposed and fatally familiar structure closes doors to critical risk-taking, creative discovery, and flights of fancy that lead us somewhere new.
For years, my morning writing gave me a boost as I began each day in a satisfying exercise, not to mention enjoying the benfits of community. These are especially important when you work from home, with discipline your friend, and isolation, your foe.
Naturally, as my sons headed off to college, my routine shifted as it had with each previous parenting stage; nearly two decades of early a.m. chaos was gone, and theoretically, my time was all about writing and clients, and…
From Heavy (Parental) Lifting to Familial Shifting
Then again, just as my younger son flew the nest, I stumbled into a new relationship that lasted a number of years, came with (pleasant) family responsibilities, and yet, in its own way, trapped me in old patterns and a similar juggle of too little for myself, and a focus split among caring for others, writing, and of course, working with clients.
The more I jammed into my schedule — some of you are nodding as you see yourselves — I became the textbook example of this: The more you do, the more you can do. And while I undeniably prefer a plate overly filled to one with a meager serving of Tasks On Tap, the Law of Diminishing Returns eventually kicks in, and All Hail the Zombie Queen existing on caffeine, will power, and four hours of sleep a night…
Let us rise and give thanks for Dior shadows and mascara…
Suddenly, or so it seemed, the heavy lifting of solo mothering was replaced with something that resembled marriage — yes, with good times and bad, and its share of domestic duties — and I still wasn’t living life on my own — for me.
On those rare occasions when I actually took time off, I split my attention between my partner and my writing, typically publishing here daily, and keeping my eye on whatever was happening with my clients even from afar. You never had a clue that I was theoretically out of pocket, and undoubtedly I exemplified the phenomenon described in this piece at the Telegraph on being unable to unhook when you go on holiday, so that you can actually unwind.
Speaking of which, consider this from the article, reflecting the findings of a small British study:
… many of us keep our phones on throughout our holiday. And one in five of us feels we have to check work email in order to relax.
People Remember How You Make Them Feel
All existential (or other) angst aside, lately I’ve been working on my attitude and my options. In doing so, I’m determined to keep this phrase in mind: People remember how you make them feel. And how I feel about myself is… I could use a little work in this department.
Sure, I have down days, as we all do, and with good reason that I will (eventually) share. Yes, I have been writing about change a great deal in recent months. No, I have no intention of joining the ranks of the Perpetually Perky. But there is something to be said for awareness of the impact of our words, our body language, and our attitudes. And seeking a positive and creative problem-solving twist to help carry us through difficult days means prioritizing.
Those priorities must include sleep.
Moreover, it’s vital to pay attention, and you can’t do that when you squeeze so much into a single 24- or 48-hour period — pressing and stressing — that you cease noticing what you see, hear, smell, taste, touch, and otherwise sense.
Sure, all of this ought to be common sense.
But doing it isn’t easy.
So for those who wonder what is going on because I no longer write as often as I did for years, what is taking place is a natural shift, a conscious effort to respect my own goals in aging gracefully, a process of evaluating options in my next chapter, and a choice to embrace more moments with greater attentiveness and I hope, more sleep.
ABCs to Need for Zzzzzs
Along with leaving us physically and cognitively vulnerable, not sleeping means not fully savoring what life has to offer. And that would mean less appreciation for interesting new professional possibilities and an equally interesting new social life. And that might mean less “spillage” of the best possible kind — insights, compassion, enthusiasm — not only for new people and new tasks, but for myself.
I am, however, embarking on a significant period of change — yet to fully form in my mind or on the planning page. I am discovering the delights of a more balanced use of my time. I am assessing where I am and what I need. I am “refilling the well.”
I trust that the words to flow from more zzzzzs will bring me back to an alphabet beyond my routine ABCs. And I hope those words, like the experiences themselves, will be worth the wait.
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