Thursday, January 25, 2018

Under Pressure . . . by Nancy Gideon

Sometimes we don't realize how low our energy meter is dipping. We keep on keeping on, juggling all the "To Dos" in our daily life with blinders-on concentration, balancing work hours, writing time, appearances and promotions, family matters, and life on the run as if clocking it all on a FitBit app. Keeping up the pace because we don't dare fall behind. Because we're afraid we'd never catch up if we lose the momentum. Forgetting with that single-minded focus, that like even the best made machine, we can wear out if over-used without proper maintenance. Even now, in this New Year, we plan and plot how we’re going to best use every second to produce, but forget to include how we’re going to keep that mental and physical machine we abuse in tiptop shape.

I confess, I am a bullet train that will forget to stop in every station unless it’s programmed in. When I began as a writer, I’d take on every opportunity that came along without any clue as to how I was actually going to find the time to accomplish it. I hated to say no to anything or anyone. Finally, after years of frustrating my OCD/ADD focus, I learned to back away from outside pressures that urged me to take on more than I could handle, to weigh the value, both professionally and personally, before agreeing to take things on. Smug with that bit of control under my belt, I continued on my merry way, working, always working, while more and more was added on my non-writing plate: Two kids, a household, a full-time job, a divorce, a loss of a job, a sudden move across the state, a new job, a new household . . . but always working that same writing pace. Up at 4:30 a.m., coffee, scan social media, grab breakfast and more coffee, work on WIP, get ready for work by 8:00, use lunch hour to write blog posts or do PR, rush home to attend all those begging, hungry faces on two and four legs, back to the computer, watch one one-show, go to bed at nine. Weekends, up a 6:00 a.m. to start writing, afternoons for grocery shopping, cleaning, life maintenance, making meals, squeeze in more writing (at least six hours total) and to bed. No deviations, no outside interactions, finding excuses for doing anything social that would take me out of my overdrive hermitude (is that a word?) And start all over again on Monday. All fine and good when I was in my 30s and 40s, but diving into my 60s . . . my tread started wearing mighty thin. Finally, my boss stared at me and ask bluntly, “How can you do all this every single day and not be exhausted?”

I was exhausted. Running on caffeine and internal combustion pressure.

It wasn’t until I had knee replacement that I realized how bad things had gotten. I could not WAIT to have surgery and recover for three weeks (it was supposed to be four, but I agreed to go back to work early-what a surprise!). Three weeks of prescribed hedonism. Time to read all those books, binge all those shows, let others pick up the slack while I got to sit on the couch in my jammies with the pets and NAP! Like retirement but with PT, pain and drugs with no paycheck. I didn’t turn on my computer. I didn’t wonder what was for dinner. I didn’t think about deadlines or blog posts or legal pleadings or whether the roast was out thawing. It was my job to do one thing, recover.

Catharsis time. I needed time to recover. This from someone who never goes on vacation without a WIP. Who never takes a weekend “off.” Who works a second job (and sometimes third) while ON the first job. Who never takes a non-working vacation. I was tired. I seriously considered pulling the plug on my writing, dropping all my professional obligations to become someone who only has one 8-to-5 and no other stressors . . . for all of a weekend. Then I went back to work (a week early). I tried to stick to the same slothful routine but found myself glancing at my laptop, thinking up dialog during my morning commute. Getting up at 4:30 a.m. because I was wide awake . . . and now on Chapter 4. Because I can’t not write.

I just booked a trip to AZ in March to attend the Tucson Book Festivals. Lots of work. And I scheduled a couple of extra days for hot tubbing, swimming, walking in a botanical garden and shopping for things I can’t afford. I’m looking forward to waking up to the sun with my laptop, watching the desert oasis outside the window come alive with wildlife, just like I’ll come alive . . . and relax.

In 2018, I resolve NOT to get more work done, but to make more time for doing other things. To recover. To schedule just Me time on that To Do list (when did I stop making time to get my nails done. I really enjoyed that!). A trip to the Mall (okay, maybe that’s extreme!), drinking coffee with a sunrise instead of HP, napping with the cats on Sunday afternoon, reading a book in the daytime instead for that 5 minutes before I fall asleep. Going out to lunch with friends. Attending a workshop. Enjoying a walk. Listening to music. Things I never made time for because they didn’t seem important . . . until now. Now, I realize that they’re vital. Just for the health of it.

Here’s to a productive AND healthy New Year. If you see yourself in the above, start thinking about how to accomplish that.

Watch for MIDNIGHT ENCHANTMENT from my “Touched by Moonlight” vampire romance series, just $.99 from February 1-15!!

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Nancy Gideon on the Web


Maureen said...

I hope you keep some of that "me" time in your schedule. It's so easy to get overwhelmed before you realize it.

Nancy Gideon said...

I'm working on it, Maureen!!

Diane Burton said...

One of the hardest words to say is "no." Esp. "no" to more volunteer work, after years of saying yes. We all need to schedule "me" time. Burn out comes very quickly when we're not looking. Your work and To-Do schedule puts me to shame. I've always admired your determination, Nancy. But you have to take care of your body and mind--as you've found out. Take good care of yourself. Your friends want you to stick around for many more years.