Turning a Corner

Are you saying you're going to do something, or are you already achieving what you said you would?

Actions will always speak louder than words, and I am finally finding a way to balance work life with all that self-care entails. To me, self-care includes all of those things we put off to accomplish our work day. This may be diet, physical activity, personal goals (writing is my biggest one), quality time with friends, sleep is a big one. And I have been suffering — feeling further and further away from accomplishing my own personal goals with writing. Ultimately, I would love to write full-time, but for now the day job is a necessity. I've been treating it like it's the only necessity instead of prioritizing this with everything else.

Somehow, I have been able to turn a corner, and it all started with a holiday staycation. I am so incredibly happy in this moment, because I I felt like I was moving further away from achieving what has been my ultimate goal: publishing a novel. I keep working on all of these projects, even starting new ones, but I haven't finished one, and I think more than anything that this is out of fear. Fear of failure. Fear of disappointment. Fear of calling out into a void and receiving no response.

Over the Labor Day holiday, I took a couple of extra vacation days from work to really jump start my writing with a staycation and solo writing retreat. I didn't have a structured plan as to what I wanted to accomplish each day, but I knew I wanted to make a significant dent in a project that I've been describing for a really long time without having actually put anything to paper.

This particular project is not really the nearest and dearest to my heart, but I have been receiving a lot of positive response from friends and fellow writers that this particular project may be a great debut project. It's funny and raw in ways that are sometimes less chick lit and more women's fiction, but it's so apropos to the plight of a single woman. Friends seem to think that this piece will attract more initial attention so that I can gain a good amount of followers before I release the novel that is closest to my heart. I'm not completely sure that I agree just yet, because I think that this dating book is a little bit more in your face than the project I'm most invested in, and I worry that I might scare some people off with the bluntness with which I need to tell that story. But I suppose there is still time to make a decision on what goes out first (and it would help if I could finish both of these projects, leaving me the ability to choose).

Each day of my staycation/writing retreat, I wrote. I even took my iPad and a portable keyboard to my local cigar bar on the weekend. I joined a writing challenge, which provides you with a daily word count goal and a lot of support. I finished my retreat having written more than 70 pages. More importantly, my stress level was so much lower, because I wasn't feeling conflicted about leaving my big dream on the back burner.

After my first solo writing retreat, my advice would be the following:

  • Give yourself some structure by giving yourself concrete goals to achieve each day
  • Create a reasonable schedule for writing (I think that 1-2 hour sprints work well for me, and these can be two or three times per day)
  • If you will have too many distractions at home, consider AirBnB (I stayed home, but I cleaned my house and did laundry in advance)
  • Give yourself separate time to think through how you will arrange your scene, what you need to research, or for character development (I like to do this while walking)
  • Get in some physical activity
  • Don't let your breaks overrun your goals (sometimes you need that mental break, but there's a slippery slope, and you can end up feeling guilty about time wasted)
  • Track daily progress
  • Share your progress with your social media followers
  • Consider joining a writing challenge on Twitter and/or joining FB groups for writers to connect with other likeminded people
  • Rinse and repeat (my plan is to do this at least every other month moving forward)

So much stress was lifted from my shoulders by giving myself this time to rejuvenate! More importantly, returning to my day job was easier, because I created a way for me to continue consistency with daily word counts, and I maintain contact with fellow writers who are similarly situated. The light at the end of the tunnel is much brighter now.

Even if you find that none of this advice really works for you, the time you've gifted yourself will be invaluable. Give yourself the opportunity to get it done.

Flu-Ville

As we begin to prepare for the Polar Vortex, I started feeling under the weather over the weekend, but by Monday night, I was in a “man down” situation. Fever, chills, sore throat, aches, sinus pressure, and a building cough. Remedies: water, tea with honey, orange juice, soup, crackers, blankets and pillows, cold compresses, yoga sweats, throat lozenges, Advil. Eventually potato, pork, zucchini, and onion stew. Two fingers of whiskey. Tepid shower. I should note up front that this read may make absolutely no sense – I’m not near 100% yet. 
I’d gone into work on Monday, but by the time I made it home, I knew that I wasn’t going to feel better in the morning. Thankfully, I had stopped at the grocery store to pick up some soup and food items for The next couple of days. I originally wanted to just go straight home, but a coworker and I convinced each other to go to the market to get some things that we knew we needed. I’m glad that we had that talk, because I would have been completely ill-prepared for the next few days otherwise.

Waking up on Tuesday morning, I knew there was absolutely no way that I would be able to make it into the office, so I emailed my staff and colleagues to let them know. Then, I made some hot tea and poured a glass of orange juice. I wasn’t really in the mood for food, but I know that you have to nourish yourself when you’re sick. I ate a little bit of breakfast food, but my main objective was to try and bundle up enough to sweat out the fever. I bundled and got back into bed, hoping that I could break my fever with Advil  and water alone. I would fall asleep and wake up sweating and feverish, but it felt like something was working. Most of the day was spent in bed, but when I felt up to it I could got up to make a bowl of soup. Soup and another cup of hot tea, and some orange juice. Really, the last of the orange juice. There was no way I was leaving my cozy apartment though I really wanted more juice. 

Going to bed Tuesday night, I wasn’t clear on how much progress had been made, or whether I had for sure broken the fever, which would mean I am truly on the mend and not contagious. Waking up Wednesday morning, it was clear to me that the fever had not yet broken and that I was losing my voice from coughing. All of the coughing had my throat feeling like it was on fire, and I just wanted something cold that could soothe the pain and something warm that could ease the cough. When the fever finally broke, fits of coughing grew stronger. I am still achy and still coughing, but my fever is gone and I’m not coughing so badly. Much of my voice is gone, and I could use some more throat lozenges, but my throat doesn’t hurt as badly. 

Tomorrow I will be able to go into the office without worrying that I’m going to infect someone, I honestly believe that the worst of this flu has passed. But I think about the fact that I took care of myself without asking anybody for help, to come over or to bring anything, and I wonder if I didn’t ask anybody because I wanted to prove self-sufficiency or if I just didn’t want to be a burden. I could have asked for help, but it didn’t really cross my mind unless I thought about the juice shortage lol. 

Tomorrow morning, into the office I go with a raspy voice, a slight cough, and a few aches. But I will be there working in a much better situation, with much better circumstances, then I’ve had over the last couple of days. So now, if you sleep would kindly come join me, I hope we can make this night restful.

I am glad that this flu came on a week before I travel for Christmas with my family, and I am glad that I should be fine by the time I take my flight. I am grateful that the flu forced me to slow down and take a seat (or bed) to really rest. I don’t like getting sick, but sometimes, maybe our defenses get low so that we are forced to relax and recharge.

All things considered, I cannot wait for my little island holiday. My recommendations for anyone traveling would be to take lots of vitamin c, travel with sanitizing wipes, and stay hydrated. 

Tomorrow our lows are expected to drop to 15 degrees. My road to recovery is a hot ginger green tea with raw honey, lots of layers, and a bottle of Smartwater. 

Building Better Habits

I’ve been allowing too much time to pass me by, not only when it comes to writing, but with life in general. I have too many goals to hide behind the guise of being too busy, too tired, over-committed, or unable to focus. 

I keep waiting for someone to come along and allow me the opportunity to cook, teach, write, be active, love, volunteer, save, and practice self-care. Waiting, as if I can’t take a step forward and open these doors myself. Waiting, perhaps more out of a fear of failure than anything else. I keep waiting, but it’s time. 

If you want to create a positive habit, you have to make a routine and set out to complete it every day. No excuses. No waiting. No one is coming to do it for you or for me. Open the doors, and move forward. Even if the routine is built and completed on faith every day, each completion is a successful piece of the positive habit routine structure being built and solidified. As the routine becomes habit, confidence and contentment build. 

Anything is possible. Now tackle the blank book. 

Big Magic

I think about writing all the time, but I’m not getting to it. I need to improve the amount of time I allow myself for things pertaining to myself: health, sanity, and need to write.

A fellow writer is going into creative coaching. She said if you read one of three books on her list, and you still hadn’t found the motivation to practice your craft, you need her services. Ironically, one of those three books has been sitting on my dining table for about three weeks.

Guess I’d better pick it up and get to work. For me.

Revisiting Storms

As I get to know my new colleagues — my counterparts– I find that we connect well, we team together often, and we agree on management styles, productivity, and creating policy. We fight the drama together, and we keep each other supported. I like this team.

Due to past experiences, I’ve taken my time getting to know them, having heard various accounts of their personalities and supposed tactics from my predecessor. I chose to form my own opinions under the belief that one person’s experiences don’t dictate the experiences of another. This decision certainly opened opportunities for us to bond and form new understandings based on our interactions.

Over lunch this week, the team began to share about family and grief, blogging and forms of therapy and detox. Another colleague mentioned journaling using the 750 Words app, so I shared that I’ve been blogging for 13 years now. That what started off as a purely organic mind dump each day, to lighten the burden on my shoulders, became my refuge for taking down the weight in exchange for a couple hundred words.

I shared my grief gingerly, unsure how it would be received by my colleagues, but they’ve been incredibly supportive and kind; they have been open and generous. The story has so many levels, intricately woven together to recount what happened when my sister died, how my parents were affected, and what I kept to myself.

After sharing, I was proud of myself,  mostly because I didn’t cry as I recounted what happened in the accident and during trial. I didn’t cry as I explained the effect of such a loss on my family. My colleagues were the epitome of support. Asking questions where they felt comfortable, offering short-term resolutions that could prove helpful.

I’m just grateful that we could connect, that they were respectful and kind, and honestly, that they have a greater understanding of how I operate and why I do what I do for my students. This was accomplished without a breakdown, or even a tear, in a solemn conversation that felt safe and delicately handled.

I can’t complain. Missing her is always heavy, but being able to tell others about her lovely personality and all her goals brings me a great deal of comfort.

Good talk.

Upgrading My Fitbit

This post has been sponsored by Amazon, but all opinions expressed here are my own.

I joined the Fitbit family over two years ago in an effort to get more active and hold myself more accountable. I got a Fitbit Flex after the Force was recalled, and I’ve liked it for the most part. The biggest issue I had with the Flex was that it didn’t have the display that the Force had. This band takes up some prime real estate, but doesn’t actually have a watch face, and wearing both can sometimes feel inconvenient (but it feels weird to wear the Fitbit on my non-watch wrist).

Though the Charge, the Blaze, and the Surge are all out, none of them had me excited enough to replace my Flex. Enter Fitbit Alta.

This Fitbit newbie will be available mid-March, and will be sold in four colors (black, blue, plum or teal) and two sizes. The wristband is said to be slightly slimmer than the Flex, but similar to the Flex, the Alta features changeable wristbands. Most notably, there will now be leather and sleek metal options.

Beyond the simple face of the Flex, the Alta can has call, text, and calendar notifications. There are different clock faces to choose from, and this one has more reminders to move throughout the day. This is just far more functional, without being so bulky. The sleep tracker is still there, as are the silent alarms, and you can still use the app to your heart’s desire.

I found myself envying a friend that has an Apple watch, because her lovely device automatically recognized her various activities without her having to track different types of exercise. Even if you’re used to doing that with the Fitbit app, you would do it a lot less with the Alta. The Alta has a new SmartTrack automatic exercise recognition, which excites me to no end, because now I can take a spinning class without moving my FitBit to my shoe. Have you ever done that? Well, now you can run, spin, bike or use the elliptical, and your Fitbit knows (this is available on the Charge, Surge, and Blaze as well, but not the Flex).

Needless to say, you can order the Alta now. I have.

Flu Season and Reference Blogs

I’m feverish and achy, and I barely moved at all today. I’ve gotten tons of sleep, and I have been drinking fluids, but I just want the dull aches across my back and flushed face/neck to cease. Now is not the time to get sick.

Since I stayed home today, I’ve been reading tons of reference blogs through Pinterest between naps. Blogs on writing novels, on monetizing blogs, on word counts, on motivation, and on burnout. Many thanks to shesnovel.com, thewritepractice.com, and nownovel.com for their insights. I feel encouraged, though I know that I’m going to have to push myself and be more disciplined with my craft.

I suppose this discipline isn’t far off from the discipline needed to lose weight. Starting a new practice, eating right, making time for exercise, and being patient with self. For writing, making time to write, making time to read, scheduling out the time to make writing a daily practice, and being patient with self. Not all days can go as planned, but without any plan, what will we successfully achieve?

Frankly, I could use more discipline in each of these areas, so I decided to create a schedule for the week that incorporates activity, writing, and  a chance at a good night’s rest. I’ve started really utilizing my WP editorial calendar, and I’ve created two writing calendars through Google Calendar (one for book, one for blog). I’m going to see if I can impress upon myself some good habits.

Keep calm and keep writing, friends.

Work Sweet Home

I worked a twelve hour day today, but I would have stayed longer. In my quest to prove to myself that I am not a workaholic, and to feel a little more settled at my new job, working a long day doesn’t exactly help me feel like I have an appropriate work/life balance.

I had every intention of leaving at the close of business, but meetings ran long, and then students and colleagues kept popping in to say hello. My boss stopped by on her way out. People just kept coming, but it felt good. I’m slowly working my way into normalcy; I’m no longer just occupying someone else’s chair. Folks seem to be adjusting to me being there, and I’m finding that I’m breathing a little easier.

There are certainly some folks that I can see have their doubts, either given my age or their feelings about my office in general, but I’ve gained a lot of support. I’m still new enough to feel some level of trepidation and a need to prove myself, but I think that’s good for now. I’m not looking for a pat on the head; rather, I want to create a network of colleagues and resources that will help me achieve my goals.

Balancing work and personal life is certainly easier some days more than others, but I am making more time for myself. Getting out to SoulCycle or to take a yoga class, enjoying the local cigar lounge, meeting up with friends for wine and tapas, or even just having a nice glass of bourbon at home with my laptop on and a movie playing in the background. Dating, sure, that happens once in a while. I don’t see it as a high priority, but I think that’s primarily because I don’t want anything that feels forced. It will happen when the time is right.

People are always going to have their opinions and think that they could live your life, or do your job, better than you could. They think this without having your background, circumstances, vulnerabilities, or strengths. And they will come with criticisms, or wanting you to learn from their mistakes, or throw shade at whatever they perceive to be weakness. They meddle because they just can’t help themselves. They have control issues, they can’t handle whatever their own problems are so they project on you, or they see you as a threat.

At the end of the day, so what? No one can live your life but you.

Tapping Back

So I’ve been enjoying this break I’ve had between jobs. My furniture hasn’t arrived yet, nor do I have any real work to do, so I’ve been hanging out with a friend of mine, going to SoulCycle classes, and exploring my neighborhood. I’ve been trying to get myself into a shape other than round, but that’s hard to do in a city that indulges in plenty of wine, cigars, and good scotch.

Or maybe that’s just me. But this week has been the rejuvenation I’ve needed. Extra sleep, laughter, exercise, and some retail therapy does a body good. But I have to say the best part has been getting into a physical routine. SoulCycle has been great, and though I’m still working on my coordination so that I can properly “tap it back,” it’s been wonderful getting into a healthful mindset.

One day at a time. We build up to fitness in the same way that we build up to competency. It isn’t a given, but I look forward to building up and gaining some athleticism and energy.