Thursday, October 28, 2010

Something has to be different

Since I returned from France, I've written about 600 words on my novel and a 900+ word poem about Paris, not including a preliminary literature review I had to present for a research project and a narrative that is more or less a grant request for my local library.

School has hit the midterm, which means exams and projects are popping up every other day, even though I only have to classes. I started a new job at a major retail chain who has already scheduled me for more hours that I agreed to at hiring. (A trend I can hope is temporary, but I won't hold my breath.)

I spent a lot of time sick this summer, and it taught me a lot about myself. One major lesson involves the infamous cliché of taking care of myself. This does not mean make sure you eat the right foods and get enough sleep and exercise. I did all of those things and ended up sick because of neglecting myself emotionally. Or at least, that's what I believe.

Medically, at least for now, they might not be able to connect officially the severe anemia I had with the stress I had experienced over the last several years. But anemia and stress do have a link, and the doctors agree it could be possible that the stress caused the havoc in my body that led to anemia. They don't exactly have a test that says "Aha! Definitely! That's it!" because none of their tests for anything are that clear cut.

I've learned new techniques to stave off emotional upheaval from stress. One is designed for the manic, hyperactive me. When things get hectic, I ask myself: "What if this task took twice as long?" Then, I emotionally grant myself that long to get the job done. Maybe dinner ends up getting on the table at 5:30 instead of 5, but I've given myself permission to daydream while stirring the sauce and end up packing less into a day, alleviating that rushed intensity. Even when I'm at my busiest, I've employed this and so far, it hasn't bitten me in the butt.

The second technique involves my new mantra, "Something has to be different." It's about turning around moods that slide in an irritable direction. A wise therapist once told me, "I mean this is the kindest way possible, but when you're overextended, it makes you crazy." So, when I get irritable, I tell myself "Something has to be different." Then I set out to find what I can change.

So, now some of you are saying, "what does this have to do about writing?"

Well, for those of us who have a lot on our plates or a lot on our minds, sometimes, the easiest thing to change is our work. Our writing work. I didn't intend to write this morning. I planned laundry, errands, history chapters and work tonight, but no writing. The stress building in me vetoed that. I need something to be different. And I think the best change I could make today is to push aside the history book and hang out with my imaginary friends. I can take the history book to work tonight and finish reading about the 19th century at work.

For some of us, our hobbies provide an important escape from stress. Don't deny yourself that hobby time-- for writers, this is our writing time, our soul infusion-- or in the end, you'll wear yourself down.

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