I picked up my highlighter and read on. The words Tankersley wrote I soaked up like a sponge. Were her words speaking to me? Was it some higher power? Maybe, on both counts.
Recently I had met with a therapist who insisted I did not want to go back to the person I was in 2016 when I fell. He confidently promised that he was certain that I wanted to leave that person behind. That I needed to find the person I had “evolved into over the last four years.”
What he didn’t understand is that it is as though I left behind a lot over the past four years. There’s a manuscript lying in my studio untouched. I have ideas for two other books, one of which was “in utero” back in 2017. My volunteer work disappeared due to my inability to carry out the job description. My life as a wife and mother has changed in many ways.
I felt like I had lost my former self. I want to recapture my former self. The self I was when I left home on the evening of January 24, 2016.
Those four words, “[a]lways we begin again,” were like the lyrics to a favorite song—they stuck in my mind. But four words do not constitute a word for 2020. They constitute a phrase. Who has heard of a phrase for the year?
Off I headed to grab a dictionary and thesaurus and sort out these four wonderful words. But on my way, I found my word.
I stopped and brought up the subject to Bob, my handy husband. During our talk, he told me a story about a gift he received in church the Sunday before.
I didn’t attend worship that Sunday and missed that week’s children’s time. In the course of their special time, each child received a star that had a word written on it. There were extra stars, and the children shared them with members of the congregation. Bob received a star with the word “renewal” written on it (the link is to the root word, “renew”).
Bob believed that the word he received was meant for me. He brought it home to me. And I pondered this word with thought and heart, plus a quick glance at the dictionary and thesaurus.
That’s the history of my word search for 2020. Renewal seems to be the right choice for me. With four years behind me now plus the first anniversary of my surgery around the corner, I am ready to begin again. I am ready to renew my life as I enjoyed, lived, and loved it on the evening of January 24, 2016. I have lots of catching up to do “[a]s [I] begin again” with my renewal—the wife, mother, writer, blogger, and more!
As a full-time legal secretary, wife, and mom, I felt busy. I longed for the days of retirement. People said when they retired there was never enough time for all they wanted to do. How could it be?
Now I know. With retirement in our lives for a combined 17 years, it seems each day reaches the brim of overflowing. Yet there are always things still left undone.
Add in my chronic pain and minor injuries (both of us) and it seems even more overwhelming. Facing surgery and recovery, I realize the time has come to make changes in my handling of this gift called life. Read with me for a few more paragraphs to see what my plans entail.
Achieving a Balanced Life
Balance is something we all count on in our physical world. Walking, running, biking, hiking, and any number of physical activities need good balance. Some of us have excellent balance, and some of us are likewise blessed, or not, with poor balance. I fall in the latter category (no pun intended).
Poor physical balance doesn’t mean I can’t have a balanced life. Life itself is:
Incrementally divided by time and how you spend it;
Affected by our activities, whether physical, creative or otherwise;
Based on our relationships and others’ impact on our lives;
Enriched by solitude.
1. Time and How We Spend It
Due to chronic pain and an unhealthy spine, I’m spending far more time on the computer than I should. Both sitting and standing are painful so those options aren’t as available to my writing as I’d like. Besides my writing, there is a newsletter and blog post reading. Then comes social media and email correspondence keeping me current with writing friends. Social media also helps keep up with family. More and more, everything requires a computer.
Bottom line, too much of my time seems front and center with my laptop. And I’m beginning not to enjoy it so much. You might say it’s because of my current spine pain and impending surgery but that’s not what I’m feeling. It’s what I’m going to call “computer burnout.”
2. Activities, Creative or Otherwise
If I’m going to be able to sit more comfortably after surgery, I want to quilt! If I could have a day or two a week in which I cut quilt pieces and sew them together, I’d be a happy camper quilter. And improved sitting means I could play the piano more often. Improved standing means I could work on my flute music. Both of these I miss because of (drumroll, here) “computer burnout.”
Also, I volunteer as a mentor in the Mothers of Preschooler program at our church. It requires only two Friday mornings a month, but there are other outside activities. Then new births among our group which include cooking for the family until mom is back on her feet again. Case in point: One of my mentees this past year gave birth to triplets. Although they were born in May (quite early in fact), they are just beginning to transition home. We’ll be cooking for them soon.
A great love of mine is being a “groupie” for the bands my husband makes music in, among them a Dixieland jazz group. I enjoy getting to know the other members and their spouses. And it’s great fun helping now and then hosting refreshments at a concert.
Bob and I enjoy supporting our church home and family in many ways. Each which requires a time commitment. This is something I’m not willing to give up yet.
3. Relationships and How They Affect Your Life
If I overload my day, I easily grow frustrated and a bit testy (don’t ask Bob what he calls this, OK?). This isn’t fair to Bob, especially if he’s in the middle of a new design project or new music or whatever he’s engaged in. My frustrations taken out on him make him feel less important than he truly is in my life. And it works both ways.
Time for keeping our relationship rich and loving should always be at the top of our list.
Friendships need a similar consideration. We never should take out on a friend our daily frustrations. Keep this in mind and you’ll feel better and so will your friends.
Don’t forget family, including children, parents, siblings, and even your pets. They don’t deserve to receive the brunt of your disgruntlement. And most importantly, they need to hear you say, “I love you.”
Bob and I both tend to be introverts. Solitude is important to each of us. And one’s desire for some alone time doesn’t bother the other. I probably have the advantage here. Bob has music rehearsals two nights per week plus an occasional Sunday afternoon. Concerts and performances come at odd and random times. As I mentioned above, I love to go along and support him.
We are both avid readers. Often we find solitude sitting in the family room reading. Soft classical music may be playing in the background. It’s amazing how you can find solitude in the same room with another person. We spend many pleasant hours that way in our home.
Solitude is an important part of self-care and we need to bring this to the forefront of our own well-being. Time to reflect on your life, values, memories or to spend time in meditation is healing in many ways. Don’t ever forget to take care of yourself.
I’ve taken a long time explaining myself (sorry!). What I need you to know is that my posting schedule with the blog will soon change. In fact, I missed posting last week.
Starting today, I will be on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and other social media sites much less than usual. I will continue to participate in a few groups a bit more actively because of their relationship to my writing.
Beginning with this post, I’ll be posting every other week, when possible. Surgery, recovery, and rehab will dictate sometimes. Those who requested my posts via my newsletter will arrive as they always have. When I post, you’ll receive it under cover of my MailerLite account.
My newsletter schedule will change as well. The newsletter will no longer come out on the third Wednesday of the month. Instead, I plan to make my newsletter quarterly rather than monthly. This change will take place beginning in October. The first quarterly edition will arrive in your inbox on Thursday, October 4, 2018.
I hope you will each take the time to review your own lives and commitments. Take time to look for balance, harmony, and joy in your life. If it isn’t there, figure out why and then make whatever changes are necessary.
Beginning Friday, June 9th, I will be stepping away from this blog, my book review blog, and social media as I recover from surgery. During my time away, I’m hoping to regain strength and energy lost during my 18 month battle with chronic pain resulting from a fall in January 2016. I’m also hoping to take advantage of the quiet time to work toward completion of my memoir and ready it for publishing.
When I return, or perhaps before, I may propose some topics for blog posts and ask for your input on what you’d like to see and read here.
In the interim, I wish you the sunniest days of summer, the sweetest of fruits from the summer harvest, and some time for yourself and your loved ones.
In my post a few days ago, I focused on the topic of self-care. I shared the things I believe I did wrong in caring for myself during my working life and the last few years as a writer. Today I want to share what I’ve learned along the way (and ignored). And I’ll share some new things I have read recently about caring for yourself as you write.
TIPS FOR INCLUDING SELF-CARE IN YOUR DAY
This is not intended to be an all-inclusive list. These are tips that work for me IF I remember to use them. If there is something you feel should be in this list, I hope you’ll share it in a comment below.
Remember, self-care is not selfish. To meet the needs of family, friends, and others in our community, we must first care for ourselves.
A daily schedule which includes a start and stop time for work helps many working folks. When creating a schedule, build in time for exercise and at least 30 minutes for a lunch break.
Find a way to spend part of your day standing for certain tasks.
Becoming a Stand-Up Writer by Keith Cronin at Writer Unboxed shares two stand-up options. These won’t force you to break the bank. I own the first option, but purchased it during my recent problems and haven’t been able to stand up to use it. I set mine up on a sewing table which is countertop height and on the opposite wall from my computer desk. Instead of moving the desk option, I move my laptop.
Taking breaks from sitting to stretch and/or walk around a bit is a good idea. A good thing for both body and mind.
A recent article in the New York Times Morning Briefing offers a way to do this. The writer advises getting up every hour to walk five minutes. Using a timer, either an app on your computer or somewhere you have to get up and move to turn it off, is helpful. Be diligent as this is one of the things I ignored years ago while working as a legal secretary. It would not have changed the condition as diagnosed. But it would have provided flexibility in my joints and skeleton as a whole.
In leaving a comment on last week’s post, Joan Hall shared a link for Tomato Timer. I checked out Tomato Timer and found it is somewhat like the Pomodoro Technique®. The technique is based on working on a task for 25 minutes and then take a break, say for 10-15 minutes or so. After four sessions, take a longer break (20 minutes), etc.
NOTE: Neither of these tips may be workable for writers. A screenwriter commented on the NY Times article that he cannot leave his work in this way. Once he’s creating a scene and interacting with characters, he can’t maintain momentum if he takes a 15-minute break. Others mentioned the same on last week’s post here.
Take a few minutes to assess your own working environment, no matter how large or small. It may surprise you to learn what you do or don’t find. Then try one or more of the tips above and note any change in physical problems you’re experiencing.
If you have tips for work spaces and building better backs, I’d love to see them shared below in Comments.
If you’re willing, check back with me to let me know what this post changed for you and what the impact of the change was.
FYI, I have not yet begun employing all the tips I’ve shared above as I’m still in recovery mode. I’ll try to let you know when I do begin practicing what I preach!