This isn’t the post I was planning to write.
You know that feeling when your life is humming along at a good clip with things falling into place almost as if by plan and then, out of nowhere, you find yourself bumped off the rails by something outside your control, and everything grinds to a halt?
A week ago I naively shared my excitement about a goal setting/productivity app called Balanced. I still love this app, but I should have listened to my superstitious self who told me not to get overly confident about how well I was doing at fitting all my want-to-do’s and should-do’s into my day. I really should have known better. No sooner were the words published than I began to feel a little under the weather. By the time Monday rolled around, I was questioning my ability to make a client meeting in Boston on Wednesday never mind do my “balanced” journaling, yoga, and juicing. I made the meeting, but only just barely. Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday featured involuntary naps that sent project schedules spinning out of orbit, and Friday was mostly a wash as I stumbled through the day on fumes, having slept only four hours the night before.
Perhaps ironically (I’ll never feel confident using that word since the world skewered Alanis Morrissette for applying it incorrectly in a song), today’s post was going to be about the beauty and joy of a place for everything and everything in its place. Instead, as I sit here sipping chamomile tea and sucking on a Burt’s Bees cough drop, I’m thinking less about order and organization and more about learning how to cut myself some slack.
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A few years ago I had the opportunity to work with a personal coach to explore the roadblocks that routinely keep me from moving toward my creative goals. As part of a barter arrangement, she and I met via phone bi-weekly to talk about the circumstances and fears that were holding me back. Again and again, I berated and belittled myself, saying things like, “I just need to get off my ass” and “I don’t know what’s the matter with me.”
The coach called me on this bullshit.
She reminded me that a) there was nothing wrong with me, and b) I was “getting off my ass” each and every day as I juggled parenting, freelancing, housekeeping, writing, and myriad other responsibilities and tasks. I was definitely not sitting around eating bon-bons and watching reality TV all day, so why was I beating myself up?
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Earlier this week, I read a She Writes post by Emily Lackey who shared similar self-doubt and derision about her need to sign up for a writing class in order to ensure she’d get the writing done:
Is it weird that I feel a tinge of shame about this? About paying hard-earned money to have someone hold me accountable to something I claim to love?
There are other things that I love that don’t take external motivators to keep me dedicated—my dog, my boyfriend, every single iteration of The Real Housewives. Why can’t I—like the real writer I imagine—get my shit together once and for all and write this collection on my own?
I hear you, Emily.
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As my energy drained out of me, the voices in my head took up the all-too-familiar refrain of accusatory disgust. It was as if a big, mean me was kicking a small, sick me while she was down. At one point in my illness-induced exhaustion, my brain trotted out the scene from Black Beauty when the cruel carriage driver repeatedly whips the poor horse, even as it collapses in the mud, pelted by cold rain.
But, perhaps I’m being overly dramatic.
The point is, we tend to be harder on ourselves than we deserve.
I’m all for pushing myself and setting stretch goals and working hard to get things done and make things happen. But, I need to do a better job of knowing when it’s time to take five and give myself a chance to recuperate. I need to learn to feel better about asking for help. And I really need to stop judging myself with the heart of a miser.
Even though I clearly needed to rest this week, I felt guilty and ashamed for “slacking off.” Note to self: it’s not slacking off if you’re sick. Sometimes, life is going to throw you a curve ball. It’s going to upset your precious balance, and you need to just roll with it. Sometimes that means continuing your work despite more difficult or uncomfortable circumstances, and sometimes that means sitting yourself the hell down and putting your feet up for a minute.
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There are lots of things that went undone this week, but that’s okay. In real life, there are ups and downs; there are super productive times and there are hanging-on-by-the-skin-of-your-teeth times. You need to work with the situation at hand and stop constantly blaming yourself for things that you can’t control. And for the love of all that’s holy, don’t hold yourself up to the same standards even when everything around you (including your own health) falls to pieces. Taking it down a notch now and then doesn’t make you a lazy person or an impostor. And plowing ahead even when what you really need is some TLC does not make you a better writer. It makes you a sicker, more tired writer.
The cold & flu season is coming. The holidays are coming. There are bound to be plenty of days that aren’t going to afford you the time, energy, or head space to do what you hoped to accomplish. Do me a favor and give yourself a break. Instead of berating yourself for lacking the strength, discipline, or dedication to keep on keeping on, remind yourself that everyone (and I mean everyone) needs a break sometimes. When the Universe sends you a curve ball, think of it as an invitation to step back and indulge in a little self care. Instead of whipping yourself through to the other side of whatever adversity you’re facing, try nursing yourself there. I guarantee the outcome will be better in every way.
I don’t usually read a lot of memoirs, but this week, I listened to two memoirs on Audible. Both authors are unique, quirky women who carry banners for freedom of self-expression in their own way.
Felicia Day is known as the “queen of the geeks.” Hers is a rags to riches story that begins with an unorthodox home-schooled childhood, includes her rise as a violin protege, and ends with her finding herself and success on the Internet.
Though I enjoyed learning more about Day, I felt that – compared to other memoirs I’ve read and loved (Bossypants by Tina Fey and Yes, Please by Amy Poehler), Day’s book, You’re Never Weird on the Internet (Almost), was a little more self-focused. That may sound weird and obvious (it is a memoir, after all), but there was something more inclusive about the way Fey and Poehler wrote their stories.
Even so, I liked some of what Day wrote about the difficulty of the writing process,
I had no confidence in myself. I was a fraud. Who was I to pick up a pen and expect anything good to come out of it? I expected perfection as soon as the pencil hit the paper, and – since that’s impossible – I couldn’t get myself to start. Then, I felt guilty about not starting, which made me want to start even less.
And, then about the perspective that helped her to move forward with more consistency,
Something inside me snapped. I woke up at 3:54 AM with a full-on panic attack and a huge epiphany: I was going to die someday. I was going to end. And I know you can say that to yourself a million times … but you can’t understand something unless you feel it, deep in your bones. For some reason that night, I felt it. A vivid terror gripped me. I was mortal and I was going to die … if I didn’t do something with my life right now, the totality of Felicia Day would add up to nothing.
Nothing like a little mortality to light a fire under your butt, right?
Furiously Happy – A Funny Book About Horrible Things is Jenny Lawson’s second memoir. I thoroughly enjoyed her first book, Let’s Pretend This Never Happened, so picking this one up was a no brainer.
Lawson (aka The Bloggess) lives with depression, anxiety, and a host of other disorders. She has been blogging since before blogging was cool and, in addition to writing her books, she spends her time bantering with her 450,000 Twitter followers and starting movements like The Traveling Red Dress.
In short, she’s pretty damn awesome.
Furiously Happy is a brave book, a silly book, a laugh-out-loud book, an insightful and touching book, an irreverent book. Lawson jumps back and forth between Steven Wright-like observations about the world and deeply vulnerable and empathetic confessions about what it’s like to live with depression. Lawson manages this incredibly difficult balancing act with a grace that is both surprising and delightful.
There are plenty of passages in this book that I would not let my eleven year-old daughter listen to, but when she gets a little older, I will encourage her to read the entire book. Twice. Lawson gives readers a unique and unexpected perspective that is at once terrifying and comforting. And, perhaps most importantly, she does it in a way that lets you know you’re not alone – we’re all in this together. Highly recommended.
And let’s not forget the blogs. Here are a few of my favorite writerly posts from this week:
- Why We Should Write What Scares Us by @msheatherwebb via @WriterUnboxed
- 11 Resources to Curate, Clip, Collect, and Collaborate Content by @iconicontent via @cmicontent
- 5 Books Guaranteed to Unlock Your Creative Genius by Melody Wilding via @PickTheBrain
- 4 Lies Writers Believe by @joebunting via @thewritepractice
- Three Simple Practices for Advancing Your Writing Career by Joan Dempsey via @BookBaby
- Novels are Dangerous by @SPressfield
- The Creative Process in Ten Acts via @farnamstreet
Finally, a quote for the week:
Be well. Take care of yourself.
Jamie Lee Wallace Hi. I’m Jamie. I am a content marketer and branding consultant, columnist, sometime feature writer, prolific blogger, and aspiring fiction writer. I’m a mom, a student of equestrian and aerial arts (not at the same time), and a nature lover. I believe in small kindnesses, daily chocolate, and happy endings. Introduce yourself on Facebook, twitter, Instagram, or Pinterest. I don’t bite … usually.