Well, it’s 11:36pm and I almost didn’t post this week. I’m in a somewhat scary place right now, sort of teetering on the edge of an abyss I’m all too familiar with.
But that’s not what I’m going to talk about tonight.
Last Friday morning, I handed in a project and realized I hadn’t had a whole weekend off since sometime around Christmas. And let me tell you, I was feeling it. I was (and still am, really, because one weekend can’t totally make up for five months of all-out work) totally fried. Mentally, physically, spiritually, and creatively fried.
It’s my own fault. I have a difficult time just being in the moment, being happy with where I am. I’m what my old boss called a “driver”, someone who’s always pushing herself to do more, better, and who pushes other people – for better or for worse – to do the same.
Even when I’m working on one project, my mind is already half-tuned into the next alluring possibility. The next story, the next idea, the next project. It’s not uncommon to see five projects with back to back deadlines lined up on my whiteboard. What’s probably more uncommon is that often these projects and deadlines are entirely of my own making. It’s not enough for me to think, “Oh, I’m super excited about this idea! I’m going to work on finishing it sometime this year.” Instead, I think, “If I write 3,000 words a day seven days a week, I can have a draft done in 6 weeks, allowing for the inevitable crisis, and THEN I can start XYZ project and have that one done a month later.”
I’m exhausting myself just thinking about it. Now you know why I’m a fan of naps.
But I really needed this weekend, and it was one of those rare times when I had drained the creative well so totally, that I couldn’t possibly write one more word. So I took it. I didn’t exactly lay around eating bon-bons, but I did cook and bake for the sheer enjoyment of it, slept in (thank you, Rebekah, for taking Andrew to track Saturday morning), took naps, planted our garden, and read almost the entire Sunday Times.
And I have to tell you, even with the stuff I didn’t get to (like walking, which I’d planned to do because I so love visiting my river spot), it was shocking how different I felt. Not just better (although, there is that), but DIFFERENT. Something as simple as reading the paper – the Travel section, the Arts section, the Magazine – was a rediscovery. An “Oh, yes! I remember that I LIKE the world! It’s fascinating and interesting and full of wonder and curiosity” moment. It made me want to walk the streets of a strange city and talk to people I’ve never met and sit and stare at the water with NO PURPOSE except to drink it all in.
Most of all, it made me want to LIVE.
And therein lies the rub. For someone like me, someone whose work is more than work, it’s an obsession, a lifeline, it is all too easy to forget that what we write about is LIFE. And it is very, very difficult to write about life if you are too busy writing to live it.
So I’m going to try and be better about taking time for myself. Not to run errands and clean and organize, but to LIVE. To read and sing and listen to music in the car and meditate by my river and roam the beautiful backroads of this place I love and call home. Maybe, even, to take a nap on the sofa, read the paper, or read something, not for research or because I SHOULD, but simply because I want to.
I’m going to start with Sundays. I figure I should be able to keep myself away from a keyboard one day a week. Right?