Stagnation


Looking at my last couple of posts, I feel like all I’ve been talking about lately is being overwhelmed and overbooked. This is, on the surface, a post that’s not entirely different. Right now I’ve come to a point in my life that is woefully stagnant. I haven’t written any new poetry in over a month, and haven’t submitted anything new in about the same amount of time. Normally that would be because I’m focused more over on the fiction-writing side of things, but progress hasn’t budged on that end either. With only ten pounds left to lose I’ve seemingly plateaued, things at work are bubbling together as the kids prepare to go back to school and their mother back to job-hunting and my financial goals are coming together, albeit slowly.

But I’m not stressed out about it. I was about a week back- I wanted all these goals met now, I wanted my editing finished now, I wanted five different manuscripts out on submission now…. And then I met up with a friend of mine who has also been a bit stressed out about timing. In his case, it’s a lot about a specific relationship that he really wants to happen. The only advice I could really give him that would be healthy for everyone was to be patient, and to pray. I realized that I had been missing that myself lately. I’d been seeing my stagnation as an obstacle to my goals, to my creativity; to my life. Instead of taking the opportunity to breathe, I was holding my breath until I was purple in the face. I wanted things done on my time, not on God’s time, and in that I had twisted myself up in pretzel-like contortions. Instead of being able to work harder, go further, I have become my own biggest obstacle.

So I start today with a new resolution. When I feel too tired to write, or to network, I will pray. I will take the hint when my body needs rest. I will be patient so that when I do write, when I do edit, I do so with a clear mind and open heart (instead of out of sheer frustration and desire to get things over with). I will welcome stagnation as a normal part of the creative process, and of life in general. It’s not going to be easy, seeing how much I hate being productive, but it’s a lesson I’ll have to learn.

How do you deal with stagnant periods, readers?

On Time Management and Saying No


Lately my life’s been a little bit of a spiral. Not entirely downwards, not entirely upwards, but more of the all over the place kind of spiral that is euphoric one moment and devastating the next. At times like these, everything tends to pile up on itself and start to take over everything. Stress from one task bleeds into my ability to complete the next, and I suddenly find myself doing a million things half-heartedly. I don’t like doing things half-heartedly. So when I notice that this is all going for a loop, I begin to fall into a pit of guilt and I get nauseous and force myself into a kind of dull depression.

It’s times like these that it’s important to remember that one little word: ‘no’. When people ask me to help out, to volunteer or make posters or come take care of their pets, what have you, it’s so hard for me to say ‘no’. I’m the kind of person who wants to be able to help. I want to be able to do what I can to make the world a better place, even if that just means alleviating the stress of the people around me.

Stretching myself out paper-thin doesn’t accomplish that, though. Sure, it may be a little spot fix for the person who needed me right then but what about everyone else? What about the kids I watch who will take the brunt of my stress at work the next morning? What about my family, who get brushed off by my so that I can take extra time to de-stress after work because I didn’t want to punish them for my life? What about my significant other, who I will make feel less loved because I decided to help everyone else and then no longer have the time or emotional capability to attend to him come the small amount of time we have together a week? When I’m helping out with a million different tasks, I end up not being able to focus on any of them to the extent that they deserve. My contribution is slighted, the project as a whole is slighted, and the opportunity for something amazing, the opportunity for grace and light, is wasted.

I’m not one to say that my own self-care takes precedent over other things, or that I shouldn’t try to do as much as I can for others. But in the past couple of weeks I really have come to a greater awareness of the need to know one’s own boundaries. The need to trust that other people will be there to help. That saying ‘no’ when I have become overwhelmed is not a bad thing- and is, in fact, necessary if I am to function to my own best ability. And functioning to my own best ability will, in the long run, enable me to do more for others than if I run myself ragged for a short amount of time.

So for the next month or so, I’m going to be practicing my ‘no’s’. I’m going to practice being honest with people about my capabilities (directly saying ‘I can’t make this commitment’ versus my normal ‘I’ll see what I can do). I’m going to practice being realistic about what I can fit in on my current schedule (being able to help for large events, rather than weekly commitments). And I’m going to pray that the needs I cannot fill myself will be filled, while also praying to alleviate my own anxiety and guilt about not being able to carry my community on my shoulders. Hopefully I’ll be able to get back into a healthy rhythm in my own life, and increase my capability for contribution. Because the point of saying ‘no’ should never be to simply release yourself from all stress and constraint in life, but used in order to better prepare yourself to give an enthusiastic ‘yes’ to things you can accomplish in the future.

How do you do with ‘no’s’, readers? Has it always been easy for you? What, or who, do you have a hard time saying no to?