Posts tagged balance
Technicolor Nightmares

Viginia Woolf Writers (and artists in general) have a million quotes that all basically come down to the same thing: we feel like lightning rods for the human experience, and as such, we need to find a way to redirect all that feeling, emotion, darkness, and energy somewhere else, or we'll explode. We live the life of everyone we talk to. We dream of worlds no one has seen. We take all of the invisible, intangible bits and try to give them shape.

Being a person who walks through life feeling this way is complicated and exhausting, mostly because the only people who truly understand what life feels like to us, is other people like us (and we tend to not spend enough time around those types of people!) This is why my life changed when I first set foot inside the hotel at my first RWA National Convention. It was like Dorothy walking into Oz and seeing the world in color for the first time. I didn't have to explain myself to anyone. I didn't have to make apologies for needing a few minutes to introvert. I didn't need to explain that I love socializing and being alone. These were my people. 2,000 of them all in one place. There were other people like me in the universe (a lot of them!) who geeked out over information and reading, who believed in happily ever afters and the power of transformative experiences. These were people who could talk about hair and makeup one minute and the deep underlying meaning of racism and misogyny hidden in popular literature the next.

This is why I treasure the internet. It took me over 30 years to find other writers and artists to connect with. Without the power of the internet I wouldn't have the network of people and support I've been able to gather over the last few years. The internet is amazing. Conventions where you can spend time with people who have similar interests are amazing. The world is huge and it can be very lonely, but it doesn't have to be anymore. You can find your people.

I'm writing all of this because this weekend took a dark turn. Dark. The kind where being a lightning rod became too much and I really felt like I was on the verge of exploding. Actually, it felt more like a well of sadness so deep and strong was trying to escape from my soul that the only way out was by it spilling out of my heart like a tidal wave. That if I didn't find a way to let it all out, that sadness would carry me away with it--because it had to get out and there was nothing I could do to stop it.

I don't know exactly how that much sadness winds up inside me, but I suspect it comes from me being me. I pick up emotions from everyone I meet. I absorb them and take them in. Maybe I store them up so they don't have to, or maybe I accidentally leave them lying around in a back storage room until the room is full and there's no where else for the stuff to go. I'm really not sure.

In the past I dealt with this alone, but then I became a writer and I finally had a real outlet for this stuff. I could finally redirect all the feelings and stories I collected each day into a channel that could handle it. Along with that came finding friends who understood me and I was able to build a community of support that I've never had before.

And I want everyone who feels this way to know there are people like them out there, and that taking those steps to go to that convention, or meeting, or school is the right step. It can feel overwhelming, but it is worth taking the chance. Not every attempt will work out, but you have to put yourself out there in order to find the one that will. Find your art, find your people. They are out there.

Pisaro quote

Fighting For Space... In Your Own Life

I've written in the past about the challenges of working from home. There are a plethora of articles detailing the struggle to keep your work life and home life separate. There is also the added challenge of others thinking you aren't really "working" when you create things for a living. Can I get an amen?

Thanks.

I thought I was pretty awesome. I've worked from home many times in the past. I'm a rock star self-motivator. I've got a plan, goals, and a schedule for my writing. I make a predictable and totally respectable monthly income from my books. I had this handled.

I was wrong.

When push came to shove and my family needed someone to pick up the slack, I happily took on the extra work. For the last few months I've been CEO of my house. All things went through me from toilet cleaning to volunteer hours to grocery shopping. I knew it was temporary and, quite frankly, this is life. It has ups and downs. Sometimes sacrifices have to be made. I know what it takes to write a novel, market it, and take care of all the other administrative tasks. I genuinely thought I could easily wipe my hands after my husbands graduation and "walk back into the office" like I hadn't missed a beat.

But there were a few things I hadn't counted on. One being two tiny monsters who got used to mom being mom more often than she was Alexis Anne. My afternoon writing and marketing hours became snuggle time (because there was no other time for that all important decompression and skin to skin contact that is so important to young developing minds). It also became staging time for after school activities, an increasing homework load, and planning. Instead, my writing and work time was relegated to a few short hours in the morning, and it had to be all encompassing because there was no other time for it.

I was prepared for that. I accepted that when I agreed to work less. But the kids didn't get the memo that mom was back to work. They still expect me to be mom in the afternoons and weekends. In just a few months they'd completely forgotten that mom had a job that had set hours in the morning and afternoon.

My husband kind of forgot, too. He has the best of intentions, and it was his words that made me realize the problems I was facing: we were in an adjustment period. As badly as I wanted my work schedule to magically go back to the way it was (along with everyone being blissfully happy) it wasn't going to happen. It was going to take some time for everyone to get used to the new order of things.

And to make it work I needed to make my boundaries clear, just like I did when I first started writing. I also needed to understand that just because it wasn't happening as fast as I dreamed, it was still happening. One day at a time. So for those of you wondering about working-from-home boundaries, here is my list of the important ones:

  1. My work hours are clearly posted and I expect everyone to respect them. Just because I'm home at 4 pm doesn't mean I'm available to cut out paper stars or run to the grocery store. If I've listed 4-5pm as a work hour then you better be bleeding or on fire if you interrupt me (thank you Nora Roberts)
  2. We are a team, and as such we do all the chores together. This includes meal planning, grocery shopping, and keeping up with school events. I am not--nor do I want to be-- Super Mom.
  3. Work trips are not vacations. Period.
  4. My office is my office. It is not a play room, a storage room, or a hallway.
  5. I've respected your needs, please respect mine in return. This is my job and something I love.

Added to this three ring circus is the fact that summer break starts in a couple of weeks and we'll have yet another adjustment period. I'm hopeful that by then the kids will be used to having dad around again, and used to mom saying, "No, I'm working." There is time for snuggles and books when I'm done for the day. There's time for all of us. We just need some time to relearn the rules and respect each others needs.