To January I say this: Good riddance!
I spent twenty-one out of thirty-one days sick, feeling absolutely crappy. No, I was miserable. Coupled with that miserableness was a strange malaise that sent me spiralling out of control. I didn’t understand that it was life speaking to me. And worst of all, I wasn’t listening. I was tone-deaf, trying to plough my way through life as if everything was cool and under control.
When I started to feel better, the anxiousness and restlessness began to ebb. But they didn’t go away completely. Now, at the beginning of February, I’m still dealing with their residual effects: figuring out exactly where it is I belong.
Focus on the Day-to-Day
It’s an odd feeling. Actually, it’s terrifying. To have arrived at a place in life where I’m doing what I feel compelled to do (write) and still feel like something is missing. You see, when I sit down to write — whether I’m at home, in a coffee shop, or globetrotting around the world (mostly London these days) — writing takes the edge off, peels away the doubt.
So while all this ‘uncertainty’ abounds, I’m focusing on the day-to-day. I’m relying on routine to keep me grounded. I’m going back to basics.
Make the Best of the Morning. I’m a morning person, and that’s when I feel the most creative. I’m slowly getting back into the routine of waking up between 4:00 and 5:00 am. Once my Morning Pages are done, I focus on my most important projects.
Keep Distractions to a Minimum. For a long time, I used to write with the TV on in the background. I thought I could still have productive writing sessions even with the volume on low. Yet when it came time to edit something I’d written with the TV on, the writing never stood up as well as a piece completed with the TV off. Now the TV is off, Outlook is closed, and I keep my cell phone in the kitchen (away from my writing desk).
Unplugging. I think this is the hardest one of all because of how much social media is integrated into daily life. And it’s a valuable tool and resource for writers and artists alike. Still, every day I struggle with social media because it easily overwhelms me. When I roll out of bed, I stop in the kitchen to pick up my phone on the way to the bathroom to check e-mail. It’s a hard habit to break, but I’m working on it. My ‘new’ goal is to check e-mail and social media sites after completing my morning work session. This isn’t just about when and how often I use social media, but also about how I’m using it. I want my use of social media to be purposeful and to not simply be a means of distraction. To that end, I’m back using the Chrome extension, StayFocusd, to help boost my productivity.
Let Myself Play. Something I’ve always struggled with is the idea of rest and play. Because of my day job, I have myself convinced that I must spend all my free time on my days off building my writing career. In this face-paced and chaotic world, it’s easy to forget that life is rich with all its beauty and with so many things to discover. Writing is very important to me, to my life, and each day I write I am inching closer to realizing my dreams. But life isn’t, and shouldn’t be, all about writing.
When I take time to rest and play, I’m able to learn about Kensington Palace’s rich history, as I did during my recent stay in London. I read books that challenge my way of thinking or simply for pleasure; the latter allows me to discover new authors. Recent great reads include: The Wisdom of Sundays by Oprah Winfrey, The Sober Entrepreneur by Russ Perry, Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov and Sam by Luke Harris. When I open myself up to other experiences, when I let myself do other activities, I am gathering material for my creative stores.
Stay Active. Getting older, maintaining an active and healthy lifestyle has become extremely important to me. That’s why I recently gave up alcohol. Now, when people learn I stopped drinking to focus on my health — and not because of addiction issues — they look at me as if I have two heads. I saw how just two glasses of wine affected my energy level the next day, making me sluggish. Already struggling with being distracted and watching my productivity plummet, I didn’t need alcohol compounding that further.
I try to get a minimum of two runs in each week because, out on the trail I can, as the saying goes, “Let go, let God.” I know that running alone won’t help me achieve the lean fit I’m aiming for, but I’ve never liked going to a gym or working with weights. Last night, reading the February issue of GQ, I couldn’t help but read Benjy Hansen-Bundy’s article, “Can I Avoid People and Become Incredibly Fit?” (As an introvert, there was no way I was skipping it.) Hansen-Bundy mentions the Nike Training Club app, which he describes as “a personal trainer without the over-enthusiastic small talk.” Intrigued, I downloaded the app and set up a workout. When I got up this morning, after doing some writing, I completed the Controlled Blast workout. Forty-five minutes long! Forty-five minutes long, and I thought I was going to die. I love how the uninspired female voice says, “Don’t give up. You’re almost done.” Meanwhile, twenty minutes in, I’m covered in sweat and flat on the floor with legs that feel like Jell-O. But I didn’t give up and made it to the end (although I may have taken one or two extra recovery periods what weren’t part of the workout).
With the tumultuous January behind me, I’m focused on getting back on track. February is my clean slate, my time to be open to what life is saying, or trying to say, to me. I like how Oprah Winfrey puts it: “Everybody has a calling. Your real job in life is to figure out why you are here and get about the business of doing it.”
I think that’s why I’m ‘restless’ and asking daily: What is my purpose? Why am I here? What is trying to emerge through my life? Where do I belong?
When I show up at my day job, I know I’m not in a place of belonging. I know I’m not being the real me. And that drives the anxiety and restlessness I feel each and every day. But I also know that everything I’m feeling at the moment, everything and everyone that comes into my life right now, are necessary parts of my journey. I must be patient and listen, and the answer will come in a language I’ll understand. I will arrive at that wonderful place of belonging where I can be the best, vibrant and most alive version of myself.
In the meantime, I must focus on what matters most. That is the best way to build the life I want.
How is 2018 starting out for you? What are you struggling with? Do you need to wipe your slate clean and start again? Let me know in the comments section below.
Being purposeful with your social media is a really interesting idea. I’m glad you shared it. I know for me, it’s hard to balance wanting to be as productive as possible but also balance being present on social media. A lot of times, it feels like you have to either be checking Twitter 30 times a day to know what’s going on in the world or not checking it at all to preserve your mental health. All of that to say, I really appreciate your perspective that we can use it purposefully, with intention, not just to fill random bits of time. Thanks for sharing.
Thanks, Jenna. On the days I’m mindful of how I use social media, I see my productivity level increase. It’s not always easy to maintain that balance, but I do the best I can … one day at a time.
Have a great week!