Prompt: Lesson learned. What was the best thing you learned about yourself this past year? And how will you apply that lesson going forward?
It’s been a long day. I wanted to catch an early-early bus to the movie today, and that meant getting up even early-earlier. I got a few things done and put my hair into some kind of order, and then raced off to the bus smothered in my massive coat. I did a few errands before racing to the theater and sinking down into my seat with my free popcorn. I was the youngest person in the room by about thirty years. No one else has free time at ten on Friday; no one else is eating popcorn for breakfast. The lights went down and I disappeared for an hour and a half.
When I had a day job, I had a routine I had to obey. Artificial boundary lines existed that told me when I should take a break, eat my lunch, walk around the building and stretch my legs. Without anyone else supervising me, for lack of a better term, I forget to take care of myself. So sometimes I do what I did today: I call a break. A major time-out. I have not always been good at doing this regularly enough, and before I knew it I was snappish and so inwardly directed that I couldn’t relate to the rest of the world.
You might imagine that’s not a good situation to be in when you want to create believable characters in believable situations.
It’s not just about stepping away from the desk when it’s called for, although that’s the example I have for today. Balance takes work. It doesn’t just descend upon you like a halo of light. Okay, it might for some people, but they’re awful people and we don’t like them. I chose to do Reverb10 to meet other people whose writing and lives interested me. As a crew member, I read a huge number of blogs that get no comments, so I leave one where I can. And people keep signing up every day! How amazing is that? I wish I could come back and comment every single one of those people every day. I can’t. There are just so many. As it is i could never stop in on every person participating. I can’t do it all, the way I can’t bring every stray cat into my home or eat every variety of truffle at my favorite chocolate shop in Westboro. My lizard brain does not care for balance. It wants everything. Much of life is a war against my lizard brain.
This year, I proved to myself that I can create balance. I can live in a way that satisfies my magpie nature some of the time and my need for sleep at other times. I don’t always stay well-balanced; I backslide. This month is a monster for me; a lot of you already know this. Adding the reading of a hundred strangers’ most essential selves every day seems like a crazy thing to do. But when you think about it, it makes perfect sense. Already I found kindred spirits because of this project. It’s worth the work. If there are more out there, I want to do what I can to find them. One month of pushing myself hard, with the book and the new people? It’s going to be worth it in the end. And so when I backslide in one area, I do whatever rearranging I need to do to make the rest of my life support it. This month, there’s been a lot of soup for dinner, for instance. It’s easy to clean up and cooks while I’m writing. Meals that don’t demand my attention save me more than an hour every day. Om.
It’s no great life-affirming lesson that I can keep all my balls in the air. Anyone who has a kid (or more than one!) is rolling eyes at my scraped-together balance, and that’s fine. The point is that I wasn’t able to do even this much before, and I was barely able to keep myself alive for months after my mother died. Faking it took all my energy then. It turns out that faking was enough for awhile, and now I can handle the rest of it. And every time I add a little more to my plate, I make it work. Somehow. Well enough. Which is just about all that anyone can expect from themselves, anyway. I’m not hosting a lifestyle TV show here; I’m just living my life.