Finding My Way Back
I thought I’d get so much done.
When everything closed the spring, and my day job as an ASL Interpreter was paused, at first, I was a little bit excited. At times, I’ve fantasized about reducing my interpreting work hours and increasing my writing time so that I can write more books, organize the empty nest, and pamper the dogs. A slow, leisurely transition to retiring and spending my days traveling the world, writing books, and drinking wine in foreign lands.
Not a bad fantasy, right?
The March reality check hit more abruptly than any of us expected. One week I was working in college classrooms, the next I was home 24/7. My husband works for a sand and gravel mine, mostly outside and never changed his schedule during the spring.
The dogs were confused.
I slept late and stayed in my pajamas past noon. I struggled to write, or clean house, or even shower daily. It was the first time in my adult life I was without a job and not home with a newborn baby. Optimism is my normal mindset, but it was a struggle.
I know many of you can relate.
Knowing I wasn’t alone in my distress kind of helped. After a few weeks of wallowing, I tired of kicking myself because I hadn’t finished the next book, cleaned a closet, or even done laundry. Here in the Midwest, cocooned in my neighborhood, I’ve avoided the virus as much as possible but often felt guilty about how little physical activity I got or how many carbs I ate. When our 15-year-old dog died in June, it was time for a change. For my mental health, I had to give myself permission.
Permission to veg. Permission to eat what I want.
Eventually I found alternatives to keep my brain challenged even when I didn’t feel creative enough to bang out the next mystery on my laptop. I read Chris Fox’s book 5,000 Words Per Day. No I still don’t write that fast yet, but I’ve tried some of his tips to increase my focus and decrease my distractions.
I read On Writing by Stephen King. I doubt Mr. King sat around all spring and summer wringing his hands and feeling angsty about getting words on the page. I signed up for Masterclass and watched videos by Neil Gaiman, Steve Martin, David Baldacci and more. At least on the videos someone was talking to me.
The worst part was the forced introverting.
Anyone who knows me would tell you I’m an extrovert. But I had no idea how much I need to be around people and talk to them until I couldn’t. Nowadays I’m back to work, although it’s mostly online from home. I’ve learned to make a weekly run date with a friend. I take walks with my neighbor who also works from home or play fetch with our German Wirehair dog.
What most helped bring me back to myself were the inspirational emails I subscribe to from Bishop Robert Barron and Maria Shriver’s Sunday Paper, along with a few authors who have funny monthly newsletters. My monthly book club met at the park this summer. I FaceTime my family more.
Staring into the abyss of more restrictions this fall and winter (our state has more cases than ever this week), I’m making my winter mental/physical health plan. Some days will be too cold or snowy to get outside, and I want to have options.
- Read something inspirational every day. Pray and meditate.
- Workout every day at least 30 min.
- Creatively keep my weekly exercise dates with friends while indoors. Maybe we’ll wear masks? Or I’ll get on my elliptical and my friend can get on her treadmill and we can call and chat while working out inside at same time.
- Before I eat junk or binge watch TV for hours, I’ll ask myself the question: “How will I feel afterwards?”
- Put up Christmas decor and shop for gifts even if I don’t feel like it at first.
- Keep writing a little bit every day. Even just 1,000 words a weekday adds up to 252,000 words per year.
Unfortunately, the pandemic isn’t going away as quickly as we had all hoped. What’s your winter plan for keeping your spirits up? Share your ideas in the comments and maybe they’ll inspire the rest of us.
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