A Recipe for Tackling Anxiety

Oh Spring, you crazy bitch. We’re barely a week into your tumultuous frenzy and already I feel like I’m losing my mind. Of course it doesn’t help that my book is in the hands of beta readers (mostly strangers!), and the reality of purging, packing and moving a household of six people is looming. Am I unsettled? Yes. Anxious? Oh gods yes. Am I drowning in a sea of unknowns? Uh-huh. So what can I do to make sure the next few months aren’t a living hell for everyone near and dear to me? Here’s my recipe for tackling anxiety.

Structure. Lots and lots of it. Just before the end of my work day, I write up a schedule for the next day, complete with a time slot for each item on the to-do list. This isn’t rigid, but if I don’t do it, I lose myself to the Interwebs as I try to quiet my swirling brain. Then I get eff-all done, and feelings of worthlessness start to creep in. I’m not type A, honestly. I’m a B plus at most.

Vitamins/Nutrition. This crazy-making time of uncertainty and change can lead me down that path to the badlands of my mind. One of the easiest ways to combat that spiral is by taking care of what I put in my body, and remembering my supplements. Eating an LCHF (low carb, high fat) diet, helps me feel better, sleep better and perform better. I fight the urge to just let it slip, and try to be mindful because I know how easy it is to start feeling lousy.

Substance Avoidance. One glass of wine or a small cocktail in the evening, sure, but not every night and no evenings out to party. Right now I’m looking at a worrisome time that spans several months, so it’s likely that I will imbibe a bit. I hope it is anyway, because sometimes it’s fun to go out for a few drinks, listen to music, enjoy good food. In these kinds of times, however, I try to take it easy. Nothing triggers those shitty feelings like making my liver have to work too hard or messing up my brain chemistry.

Self-Care. This one is super important, hence the title. When I feel like I’ve lost control of life (yes, I DO realize I never really had it to begin with, but I sure like to pretend.) my instinct is to clean house, work like a maniac and just do things that make me feel like I’m getting something, anything accomplished. Even now, I have an hour to kill and I’m technically working. At the end of each work day, I’m going to try to relax. I say ‘try’ because I’m frankly not very good at this. But I’ll splash about for an hour or so in the tub and just try to enjoy what it means to piss off from responsibility. I need to make a point to do this a little bit each day. Something that’s just for fun.

Gratitude. You know how your problems feel enormous until you pop over to the BBC site? Then you’re like “Holy shit, who cares if I have to pack up my whole house over the next few months?” The world is full of people moving through hell. Does that change how much our circumstances affect us? Briefly, and for fleeting moments. If I can take time each day to think of all the things that are going right (my book is in the hands of my final round of betas! I get to organize and purge and start fresh in a new home! I can afford to find a new home!) it really truly helps me to keep things in perspective. Especially when I’m taking care in all the other ways I’ve mentioned. I don’t say this to be a self-righteous or preachy twat. I’m just telling you what works for me. I assume you care, because you’ve read this far.

Sleep. The need for adequate sleep is no joke, and science can back me up here. I slept like a boss last night. I even had a dream that I was the newest member of the X-Men team. I woke up feeling like I could take on the universe, and it’s totally worth going to bed at 9:30 to recreate this approach to Monday mornings. I’m even reading real, live books to fall asleep.

What are your go-to methods of dealing with anxiety and uncertainty? I’d love to hear about them in the comments below.

 

 

Reflections on Risk-Taking and Creativity

March madness is upon us in the form of the best snowstorm I’ve seen in ages. Last night we sent the kids to their nearby grandparents house, and they kept our mini-van complete with snow tires. We’ve got the Honda Civic with nearly bald tires, and so we are marooned. Not a single snow plow in sight, and it’s still coming down. Our home isn’t such a terrible place to be stuck. The fire is crackling. We took a break from work to start Season Two of The Expanse. The kettle is on and homemade, dairy-free strawberry ice cream is waiting for dessert. Then I have to get back to work, but in the meanwhile, I’m thinking about risk-taking and creativity.

I’m in a weird space this week. Everything feels like a dream I’m floating through, like a vacation. Free of the long to-do lists (because I didn’t make any) and without the feeling that there isn’t enough time in the day. We aren’t going anywhere special, but March Break and the total lack of morning crazy to get the school bus seems like just enough of a holiday.

On Monday I started sending out the almost-final draft of my manuscript for beta reading. This is a crazy time in my writerly life. I have some pretty awesome betas, a good representation of the type of reader I hope to attract. There’s something both exciting and terrifying about knowing that people, especially strangers, are reading your words and giving feedback. It’s the risk you have to take as a creator; you make something for the world to consume, and then you sit back and see how well they digest it.

I took another risk when I launched my crowdfunding campaign. It was a wise move, deciding to ignore that voice that told me I was self-indulgent. My campaign goal was met, thanks to many lovely contributors. I’ve booked a little getaway for the second week of April to complete the last draft of my novel and research publishing options. Do I self-publish and invest in a proper marketing campaign? Do I query agents and see if the traditional publishing world wants me? Are there indie publishers who might take a chance on my book and help me with marketing? The questions are endless.

The scariest part of creative work is letting other people see what you’ve sunk your soul into. My first book was immensely fun to write. It was non-fiction, and in many ways, easier. This one, this novel was different. It was scary, and thrilling and I went to that deep place in my imagination where I used to live as a little girl. There’s way more of me in this book than the other. I’ve experienced more self-doubt and self-loathing with this project than with any creative experience thus far. What if it’s no good? What if I’m too old? What if nobody ever reads it? I have to wade through that self-deprecating static almost every day, because I know once I’ve cut my teeth on this novel business, I can move on to write the thousands of other stories in my head. And most importantly, I can say that I did it.

Don’t be so precious about it. I keep telling myself this. It’s only the first one, and it’s bound to teach you so many things. If you don’t do it, you’ll regret it.

I think of all the writers I’ve beta-read for. Writers who feel the exact same way I do about their books, and some who are beyond this newbie writer anxiety. Sometimes these books are wonderful. Sometimes I’m not even sure how to wrap my feedback in a positive spin. If the thing you created was rubbish, would you want to know? I would. I’d like to think my skin is tough enough that I could just move on to the next story.

So for the next couple of weeks I’ll wait. I’ll work on other things, like my businesses that I’ve neglected trying to prepare this next draft. There’s plenty to keep busy with while the betas work on their feedback. I’ll probably never hear from some of them at all, because that’s another risk you have to take.

It’s torture, but I love it.

 

The Value of My Work

I took a big leap this week, and it feels weird. For months now, I’ve been meeting regularly with my writing group, an amazing bunch of women writers who are all exceptionally talented. Though they aren’t all published, they all have the chops to be, and we support each other by giving critical feedback on each other’s work, sharing resources, and encouragement. They have helped me feel more committed to my writing and they’ve helped me understand the value of my work.

Not one, but two of my writing colleagues recently took a week to themselves to head to their cottages and spend the time writing. They were able to accomplish so much without the distractions of every day life. I’ve been fantasizing about this for a long while now, and my writing friends nudged me to take action.

Yesterday I launched an IndieGoGo campaign to help fund a self-directed writing retreat. My hope is to take a week in April and work through the end of my novel revisions, so that the manuscript is ready for an editor. It’s a great plan, so why does it feel strange? It feels strange because there’s so much going on in the world right now. I look at Facebook and my news feed is filled with real struggles and sorrows all over the world. It feels a bit shallow asking people to donate to help me publish a novel when so many other people need help.

Yet my work, my writing, is the way I make the world better. It has been since I started blogging over a decade ago about my life, about my struggles. I write to give people hope, to help them feel like they aren’t so alone in a difficult and confusing world. With my novel, my first foray into fiction, I write to help them escape for a little while, to imagine other possibilities. I write to make people feel joy and laughter, and when I’m writing, I feel like I’m helping the world in the best way I can.

And so, humbly and vulnerably I’m asking you to have a look at this video, and the campaign below (you can also click right here) and consider making a contribution to help me publish this novel. If my writing has ever touched you, made you smile, helped you feel connected, or lifted your spirits, I know you’ll enjoy my novel. Even $5 will help me reach my goals.

Grown Up Play Dates

“When’s Nate coming over?” 

I heard this about fifty times in the span of an hour this morning, my four-year-old Noodle too excited about the pending arrival of his bestie to even manage a proper breakfast.

His weekend uniform is always the same; it’s pajamas or bust. I’ve stopped trying to convince him that it’s proper to get dressed to run errands. For him, clothes are for school, and begrudgingly, for special occasions. Even then he insists on pjs underneath, and there’s always a Clark Kent style quick change if the outing runs too late for his sensitive tastes.

I don’t fight him on this, because I’d wear my pjs everywhere if I wasn’t constantly trying to hide myself in fashion.

He’s taught me a lot, my little Noodle. Today, I realized that I want more play dates too. Little Nate arrived in his closest proximity to pjs, because he knows that’s how we roll on the weekends. I met his grandparents, all the way from Germany, with my hair smelling like the meatballs I’d fried last night and a pair of track pants tugged on under my sleep shirt. Gotta keep it real.

So, now I’m booking play dates. Come in your pjs, or the next best thing. Bring a sugar free, gluten free treat if you have time. If not, maybe we’ll bake something together. We can knit, watch Netflix, play YouTube show and tell, eat snacks, drink tea or wine or whatever. Just come hang out. 

Or invite me over. I don’t care if your house is a mess, or if your cupboards are dirty. I’m a terrible housekeeper, and I’m tired of avoiding people because I’m ashamed of this. I won’t judge you, I’ll just be happy for the company.

Let’s connect with the unbridled joy of children. As adults, we have the advantage of calling it a day before someone gets smashed in the head with a truck.

Inauguration Day

in·au·gu·ra·tion
iˌnôɡ(y)əˈrāSH(ə)n/
noun
    1. the beginning or introduction of a system, policy, or period.
      “the inauguration of an independent prosecution service”
      2. the formal admission of someone to office.
      “Truman’s second presidential inauguration”
      3. a ceremony to mark the beginning of something.
      “the inauguration of the Modern Art Museum”

Today is the end of an era.

I can no longer sit up here in this little corner of my quiet room, distracting myself with a million things that aren’t my own voice.  Work things, helping things, playful things, domestic things. They are important, of course, but they can’t replace my voice. Not anymore.

Today I stop saying ‘I’m too tired’ or ‘It’s too cozy here’. I will accept invitations, make new alliances, pledge allegiance to my sisters who are loud and proud. They not hiding under the assumption that everyone is too busy to make plans, or too uncomfortable with my lifestyle choices.

Today I honor my own constitution and recognize that to feel well, I have to treat my body well. This, on occasion, will mean laying on the couch for an entire afternoon reading books. Mostly, it will mean challenging myself to be more fluid, stronger, more vibrant. It will mean choosing something sweet every once in a while, and choosing to be very conscious about what food means to my body and soul all of the time.

Today I salute the commander-in-chief of my journey through this life. My writer, my story teller, who has patiently waited for the opportunity to rule the country of my heart. Small victories, and a career full of setbacks have led to this victorious moment, when we stand united in our love for this great land of my imagination.

Today I vow to dedicate my office to the voices of the little people. Those tiny hands and hearts who demand better play time, less distraction, more connection to our changing climate and the fertile lands of this country. They have fought long and hard for my attention, often kicking and screaming to be heard. I will answer their cry by getting off my high horse and spending more time in their tattered sneaker shoes.

On this inauguration day, (no caps, please) I will place women’s reproductive rights at the top of matters of congress. Sexual congress, that is. I will recognize my right to complete freedom and power over my body by exploring and encouraging multi-level orgasmic funding, investigating new systems of pleasure, and implementing a charter of self-love that is supported in both the private and public sectors. I don’t even know what that last line means, but it sounds like fun, doesn’t it?

It is with great humility and awe that I step into this role as president of my own tiny universe. I take this venerated position very seriously, despite my outrageous hair and shocking media persona. You, the people of my consciousness have elected me, and I will unite this land of opportunity and privilege and make this woman great again.

Because if history has taught us anything, it’s that nobody else will.