The last few weeks, I’ve been writing about some of the observations I made as a newbie author on the road. The first part explored the amazing things that happened at various author events and the second discussed self-care techniques while traveling. The third part of this explorations will be about post-travel self care. At first this was only going to be a small section, part of the larger discussion, but I realized that there was more to say. It has also evolved into recommitting myself to a daily practice of self care involving journal writing, meditation and yoga, something I’ll talk about in a future post as well.
Giving Myself Permission to Relax: My name is Melanie J. Fishbane and I’m an overachiever and workaholic. When I say “sometimes overachievy” on the top of this blog, I hope you are reading it as “always overachievy” because that is really what I am. And, sometimes it can be a good thing. Honouring that part of my overachievy self, allowing her to bask in the glow of a project, like organizing an author tour, was really good for her. But, it means that giving myself time to relax is really difficult. In fact, I honestly don’t know how to do it. Every time I decide to give myself a day off, I have to relearn how to actually relax and this is not necessarily good because it doesn’t honour the work I’ve done, nor does it allow me to play.
In this vain, when I returned to Toronto, I said to myself: “You can have one day-ish to relax and then it is back to work, Mel. You have that WIP to finish and query, author stuff to do for the fall, and other types of work.” Even the Tuesday after I came back I answered emails. One person was like, “get off email.” She was right, of course.
Truthfully, I was tired. I had been on for seven days straight and even with the moments of downtime, I still needed to get back to self. If I listened to myself, I wanted to read and nap and do yoga. I wanted to write in my journal. And when I returned to the scene I had finished while I was traveling, I couldn’t quite get into it. I needed to refill the well. I know the importance of this. I advocate this. And, yet, I was still pushing through to get things done. Not good.
So, I did something pretty radical…I decided to go with what my inner voice really wanted. I do this for many things, but I schedule a lot of my time because otherwise I wouldn’t get any of it done. But for this week, I gave myself permission to do what my inner guidance needed. I read books IN THE MORNING and did restorative yoga. I didn’t totally go off grid during this time, but I did take a step back. Also, there was a lot of laundry.
Give Myself More Permission to Relax..Recognizing I Was Burned Out: It is summertime. People are going to the cottage and reading and relaxing on a dock. Every summer I’m like, I should do that, find someone who will let me hang out at their cottage for a week and read…But I don’t. Also, the idea of a reading vacation feels very indulgent (even if I kind of went a little overboard with my holds at the Toronto Public Library)–clearly I wanted to do some reading. So, I’m reading…a lot…and it is luxurious.
Here’s the truth. I was/am burned out. It has been an incredible number of months experiencing the joy and awesome of a first book. The gratitude of all that this has brought me, but there is also the stress involved in putting something out there and not having control over what happens next. There are also the myriad of emotions I’m still processing involved and the anxiety that comes from having this thing that I have created now out there. It is complex and I tried to put it in clear terms for myself, but it is murky and wonderful and terrifying and I needed/need time to honour this, too.
This meant taking a social media break, which is a bit more difficult for me because I do this for a few organizations, but I stepped back and gave myself a specific time for how much I would be on it during the day. And I’m going to continue to do this for the rest of the summer and then observe how to integrate this practice into my daily life once fall comes.
What’s happened is that I’ve been able to do work again, slowly and methodically. I started to re-enter a work-in-progress that hasn’t been very successful and has turned into quite a large revision that is going to take time to work through. And while a part of me was on this timeline, I also need to allow this process to unfold.
Be Okay With What Did Happen: I had big creative plans for the summer. I had an opportunity to use the four months to finish a number of projects, including querying and finding the next contract. But I do this thing, I over plan myself (see overachievy note above). A friend of mine always counsels that maybe I’ve given myself too much. She’s right, but there is that thing about giving something to a busy person, but also I want to put the pressure on myself to get it done. Yet, then there is the appropriately setting oneself up for success. And be in reality. But I have a timeline…this timeline, well…has its own timeline.
Fact: I just had a book come out and there are a lot of things–wonderful things–I hadn’t anticipated that took up time to do, like promote the book.
Fact: Birthing a book and moving into a new house at the same time can take a lot out of a person and getting back into the creative centre can take time.
Fact: Sometimes things take longer to create than one anticipates, and that is okay!
Fact: I accomplished a lot this summer. Traveling, doing the talks and readings and meeting people gave me the framework for what is now my author talks and writing workshops. I learned a lot about what kind of author presentation I’m going to give. It grounded me in this new part of myself. I’ll be updating this part of of my website shortly, so stay tuned.
Fact: I completed writing projects, just not all of them … and that is okay. I’ll be also writing about the process of setting up my office in a future post, but for now it is safe to say that I had difficulty focusing for about six weeks. I wrote, but the words were weak. What was more, I had two essays due for two different collections and one of those essays required a major revision with new research. With some support of my community and recalibrating, I submitted both essays by the middle of July. And these blog posts are part of that success as well.
Fact: Success doesn’t always look the way we think it will but that doesn’t mean it isn’t successful.
Like the self-care I did while I was on the road, I’m reminded (again) of the importance of nurturing myself all of the time. This means that I take a break to do yoga every day for 20 minutes and make myself eat lunch. It means that I can stop working at five and read–like I did yesterday and it was lovely. It means, that today when I take myself on a walk on my way to the spa for some beauty self care, I can listen to a podcast on Eleanor of Aquitaine, tapping into the things I love about women and history and why I do what I do.
Fact: Sometimes one just needs to surrender.