Self-Care and Refilling the Well

As 2015 draws to a close and 2016 appears on the horizon, I’ve started to think about things I need to do better over the next year. Not resolutions (because I *suck* at those) but small ways to make me a happier, more productive Jodie. And, in turn, make me a nicer person to be around.

This year, I’ve been a cranky, cranky woman.

Mostly, it’s sheer exhaustion. I’m trying to be everything to everybody— wife, mother to a learning-to-drive teen (OY!), care-giving daughter, employee, creative writer— and somewhere along the way I forgot I need to take care of myself, too.  And it shows, from me snapping answers to simple questions, to crying when I think no one is watching, to anxiety brain working overtime and sucking the joy out of life’s little pleasures.   And I have had quite enough of that.

For 2016, things need to change.

The day job part of this is hard to adjust, because it’s a big piece of putting food on the table and roof over our heads.  It’s not like I can just eliminate that line of stress. But I work with a great group of people and I need to stop feeling like I’m responsible for everything. I’m not, and no one expects me to be —no one but me, that is.  I printed out a few motivational (to me, LOL!) quotes for my 2016 work notebook…  “Not my circus, not my monkeys.” “Nope, not today.”  “Sorry, not sorry.”

As for my personal life, I need to tell my family when I need help. I need to stop assuming they know what I want / need, and just TELL them.  They’re not mind readers, and it’s not fair of me to assume they are.  And when they help by doing some of the things I normally do, I need stop thinking “I’d have done this differently.” So what if the dishwasher is only half-full, or if they bought one brand vs the other of something? In the grand scheme of things, what does it matter?

I also need to tell my husband “I need to spend an hour by myself.” Me time—I always make sure he gets it (he goes to the movies 99% of the time, for his) so why don’t I do the same for myself? (Rhetorical question —I know why!) But that time, out of the house and away from everyone, is just as important to my mental health as it is to his, and I need to stop cheating myself of it.

Probably the most difficult thing I have to deal with is caregiving. It’s been two straight years of chemo and treatments for a cancer that has no cure, but can be treated.  And while Mom’s doing well right now, there’s still treatment every week, and I never know if it’s going to be a bad one or an easy one.  To be quite honest, I’m still trying to figure out how to deal with all of this, so professional counseling (for me) is in the works.

What do all these things mean to me as a writer, and to you as a reader? Less books from me. I haven’t had a book out since 2013 (timed, not coincidentally, with my mother’s cancer diagnosis.)  The truth of the matter is that when I’ve worked all day (or, like last night, a full 24 hours) and done doctor runs and anything else that needs to happen, I’ve got nothing left for writing.  I try for fresh words, but it only stresses me out more when they won’t come. I do better on weekends, so this reduced writing time means writing is slow.

In 2016 I’m allowing myself to believe that’s okay.

I’ve also started finding other ways to fill the well of my creativity, because I really believe that if I can be creative in other ways, it will help me be more creative when it comes to writing—and as an added bonus, it will help me de-stress overall!  I’ve been doing some photography.  I’ve also done a few small sewing projects and I bought yarn to try my hand at knitting again. These things use my brain in a different way, giving it a chance to relax so the words will come on the weekends, when I need them to.

So this was a long-winded post, but I wanted to thank you for listening, and I also wanted to say that I appreciate everyone who asks me when I’ll have something new out. That is, surprisingly, not a stressful question. To me, that’s inspirational, and it’s one of those things I keep in my head when I get frustrated. They want more, I think. I have more. Maybe not today, but soon. Keep writing.  Thank you for wanting to read what I write!

What ways have you learned to cope with the stresses in your life? Anything you want to share about the small things that make a big difference?

Comment on the post for a chance to win an ePub or PDF copy of all four of my Bondage and Breakfast stories (now with bonus holiday story in PDF format).   I’ll have my highway-driving teen (EEP!) pull a name out of her Doctor Who hat on Saturday, December 19th, and I’ll respond here with the winner name (and also on Twitter and Facebook.)