When I climb (and let’s be honest, I haven’t been doing much of that lately), I’m always slightly petrified by the mere possibility of falling. Even though I’m strapped in to a harness with several well designed safety features, I am terrified of plummeting down toward the floor and my untimely death. I’m hardwired to fear and avoid any source of physical harm. I know that the much more likely result isn’t pleasant either. The second I lose my grip and connection to the wall, I will be thrown quite violently into the wall. I’ll bruise.
I’ve been working a lot toward getting over this fear. I’v'e been telling myself that I need to let it go and focus on the goal. The bruises are part of the process. Falling is part of the process. Brian constantly reminds me that the fun of climbing isn’t about getting every climb on the first try but on committing to putting time and effort into working on a “problem.” I think that this philosophy is a great guidance for both climbing and life. And yet, accepting the idea that falling and yes, failing, is part of the process is difficult.
So my confession is that I have fallen. And falling hurts. I had so many goals and projects for myself at the start of the year that I burned myself out almost immediately. And all the to do lists and post it noes I bough to help organize the madness didn’t help. I got distracted and the work piled up around me. And then I caught a nasty cold and now I’m wading through my failures.
But I can’t look at a couple of weeks of backlogged work as a defeat. Yes, I fell off track. I have gone weeks without exercising. I fell behind on grading. I didn’t have any boot camp perfect days at the Happiness Project. I gave in to a lot of really bad junk food. Oh, and I think at one very low point I binge watched some TV marathons instead of reading, writing, or grading. Sometimes failure has the opposite effect. Instead of bruising and moving forward, I find myself turning into a pessimistic defeatist.
Somewhere in all this mess I decided to refocus my energies with my One Little Word Project. My word for 2014 seems to fit perfectly into everything that I haven’t been over the last couple of weeks. Vigor is the word I chose to guide my 2014. I want to live more vigorously? So what does this mean to me? Well, being vigorous is: physical strength and good health; effort; energy; enthusiasm; activity; and healthy growth. These are many of the ideas that have motivated my happiness project. I’ve whittled them down to a short little mantra to guide me: Be lively. Be awake. Be present. I have been scrapbooking and journaling my way into getting to know and understand the word better.
And in doing those reflections, I came to a bit of an epiphany. Living vigorously means falling vigorously every now and then. I immediately remembered the gnarly cycling accident I had last summer. I remember feeling vigorous as I crashed into the fence. My injuries screamed BADASS. And you know what? I got back up and rode my bike back home. I went on a run the next day. I got back up with vigor. And that is exactly what I need to do now. Yes, the problem is going to be a bit more difficult to navigate now that I’ve been bruised and broken a bit, but that doesn’t mean I have to get back up. Instead, I can work a little hard, think a bit more creatively and find a way out of my productivity spunk. March is here and I find the beginning of a new month to be an awesome opportunity to wipe the slate clear and set a new focus for myself.
And the really good news is that this month’s happiness focus is FUN! More on that later ….
Today I am so excited to host a guest post prepared by Kate Scott. Kate very graciously wrote the following about how she approaches a balanced creative life! I love the insight the she shares here!
Why I Love Not Writing By Kate Scott
Living a balanced creative life is very important, and something that I, like Justice Jennifer, constantly strive for. The biggest writing tip I can give to aspiring authors is to not write. I’m not saying you shouldn’t write ever. But finding a balance is crucial, and the time spent not writing can be more important to the creative process than the time spent actively writing.
Writers often pull from personal experience, even speculative fiction writers. If you don’t spend time with real people, how can you create believable characters? If you don’t experience a life of your own, how will you ever create a fictitious one for somebody else? Living a full and active life is a key piece of the writing process.
Personally, I sort of hate writing. I know that is a horrible thing for an author to say, especially the week before her debut novel is released, but it’s the truth. I have a very short attention span and get bored easily, but this is also why I write. Most of the time, real life isn’t enough for me. I have to invent fiction simply to keep myself entertained.
However, my most rewarding life experiences have occurred when the real world was enough to captivate all of my attention. Big moments like falling in love and traveling the globe, as well as small moments like talking until dawn with a close friend, have put the fiction on pause and forced me to notice reality. Those were the times I set down my pen and paper (or laptop) and focused solely on living my life. I’ve gone for stretches of several months without feeling any compulsion to write at all.
Those periods of contentment never last forever, though. When reality settles down, I find myself restless. So I daydream. Characters come to life in my mind, and I give them words. Before I know it, every free second of my day is dedicated to writing. When I’m truly writing, I write very fast. I wrote the first draft of Counting to D in about three weeks. I wrote eight chapters in one day. I write until I’m able to stop, and the second the
Some writers work on a set schedule and spend a set amount of time writing each day. I’ll never be one of those writers, and I don’t want to be. For me, balance isn’t about fitting each piece of my existence into each day. Rather, it’s about embracing each piece as it comes. voices in my mind quiet enough so I can go back to living the life I love, I do just that.
Counting to D is my debut novel, and I know it won’t be my last. I’m currently working on revising my sophomore novel, and I have several other ideas floating around in my head for later projects. But I hope they take time. Because I love not writing. I love living, and it’s hard to fully experience life when the majority of your mind is stuck in a fictitious world.The day I felt compelled to write eight chapters, I sacrificed reality and found the time to make that happen. On the days I go out, meet interesting people, and enjoy new experiences, I sacrifice writing time. I enjoy both days, but honestly, I enjoy the days I’m not writing a lot more.
Kate Scott’s YA novel Counting to D is out February 11th. A little bit of background about the book taken from GoodReads: “The kids at Sam’s school never knew if they should make fun of her for being too smart or too dumb. That’s what it means to be dyslexic, smart, and illiterate. Sam is sick of it. So when her mom gets a job in a faraway city, Sam decides not to tell anyone about her little illiteracy problem. Without her paradox of a reputation, she falls in with a new group of highly competitive friends who call themselves the Brain Trust. When she meets Nate, her charming valedictorian lab partner, she declares her new reality perfect. But in order to keep it that way, she has to keep her learning disability a secret. The books are stacked against her and so are the lies. Sam’s got to get the grades, get the guy, and get it straight—without being able to read.”
I find myself here again. Alone in a crowded room of people. Vulnerable.
At first glance, everyone is occupied. The brunette is hurriedly wiping down counters. The blonde boy is clearing off tables. The shy girl is taking inventory. Music is playing softly in the background. One couple is looking over a menu deciding what they want to order. I am awkwardly shifting my weight avoiding any form of eye contact.
I look down at my food and then look up to take another glance around the room. Are they all secretly judging me the way I am judging myself? Are they all taking stock their surroundings like I am? Do they notice me? Do I want them to notice me?
I have always hated eating alone. I don’t always mind loneliness but there is something about eating alone when you are in a public place like I am now that takes me out of my comfort zone.
I take a deep breath. The deliciously gold brown quesadilla on my plate seems to be calling out to me. My mouth waters slightly as I wonder how to dig into my meal without seeming overly eager. I don’t want to be that girl sitting alone in a public dwelling chowing down on her less than healthy meal like she has never eaten before. After all, a girl needs to consider appearances, right?
But why do I care so much about what these total strangers think of me? I look around again. Are they even thinking of me? Do I want them to think of me? I smile. I doubt that anyone is really quite as self conscious as I am.
And then I remember that most of these people are surrounded by some sort of comfort zone. I am not protected in this open space. I look over to my bag. I could pretend to busy myself with something in there. I could pretend that I have a zone of protection around my vulnerable bareness. I take out my iPad and open up to a book. I glance down at it as if I was reading something important.
I shift my weight again so that I’m sitting more upright. I tap at my iPad for a few moments and then decide to take the first bite of my dinner. I chew tentatively like my food is less interesting than whatever I’m reading on my iPad. This feels safer.
When life is difficult and I’m feeling stressed out, I know that I have this little guy to make me feel a million times better. Zuko had his first visit to the vet yesterday. The vet said that since Brian spends most of the day with Zuko that Zuko would likely imprint more on Brian than on me. Regardless of this I know that little Zuko loves me (just as much if not more than Brian!). He knows that I’m his momma. Every day when I come home he is overjoyed to see me (and looking forward to supper time!). And let me tell you this: that welcoming excitement makes a hard day’s work melt away.
Soft squeals take me away from my dreams. I was at a wedding. I think. The images are already starting to fade.
Zuko is squealing for my attention. I turn to glance at Brian hoping he will take care of this one. He is still fast asleep. The squeals pull at my heart as my body tenses. I want to rush out to comfort my new puppy. I don’t ever want him to feel sad or alone or scared. And yet I’m conflicted. I’m warm and comfortable in my bed. I have another solid hour of blissful sleep ahead of me. I don’t want to wake up. I close my eyes hoping that sleep will quickly take me away from my sad puppy.
But the squeals continue. I remain as quiet and still as possible. Breathe in; breathe out. I hope that maybe if I am still and quiet, Zuko will comfort himself and peacefully fall back asleep. I can then follow his lead.
This doesn’t happen.
The whining resumes and becomes more frantic. Although that is probably my imagination. I quietly crawl out of bed careful not to wake Brian. I glance at the blue books stacked on my bedside table. I should have finished grading these weeks ago. Should haves always seem to get me. I know what must be done. I’m good at creating lists of goals and tasks to help better organize myself. My trouble always comes from actually starting. The first step is the biggest hurdle. I have a constant struggle with beginnings. I hesitate before I leap. I hesitate for so long that I fall into a bad word: procrastination. I have given in to this monstrosity time and time again.
I pause. I hesitate. I wait. What am I waiting for? The right time. But any time can be the right time. And yet, when it comes to taking the first step, no time actually feels right.
I look down at my squealing puppy and smile. This is a new beginning for me. I’m a mother (of sorts). This little creature is my lifelong companion. He depends on me. I let him out of his kennel and together we walk outside. Just as I expected, I’m hit with a shock at how chilly and dark the early morning is. I wait for Zuko to take care of his business. He obliges and follows me back into our house. He eagerly follows me around as I begin to turn on lights and start a pot of coffee.
This morning routine is still new to me. I smile as I realize that I’m beginning a new day. This day is full of potential and opportunity for me to get started on any number of tasks. At 4AM, I feel as if I could accomplish anything. And with that upbeat attitude, I start my day.