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Overall, I’ve had a rather stressful week and a half (for a taste of last week, see my latest post on The Writers of Ingleside). But last weekend was delightful. Daniel and I celebrated our anniversary late, and went to Winchester for the weekend, which included apple, peach, and blackberry picking, as well as a nice dinner at one of those places where they cook it in front of you, a night at a hotel, and a trip to a very unique winery (focus was on elderberry!). We didn’t even THINK about school. But, come Monday, along with all the normal work stresses, and I was just hit with an overwhelming tide of a sense of failure all over – every single thing I was stressed about and needed to do or hadn’t done just kept pummeling my brain over and over again. And, on top of that, my laptop stopped working on Friday (Saturday?).

So this week I have not been particularly happy, and this morning was the straw that broke the camel’s back. I opened my pantry door, and a broken shelf allowed a bottle of liquid Chlorophyll to drop out and splattered all over the dining room, partially into the living room, partially into the kitchen, and on top of me for good measure. Add to that a very limited amount of sleep, and the thoughts that had been bombarding me all week so far, and – let’s just say it was a very rough morning, and I had a very bad attitude all the way up until about . . .like half an hour ago, when God sent a devotional my way (designed as though it is a letter from God), that literally said, “When My people wear sour faces and walk through their lives with resigned rigidity, I am displeased. . . The more you focus on My Presence with you, the more fully you can enjoy life.”

So, I sat down, and I said, Okay, fine. but I don’t know what to do. The turmoil inside of me is too  great. What should I do? So, long story short(ish), He told me to make a list of literally everything that was stressing and worrying me. Once I had completed that, He told me to write next to it what the lie was behind that stress. That in itself was enlightening. Then He told me to write the truth next to the lie. It was actually a pretty incredible exercise, and by the time I finished, all the turmoil inside of me was gone, and I feel – almost peaceful. So, I am sharing my (extremely long) list below for anyone who cares to see. Don’t feel like you need to read it. It’s just an example of how many lies I was allowing to affect my attitude and my days, and I wasn’t even aware of it. (You may notice a theme. Hint: Failure. I guess that’s an Enneagram 1 for you.)

Stress List Lies I am telling myself Truth
My knee still hurts/creaking God cannot/will not heal me He can heal me, and even if He chooses not to in this lifetime, it will not negatively impact my life unless I let it. In addition, I can do more to assist the healing process by doing the exercises I am supposed to.
Elbow still hurts/fingers going numb God cannot/will not heal me He can heal me, and even if He chooses not to in this lifetime, it will not negatively impact my life unless I let it. In addition, I can do more to assist the healing process by doing the exercises I am supposed to.
Ongoing cold sore/canker sore They will never go away They will be gone within a week, and are just a temporary sign of too much stress and not enough sleep
Writing my final paper for class I cannot do it It will be hard work, but I can and will do it, and I know I can write on time. It just takes discipline.
Visiting friends They will not like me We will not cease being friends even if I am boring
Three briefings at end of month I will do a bad job I know metrics no one else does, which is why they ask for briefings. I will provide value, even if I stumble over my words.
My house is a wreck I am a failure as a housekeeper/wife The house was clean on Monday, and other priorities prevented me from cleaning it yesterday, but it will only take about a half hour to clean again when I am able to make it a priority.
Haven’t lost weight in a long time I am a failure at discipline I have worked out on a regular basis for over a month and even if I could decrease my calories, being healthy is better. In addition, saving time to dedicate to school has to take priority right now, which may mean less healthy foods for a time. I have chosen to be disciplined in working out right now instead of food.
Haven’t been writing lately I am a failure as a writer Taking a week off of writing does not mean I am not a writer. It means I had other priorities. And also it means my laptop has been broken.
Haven’t written or submitted short story to contest I’ve known about for months I cannot write a short story worthy of submission If my short story is not accepted, that does not mean I am a bad writer; trying is better than assuming failure.
Haven’t made a chiropractor appointment I am a failure at scheduling Other things have been a priority, like spending the weekend with my husband, a night with friends, and catching up on work after being on a business trip. It has only been a week since I cancelled my last appointment. Waiting a week or so to reschedule is perfectly normal.
Don’t have enough PTO for all my days off There are too many expectations placed on me I have chosen to take that much PTO and it is my responsibility to make sure I am able to meet both work and personal commitments. In addition, my work is usually willing to work with me, and will allow me to go negative if necessary. I should allow myself to look forward to the PTO instead of stressing over it.
Work phone is not working properly I must have my work phone to work properly I am using it as an excuse not to work more efficiently. My mobile work phone is just as usable.
Doing this week’s forum post I can’t do that and the paper too The forum post takes one night of concentrated effort. If that screws up my ability to write a paper, then I have bigger issues.
Didn’t get to go to county fair I never have time for fun stuff because of school I just had an amazing weekend away, have great weekends planned ahead, and giving up ONE SINGLE THING I wanted to do in order to work on my Master’s degree is probably worth the sacrifice.
Need to bake with fruit before it goes bad I don’t have time to do everything I need to do. I need to establish my priorities. Baking will take one night or part of a day on a weekend. Not worth stressing about. On the contrary, it will likely be a nice break from school
Responding to friends, esp. friends’ requests I am a bad friend I need to establish priorities. Friends understand when I am on travel and doing school, and if I cannot meet requests, all I need to do is let them know I haven’t forgotten and choose which day it should be a priority.
Never enough time for devotions/prayer time I am a failure as Christian I just need to establish my priorities. I have not made it a priority because I think God will understand if I push Him off in favor of things like school. I need to reassess my attitude.
Never enough time to read writing books and/or do writing exercises I am a failure as a writer Right now may not be the best time in my life to do writing books and writing exercises. I have chosen to do a master’s course, therefore it is a higher priority. It is likely more important to do actual writing than to read about it at this point. I can still be a writer without reading books about it.
Spending money wisely I am not being disciplined enough because I am spending a lot of money this fall on fun things As long as I am not overspending my income, God does not mind if I use some of the money He’s given me to do fun things with my friends or my husband.
Disorganized desk I am a failure on an individual level I do not use my desk on a regular basis and therefore it does not need to be organized at all times.
Disorganized in general in all of life I am a failure as a person I have competing priorities right now, and need to take time to pray over them to determine which should be higher priority. Having to work through that is perfectly normal and does not mean I have failed.

 

Character Issues

Over the last week, I’ve been far more faithful than I have in awhile to work on my book. As anyone who has been reading this for longer than a few months knows, I’ve been [painfully] trying to edit my sappy romance novel (it’s technically named God’s Masterpiece – but I don’t think I like it. It doesn’t work. I’ve rarely had so much trouble with a title before).

I really do think this revision will make it better – and by re-writing that one scene by hand and then transcribing it BACK to the word document, I’ve rewritten it like three times – but even now as I am typing it back in (and consequently editing it again), I keep thinking it isn’t right. But then, isn’t that what all writers think? It will never be ready?

You know, I am probably the person that is actually true for, unlike others. 😛

But, as I mentioned very, very briefly in a recent tweet – here’s my current issue: So, Josie is supposed to be quiet and shy and pretty awkward until someone gets to know her (yes, basically exactly like me). But at the same time, she is more confident when she is on her own turf (a.k.a., her home) – and i know this is accurate, because it is exactly how I am. But when trying to translate that to a book, I feel like it comes out, 1. like she is inconsistent character-wise and 2. Like she is annoyingly awkward and can’t stop blushing, which no one likes to read about.

So, that is what I’m trying to work through right now. How to make a heroine that is awkward, without being annoying and still at least a little endearing, shy and uncomfortable, but able to hold her own especially on her own turf, caring, but still gets impatient with her very sick mother (who, by the way is a conundrum herself, since she has cancer, is weak and sick, yet never stops talking and nags part of the time and is loving the other part of the time).

Characters. They drive me up a wall sometimes. Kind of like real people. In which case, maybe it’s okay?

And – that’s my ramble for today.

Writing_Problems_from_Writers_Write

I know it’s been awhile. But a lot has been happening. Allow me to update you (because I know you are all completely fascinated by my life).

  1. I got to spend a WHOLE FIVE DAYS with my Gibson Girl friends! We weren’t all always there at the same time, but for the most part we got to catch up on a lot, and it was so much fun. We watched movies, and read books, and went for walks, and talked or didn’t talk as we pleased, and did nails, and in general just got girl time in, which was sooo overdue. Speaking of which, we also all decided it was time to run a joint blog with random life updates, so feel free to head over to inglesidewriters.home.blog – come on, you know you want to listen to a bunch of girls ramble about their lives!! For you Anne of Green Gable lovers, yes we stole Ingleside from Anne.
  2. I FINALLY signed up for another course for my master’s degree. After the one last August, Daniel and I basically had PTSD, and it took us this long (and the holidays) to determine we were ready to give it another go. Okay, AND I switched jobs, so we were also waiting for my benefits to fully kick in so they would pay for it. Which is reasonable. While still keeping us fairly tied up, we are enjoying this one a lot more – it is on Strategic Intelligence, was which our major in college, so needless to say, it is far more interesting than the research one last time.
  3. I went to MY FIRST REAL WRITER’S CONFERENCE! And when I say my first real one, I mean I did go to the sort-of one a couple years ago, but this one was actually focused completely and absolutely on improving your writing and submitting to a publisher. Since my lunch break is about up, I’ll leave you with the quote that most impressed me from Chuck Sambuchino about writing every day: “You need to stop doing something you like, so that you can do something you love.”

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(http://www.hannahbraime.com/create-daily-writing-habit/)

As already stated, I think the main culprits for lack of time/busyness/overwhelm is mostly phone addiction and trying to live up to certain expectations. So why don’t I just – you know – put my phone down more, and do less stuff?

Well, I’m going to go back to something that more than one person has put forward as a theory, and is a little controversial – I think because it hurts feelings – but I think goes down to the heart of the issue, at least for me. The proposed theory is that, ultimately, we are all too busy because we need to look important. And I rolled my eyes at that at first. But the more times I heard it, the more it niggled at me (YES, that’s a real word!). So many things I do – hobbies, keeping up with people, trying to know what’s on the news 24/7 – there is no doubt a lot of that does have to do with actual desire to know and enjoyment – but – I began to realize a lot of it actually is based on the desire to shape others’ perception of me – kind of like my perfection issue I posted about a while back.

I had a moment just the other night where the statements I just made in the previous paragraph came to life. I was out shopping with a friend – she had been in a wedding the weekend before, and I had been invited to the wedding, but declined. Now, I feel my decline was legitimate – I’d been to two different states in just the previous week and a half and this would have involved a third, and it was one of the first weekends yet this year where I wasn’t preparing for visitors or something – but I still felt kind of bad for declining because, technically, I could have done it. I would just have had to postpone my dentist appointment and be willing to pay for a hotel – it was a drivable distance, so no flight.

So, as I explained again, probably needlessly, to my friend why I hadn’t gone, I found myself struggling to come up with verbiage to sound busy. I had an appointment, plus a church thing the night before – it was just all so busy. Yup, literally the words I used. And as I spoke them, I realized exactly what I was doing. I was using the word busy to make it seem like I just had so much going on I couldn’t handle another thing, when in actuality, I just needed a break. And yes, I did end up having a lot going on that day – I went to my appointment, then we met a couple for lunch, and went shopping for my wardrobe refresh, plus church on Sunday, and more shopping – I got home pretty late both nights – so it isn’t like I was sitting at home. But you know what? All those things I did? They were my choice. I had chosen to do those things instead of 1. Go to the wedding and 2. Stay home and rest. It wasn’t that I was “too busy” to go – it was that I had chosen to do other things instead.

And, it further occurred to me that it was both dishonest and self-focusing to boil it down to “It is just so busy.” Yes, I had all those epiphanies in a matter of a few awkward seconds of quiet. So, I corrected myself. “I take it back – it wasn’t busy. It was just pure laziness – I didn’t feel like going.” And you know what? She didn’t yell at me, and I don’t think she even judged me. And I felt like I was actually being honest not just with her, but with myself. It felt like a major breakthrough to be able to verbally say I wasn’t busy – I had just chosen to do something else. I also immediately started judging myself for being too lazy and thinking of all the different things I should have, could have, would have. But you know – I think that was actually really important – for me to realize in my journey toward not feeling so “busy” that what I chose that weekend was actually a choice and I was out doing things of my choice that, yes, involved me being out all day – but wasn’t just busy for the sake of busy. I don’t know – I feel like I’m not explaining this super well.

I guess what I think I’m trying to get at is – due to social media, work, and perfectionism, I expect a lot from myself, I want to prove myself to both myself and others, and I fear others’ opinions. I get overwhelmed and busy because I am always trying to live up to those expectations and because I feel like there is a modern expectation to be busy – have you spoken to anyone in the last decade who didn’t respond with “busy” when asked how they were? – which I think is fueled both by the desire to hold up to unrealistic standards and so I don’t feel less important than someone else who is talking about everything they are doing. I add to my own business by constantly trying to get the best deals and therefore heaping “shadow work” on myself, and try to combat all the constant pressure and decision fatigue by mindlessly scrolling through my phone so I don’t have to think about it too deeply – which, ironically, also adds to my own perception of being too busy.

If I want to redeem my own time I think I need to reshape the way I think and act. So, here are my goals (because you all know I am a list person):

  1. Be willing to be second best at work – do my best as a Christian without having to be the person people always come to for help (because, yes, I do struggle with that desire)
  2. Be willing to accept “good enough” decisions on things like travel, and online shopping, and things like that so I don’t spend hours researching those things and become exhausted making all those decisions.
  3. Be willing to miss out on some things – don’t constantly check my phone, e-mail, or social media for missed calls, texts, posts, updated news, and other things that eat away at my time, energy, and self-confidence.
  4. Purposefully take time away from my phone and other electronics to pursue my old loves (reading, writing, etc.). Set the phone down when with friends and family – including when watching movies with them.
  5. Stop myself from saying the word “busy” and instead recount what I am actually doing with my life when asked to acknowledge that the things I am doing are my choices and not the choice of some mythical “busy” being.

I have high hopes for the future, guys! Thanks for listening while I talk through all my issues, and please pray for me as I work to redeem my time.

redeem-the-time-post

And then there are our phones. Oh, our phones. Those blessed, cursed, brilliant, soul-sucking devices. This little piece of plastic that stays near you at all times is, I feel, really at the bottom of all that I wrote before, and all I continue to write, and all the articles in the world that address being too busy.

So here is the thing that all my reading both told me and made me realize (after telling me multiple times). Phones keep us connected to work, meaning we are technically available 24/7 and occasionally peeking at it to make sure we aren’t missing anything “important”. They keep flashing news at us, keeping us constantly updated on the state of the world. And they connect us to social media. Which, I have been told and learn more and more, is a great way to keep up with family and friends on our own time, in our own way, without actually connecting with them. Not to mention all the pressure I wrote about in the last post.

As said in the shadow article, “And while we were formerly forced to largely work during regular work hours and shop during regular business hours, technology allows us to produce and consume 24/7. We never fully clock out from our “real” jobs, nor do we ever fully take a break from the marketplace. Even when we’re not actively engaging in shadow work, in the back of our mind there’s that ever-present niggling: Is there something I need to buy? Is there something going on I should know about? Should I check my phone? We’re always “on” and constantly mentally switching between roles.”

So, I recently spent a day away from my phone. A full 24+ hours. The number of times I reached for it was insane. The previous note was so true on constantly switching roles, constantly deciding whether to do something with my phone, stopping myself from doing it – it is exhausting and energy-draining.

But the life and energy I felt when I suddenly had so much more time in the afternoon and, even with the desire to check my phone, the pressure to check it being gone? It was almost exhilarating.

Hannah Brencher, author of Come Matter Here had an enlightening series of blog posts about social media burnout and phone addiction. And her article really got me thinking. She said, basically, you have burnout if you have the following symptoms:

  1. You’re constantly checking your phone (There is nothing more enlightening on this point than taking a day away from your phone – believe me. I just did it, as I mentioned)
  2.  You are avoiding your feelings (remember the comment I made about curling up on the couch avoiding what I thought I should be doing? Also goes for when I’m frustrated, or stressed, or don’t want to make a decision, or anything else.)
  3. You are not loving what you used to love (this point really spoke to me – you should read her description of it)
  4. You aren’t present anymore (You know all those friends who scroll through their phones while you are watching a movie “together”? Oh, wait – maybe that’s me . . .)
  5. You just don’t care as much (So true. I am starting to roll my eyes at all the “causes” out there. I don’t even want a cause anymore because I am always exposed to so much stuff on the internet that I can’t handle it anymore)
  6. You’re worshipping the pressure to be more (I already talked about this a lot previously).

So, the result of all this is – I’ve decided that my phone is the biggest culprit of my overwhelmed feelings, my lack of motivation, my loss of direction in life, and the feeling I will never be enough. Therefore, I’ve decided one day off my phone wasn’t enough and I am going to make it a goal to do phone-free-Fridays. I am going to try to take every Friday off my phone – and I know that isn’t realistic and won’t always be the case. But even if I take two Fridays a month, I think my life will be better.

lynch-get-your-life-back-ss-mobile-phones-work-life-balance-15085923 (2)

I debated between calling this Social Media Overload or the expectations one. I actually was going to make it two posts, and almost did, but the two are so closely connected, I decided it was too hard to keep them separate. Besides, I’m sure you are hoping I stop rambling at SOME point.

We all know that little ding on our phones. The one that says we got a new Facebook or Instagram notification, a text, or – what else does everyone use? Snapchat, that’s right.

And then there is this thing call FOMO. I have it pretty badly. It stands for Fear of Missing Out, in case you are lucky enough not to know what it is.  Every place I look there is social media bombarding me with all the things I might be missing out on.

I look at all these feeds, scroll through them, watch people’s lives via the version they present, hear so many opinions that half the time I don’t know what to think or believe anymore, and essentially get information overload on other people’s lives along with news.

Here’s the thing my brain technically knows, but it is hard to truly understand. Photographs are supposed to capture a moment. But they don’t. They capture an ideal. Families pose for photographs. Scenery is only captured when it is beautiful, not when it is ugly (unless we are going for the dramatic if a natural disaster has happened). Friends capture photos when they are having fun together. We take pictures of food successes, not disasters. Of houses after we get them clean, not of us sitting on the couch procrastinating beforehand.

I read blogs, see photos, look at news, watch movies, and think “I want that.” I want the perfect house, I want to be the perfect mom, I want to be able to crochet like that, I want to learn all the martial arts, I want to have a perfect answer when something political is discussed, I want to make sure my kids aren’t under socialized or don’t miss out on an opportunity, I need to go out with my friends like that. I should host a party too – everyone else does!

Basically, my standards are too high. And anyone who actually knows me is dropping their jaw right now because I am the queen of there-are-no-standards-too-high. But I am taking all the information overload that we get from the conveniences of today and applying them to myself.

I may no longer fully adhere to the ideal worker, technically, but I take those standards and apply them to myself in my personal life and standards.

One thing this research explained was even though it feels like I should be able to have it all, there is one finite resource – and that is time. I literally cannot fit in exercising, work, devotions and prayer, cleaning, cooking, master classes, writing, taking one or more of the numerous other classes I want to (dancing, martial arts, rock climbing, etc.), and still have leisure time and get enough sleep that I don’t feel exhausted in a single day. Oh, and don’t forget planning for the next social event! But all the information flying at me from social media and modern times tells me I should be able to. And believe me, I try. Until I get tired, and then I curl up on the sofa with my phone and scroll social media and play games while feeling guilty I am not currently working toward my lofty goals.

As Hannah Brencher says, “Social media will always try to convince you that you need to be more, do more, say more, care more— the list goes on and on. Because that’s the world we live in now. We no longer compare ourselves to the kids in class or the group of moms we meet up with on Tuesdays. We can compare ourselves to people everywhere at all times of the day. It never ends. And it will never be “enough” because someone will always have more, do more, be more, care more, and say more than you. It’s a never-ending battle.”

I think the best thing to do for the whole social media overload/expectations (although more on that later), is to disconnect from it. It took far more resolve than I can possibly admit, but I deleted my Facebook app several months ago and I’m pretty sure my content/happiness level went up by like 30 percent. I don’t possess the capacity to delete my Facebook account altogether because I need to be able to go look occasionally or post every now and then, and, really, how else will I know what my family is up to? All excuses, I know. But I still only visit it now when it is a purposeful move. When I actually want to check for something or post a specific status and I find myself on it usually no more than once or twice a week. And if I start scrolling through the feed instead of keeping it to what I went on for, I instantly feel my anxiety level rising.

I hear constantly that social media isn’t real – but it’s hard to actually register that. So I’m trying to work on removing it almost altogether. The other thing I did, was stop Instagram notifications. So, even though I still look at it every day, usually every time I pick up my phone, in fact, at least I do not automatically grab my phone if something happens, because I don’t know that it happened.

I’ll go more into it in the next post, but I realized more than ever that even with those corrections, social media and my phone still takes a lot of my time away from me. But more than that, my expectations both of myself and what I think others expect me to be take so very much of my energy and resources instead of me being able to spend it on what I actually want in life.

P.S. I just ran across this excellent post that’s so much more interesting than mine: http://thedirectiondiva.com/life-unplugged-the-reality-of-10-days-away-from-social-media-by-judy-davis-2/

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I thought this deserved its own section because it is such a unique concept. One of the other articles I read from the website (yes, you may laugh), The Art of Manliness, discussed the idea of shadow work (Shadow Work and the Rise of Middle-Class Serfdom). Essentially, what they say is that, with the advent of internet and transportation, we have taken on a lot of tasks normally reserved for other people, which ultimately increases our busyness. It used to be that someone else had to book travel stuff for you, but now we have the option to spend dozens of hours in research online trying to find the best deals.

We used to go to the doctor if we had something wrong with us – now we spend hours on the internet trying to search for a solution ourselves or make sure the doctor’s recommendation is the best one.

We used to read the newspaper in the morning and go to work, content we knew what was going on in the world. Now, if there is breaking news and someone mentions it to you within five minutes and you haven’t heard of it, then you are not only behind the times, you might not be doing your job well (especially as an analyst). It’s called information overload, which I will probably mention again.

“Rather than experiencing long, unbroken stretches of time in which we concentrate on completing tasks for a single role in our lives, we are constantly changing the hats we wear — toggling from husband to cashier, office worker to news editor, father to travel agent.”

Anyway, it’s not necessarily bad that we do all these things – it is just another choice we have made on how we are spending our time, is how it was explained.

It also leads to what is called decision fatigue. According to more than one article I came across, as humans we can only make so many decisions before we become too tired to choose anymore, which then leads to us choosing instead to watch tv or spend time on our phones – mindless activities.

In other words, one reason we become exhausted is because every day, every hour, we are making decisions about what we want to do, how we want to do it, even things as mundane as whether we check our phones, what we might be forgetting to do, etc.

The authors in the article discussing this put it in a way that resonated with me:

I think it gets to the heart of why people feel overworked, worn out, and harried — why they just can’t be bothered to be civil or to socialize or to have hobbies, even though on paper they don’t seem to have that much going on. The stuff that’s eating away at their willpower aren’t the things you’d put in a planner, but the overlooked shadow work in the wings.

So, the question becomes, what to do about it? Well, the article has lots of suggestions, but I think some of the most useful and ones I’ve been slowly trying to implement are: Be ruthless in filtering information. Basically, don’t try to read everything, and don’t read crap. There is too much information to process.

And secondly – and perhaps what I think is most useful – is to be “satisficer rather than a maximizer” – in other words, when making decisions, don’t weigh every single option – speaking of things like buying things – pick the first thing you are happy with and assume you made the right decision. I’m terrible at that. I like measuring every single thing before I purchase and I sometimes spend hours on that. I really need to do better on that. It is probably one of the things that sucks away my time.

Hey, look at that – progress!

"I just went online for tips to help my cold, and now apparently I'm dying."