Posts Tagged 'vacations'

Staycation

Resting: my sketch of our former Redbone, Bear,  asleep

Resting: my sketch of our former Redbone, Bear, asleep

My last post was titled in part,  “Take a Day Off…”

When I wrote it I didn’t realize I was actually going to continue to do it, but that’s what’s happened. Even though I mentioned that I thought the Lord was giving me a vacation — seeing as I’d turned the whole matter of me trying to write and failing, failing, failing, over to Him, and it seemed He was doing nothing, thus it must be a vacation — I guess I didn’t think it would continue to go on. After all, the usual times for a vacation are a week, maybe two. Not a month…

Surely, I thought even as I wrote that last post, I’d been “vacating” long enough  and it was time to get back to work.

Apparently not.  Because I still haven’t been able to get myself to work. I’ve continued to avoid the office and have spent a lot of time reading news and comment stuff on the internet, watching videos on making cards, actually making cards… and just doing the general things around the house and yard that are always there, and could easily take up all my time if I let them.

Internally, however, I continued to fight the whole vacation concept. Or at least to feel guilty about it, as I repeatedly questioned whether I was correctly applying what I’d been learning in Bible class. Maybe I was actually just deluding myself, thinking I could just throw everything out the window like this and and let God do it all. Wasn’t that a bit flakey? After all, as every “Professional writer” knows, if you want to write you must go into the office and force yourself to write. It takes self-discipline, and you must train yourself to do that.  It’s absurd to just “trust the Lord.”

I now think that is the voice of my flesh, which I’ve recently become more and more able to identify. More on this later, but for now though, the fact is, I had already done the “just use self-discipline” thing and it led nowhere.  The only thing left was that I trust the Lord to return the motivation to write, as well as the ideas and the direction the story is to take. Even though He’s taking MUCH longer than I think He should be taking.

Which, of course, means I have to trust Him even more to move me and, as I outlined above, it is very difficult for me to do that. I don’t want to rely on Him. I want to take control and get it done myself.  I have a plan, a timetable that I think is reasonable, and He’s not following it!

Well, yesterday I was doing a search on the Internet for “effects of too many things to do.”  (a subject some friends and I were discussing on Sunday). I didn’t find much on that, but in the course of the search, I did stumble upon an article called, “Recovering from Writer’s Burnout: Steps to Happier Writing.”

Here’s the first paragraph:

Many writers (and other creative people) hit that point eventually: they burn out. They feel tired. They can’t feel any interest in their work, and doing that work becomes harder and harder. “

That was and still is me. Feeling very tired. No interest in the work. I’ve mentioned it before. I kind of like what I’ve done so far, but I can’t think of the right place to go from here, and for some time now it’s all seemed dead. I don’t want to think about it.  When I try, I just confuse myself. Should it be this or that? I can’t decide. If I force the decision I can’t write… Or flip back to the alternative the next day when everything after the bit I’ve written goes blank.

I thought I’d already gone through the whole burnout thing. I thought I’d given myself a break. After all, it’s been six years since I finished The Enclave. Of course, that led right into the caregiving for my mother. And then dealing with her estate and all kinds of family changes — my son leaving home, settling in another state, and getting married, the arrival of our granddaughter… in addition to my own health issues …

All of those things, even the happy events, still intruded into the flow of my writing, sometimes for weeks at a time.  Does that sort of thing contribute to burnout as well? I”m not sure, but I can say from experience that after a while it gets frustrating… I couldn’t remember what I’d decided the last time I’d worked with the material, stuff that had seemed good before the interruption no longer seemed so good… I lost a sense of where I was going exactly…

The article continued in a second paragraph:

“I started to hit the burnout point last year with my freelance writing. Unfortunately, I missed some of the signs and so I continued taking contracts. Eventually I became almost completely burned out — unable to take interest in all but the lightest, most relaxing writing. That’s a terrible place to go if writing is what you’ve wanted to do all of your life.”

Not just wanted to do, but what you’ve actually done. I’ve been writing fiction for over forty years and the drive was always there. Now suddenly, it wasn’t. And since throughout most of that time I believed it was the Lord who was supplying the drive, the desire, the ideas, the guidance… then it must be that for some reason He was withholding it now, and not just something about me. In other words, I don’t think it’s actual “burn out” so much as me stressing out because God hasn’t come through in my time, and so I keep trying to get back in the game when it’s pretty clear He’s been telling me I need to wait.

The biggest reason I can think of for Him to remove the drive, desire and ideas, is to remind me that it really is Him doing it, and not me. Secondary reasons include forcing me to trust Him for all of it and teaching me to put aside the internal shrieking of my control freak sin nature in the process. He’s also making me take a deeper look at ways I’ve always looked at life and self and my work and finding they are not really in line with His ways… Plus, there’s been a huge upheaval and change of direction in how I’m coming to understand the spiritual life overall. And how can one write Christian allegory/analogies if one’s whole perspective on the Christian life is changing?

One of my friends reminded me of the blessedness of winter concept, when the trees are stripped of their leaves and stand bare and gray, seemingly dead. But inside God is doing a work and before long the new life of spring appears…  That He does the same with us.

I know she’s right, and  I think that is what’s happening to me. And part of that includes the fact that God really does want me to have a longer vacation than I think is appropriate.

Because in the above mentioned article, the very first suggestion of what to do for the “burned out” state is “Take a Vacation.”  🙂

Here’s what she has to say:

“There’s one thing that, above all, you should try to do for yourself when you start to burn out. If you can afford to, take a vacation. If you’re still finishing off a contract then take a vacation as soon as it’s over. Be lazy. Sit around the house and read thrillers, mysteries, or something equally pointless and fun. Watch movies. Take lots of walks in the sunshine. Relax. You need to be able to approach the rest of all this [ie, her other suggestions] feeling rested if at all possible.”

So, that’s pretty much what I’ve been doing, even if by default. I haven’t, however, yet allowed myself to read novels, thinking that would be too great a “time consumer”. But having read this, I decided that maybe I really should treat my vacation as a real vacation, so yesterday, I picked up one of the recent Brad Thor novels sitting on my shelf, Full Black, and am now halfway through it! 😀

Update:  I wrote this post in the afternoon, and barely got it done before time for live Bible Class from Lighthouse Bible Church in Florida where Pastor John got up and started talking this very thing!  That we keep thinking there’s something good about us that’s going to get the job done (be more loving, be more self-disciplined) when that’s part of the old self that was crucified on the Cross!  The words and phrases he used were almost direct answers to things I’d thought and wondered about in the course of not just writing the above post, but over many days. It was one of those times when I knew that God was talking directly to me, and reinforcing my conclusion.

Yes, the writing is to come from Him. No, I do not need to try to be “more self-disciplined.” Yes, it is right to wait for Him to lead, and I do know what that feels like. This very post, for example, I believe was the result of His leading and guiding and moving,  because until I started writing it, I wasn’t planning on writing anything at all. I don’t even really know why I accessed my blog in the first place, and initially all I did was check out some of the other blogs I follow. Then suddenly I found myself opening the new post window and the words were flowing.

Here’s a link to the message in case you’re interested. I thought it was pretty phenomenal even aside from the immediate personal connections:

The Activity of the Holy Spirit in the lives of Church Age believers, part 51

Traveling Again

I’ve been away from my office and desk and well, Arizona altogether for the last week. It’s been something of a milestone in that for the first time I also managed to put up some blog posts, even though I was away from my computer. (I’m from the Jurassic age and do not have a cell phone, let alone an ipad.)

Anyway, much thanks to my son and daughter-in-law for allowing me to post from their computer.

I haven’t yet uploaded the many pics I took while away, but will do so tomorrow and then figure out which I want to post. There are sooo many good ones to choose from.

Lily is walking now. Only three steps at a time, but all on her own. If she has someone to hold her hands she’ll walk all the way across the living room, dining room, into the kitchen and back again. Two little teeth showing. Big blue eyes. Bright, happy smile. Wrinkly nose… Cuter than ever.

DS and DDIL (that’s Flylady lingo for “Dear Son” and “Dear Daughter-in-Law”) were in the midst of moving from their previous location to a new larger place two lots up the street. Hubby and I (and Quigley) stayed in the older, smaller house and we all spent a lot of time walking back and forth (partly because the washer and dryer were still in the smaller house and they have lots of diapers to wash… plus that’s where the computer was! ) Hubby left on Monday, and I stayed an additional three days, then flew back this afternoon.

So, as I said. I’m tired. This pic from last winter expresses it perfectly:

Update: I’m Still Here

Well, back at the end of April I sure didn’t expect that I wouldn’t be posting for two weeks, but that’s what’s happened. In fact, I was all ready to continue on with more thoughts from Koontz’s book, and had even written a rough draft of a post, but somehow, when I went back to it again, it all fell apart. Suddenly it was no longer saying what I wanted, but wandering off on tangents that weren’t really illustrative of what I was trying to say… In fact, I’m not sure I knew what I was trying to say. All I know is I ended up cutting out three quarters of the words in the post, and found myself with pretty much nothing left.

Maybe that was appropriate and maybe not. My brain felt like mush and I knew I was tired. I’d seen the doctor that same Monday  and he confirmed about the tiredness, even thought I was still trying to do more than I should and that it would be at least two more weeks and maybe four before I felt 100% again.

So for the last two weeks, in addition to letting myself do whatever (which included obsessively making cards), I’ve been paying more attention to what made me tired and when.  Im also getting better at actually recognizing the tiredness, instead of misidentifying it as laziness, lack of self-discipline, feeling depressed or hopeless, feeling guilty and bad cause I wasn’t getting things done….  Some days I didn’t want to get out of bed at my usual time, so I didn’t.  I never stayed there longer than an hour more than usual, but it definitely helped.  I tried to get chores done, but didn’t push it. If I got tired and didn’t feel like doing any more, I didn’t.

I stopped pushing the daily walking, too, but did finally walk three miles around the park with my hubby — he handled Quigley — on May 5. It felt fine at the time, but the next day was Communion at church, which meant a longer service and food preps for the pot luck that were a bit more involved than my normal. When on Monday I had a major crash, unable to do anything but lie around, I knew why.  Tuesday was also pretty bad, but Wednesday I was mostly recovered went ahead and walked again, this time with Quigley and it went fine. I haven’t really had a huge crash since the 7th.

I also haven’t written much of anything. Not email, not blog posts, not the book, not even in my journals. I did watch a lot of TV– for me. I detest daytime TV, but in the evenings in addition to our regular shows, we’ve  plowed through the first season of  The Mentalist and are now almost halfway through the second. Still enjoying it a great deal.

Anyway, sometime in the last week a change began to occur. The messages in Bible class had already begun to change. Both the ones I’m listening to that are current and my fill-in’s from last summer: Pastor Farley talking about Spiritual Gifts in a way that made mine more clearly a “legitimate” spiritual gift than I’ve ever heard. He taught that each person’s gift is unique and even in similar categories of gifts, the way each manifests will be different and unique to the person having it. You can’t look at anyone else and copy them. It’s between you and God the Holy Spirit. That was strangely empowering for me. (I think mine’s exhortation/encouragement, carried out mostly through my writing.) (which may seem like a “Duh” to many people — certainly my close friends — but hey, nowhere in the Bible does it say “writing novels and blog posts” is a spiritual gift!  And I can use anything to psyche myself out.)

 He went on to say that whatever your gift is, you should jump into it with your full effort and focus, knowing God is going to empower you to do whatever it is HE has in mind. He’s already provided everything you need, so you have nothing to fear. Just go forward. 

For a few weeks now I’ve begun to think that maybe God has been giving me a vacation for the last six months or so. At first I thought it was me being bad. Then I moved into “He’s just shutting me down” which was credible because of everything that was happening. But now… with this latest episode coming to an end, I’ve more and more had the nudge that it’s really been a vacation, a time He’s let me do quite a bit of playing… 

And also the nudge that it’s time for that to come to end and for me to get back to being a novelist.

I told Him it better be Him doing it, because for months I haven’t been able to muster any interest, any words, or even any order with this project. I would go in and look at the work and there would be nothing. Just a sense of being utterly overwhelmed. No guidance, no direction, nothing. I really had little idea of where it was going. I’d stare at it, as I’ve recounted here, and then suddenly find myself doing something else. Reading the news, or blogs or watching card making videos, or making cards or… sitting in a chair watching the birds.

I have worked my way literally paragraph by paragraph  (as in one or two a day) through Chapter 5 and every day I’d go in and it would be hard to remember what I’d done the day before, or I’d be so sick of reading the same words and dealing with the same scene that I’d want to leave. But it wasn’t coherent yet so I tried to stay, but more often wandered off.

Suddenly, that’s stopped. I don’t know if what happened today is going to continue, but for now… I worked on Sky almost all day. I have not done that in a long, long time. I didn’t feel the weird aversion… in fact, if anything I feel aversion for the card stuff. Suddenly the power the card projects had to pull me away was not in operation — at least for today.

So. Is it the sea change I’m thinking it is? Time to go back to being a writer? A change being worked in me more than me working in myself? I don’t know.

Did I work more than I should have today, so that tomorrow I’ll be tired again, and not wanting to get out of bed, or flitting around from thing to thing? I don’t know. 

But today. My goodness. The book has come alive again. I feel like I made more progress today than I have in months. Which may or may not be true, but it feels good in any case.

So… we’ll see what tomorrow brings.

Back from SoCal

Navy jet 2croppedLast Thursday we left for our second “vacation” of the summer, this time to Southern California, first to see our son and his fiancee in San Diego then to all drive up to Long Beach to visit with my 88 year old stepmother.

Prior to leaving there were all manner of distractions and diversions, which impacted our ability to plan. One of those was that while in Utah we had all gotten spider bites. Mine was first to appear on the Sunday we left Moab, a three-inch diameter, very sharply edged swelling on my thigh, with a dime-sized red spot at the center. I put Vitamin E on it for a couple of days and it subsided.

Stu’s appeared two days later, same presentation except that his was on his calf and did not go away but got all red and began spreading up the side of his leg. He had to go to the dermatologist to get some steroid cream to put on it, which cleared it right up.

Meanwhile Quigley had all sorts of bumps, some of them about the diameter of quarters. One on the front of his left shoulder particularly stood out and on the Monday before we were to leave, I was examining it and realized it was matted hair which fell out as I touched it leaving a swelling that, while much smaller than mine, looked very much like it, complete with the red spot at the center. Fearing it might do as Stu’s had done, we called the vet on Wednesday and got Q in. No problem, and we could use the same steroid on him that Stu used. But it took up a lot of time.

Anyway, work responsibilities did not allow us to leave for San Diego until about 4:45pm Thursday. Then after about an hour on the road, Quigley acted like he HAD to get out of the car and go to the bathroom, but once we stopped he just walked around and smelled things. We encountered  two border patrol stops, one of which took about half an hour to get through. We also drove through a massive cloud of flying insects (termites?) that nearly occluded our windshield and coated our grill with smashed insect bodies. And, being unfamiliar with the route, we almost ran out of gas in the middle of nowhere some time after midnight.

But we made it, checked in to the hotel which took pets and crashed. The next day my son and his fiancee took us to breakfast, then to Coronado Island for a walk and finally to the dog beach there which is situated right at the beginning of the  Naval base’s air field. Two Navy jets (I think they’re F-18’s) came in to land just as we were arriving, coming over us super close. I was going bananas (I love military aircraft) and my son caught a couple of photos with his phone for me. (since we forgot the camera)

As for the dog beach, Quigley found a friend, ran and played in the surf and was even caught from behind by a wave that dropped completely over him. I was alarmed, but he emerged unphased, intent on catching up to  his new (female) friend who had not been caught by the wave and was still running up the beach.

It was a fun day. Here’s another picture of the jet, complete with vapor trails from its wingtips:

Navy jet 1cropped

Back From Utah

Q and MeLast Thursday we left for Moab, Utah to visit some of my husband’s relatives and celebrate his aunt’s 90th birthday. It was Quigley’s first road trip and he did splendidly!

We stayed in a condo in Moab, with a grassy area in the back were we could walk him around and that’s where this picture was taken.

We weren’t sure how well he’d travel and he was kind of restless at the beginning — we brought his crate but had it broken down for the trip up so he wasn’t confined. He got the idea pretty quickly.

Our first night we spent at a pet-friendly hotel in Flagstaff — his first time ever in any inside “home” but his own. He went around with his nose glued to the floor inch by inch. Made you wonder what was on it. 

Q down stairsNext day we drove through Monument Valley (pictures will come in subsequent posts) and on to Moab. The condo was wonderful. Almost too nice for our big dog and the fine, red dust/sand that got all over him every time he went for a walk or run anywhere not on the grass. (My husband took him every morning for several-mile runs). But it worked out fine.

It had stairs! Quigley’s first…Here’s a picture of him after  he’d learned to come down them in other than a controlled crash. He really liked the stairs and went up and down them on the slightest pretext.

Q checks vaseHe also had to check out the entire condo, all the floors, behind all the furniture, under the bed, in the bathrooms, in the closets… wherever he could fit and even where he couldn’t. He also checked out the vase on the mantle… Very carefully he jumped up and put his paws on the mantle to examine the object. He is such a hoot!

We were there for a couple of parties at different places as well as several sessions of visiting not too far away, so it worked out well for us to return regularly to the condo to let him out of the now-assembled crate we kept him in while we were away. We worried he might bay and fuss with us gone, but he didn’t. And we gave him lots of walks and time to just hang. He did really well —  though on our last day there (Sunday) he balked at getting in the crate when it came time for us to go to breakfast.

Fast food drive-thru windows were quite exciting for him. Why was this person suddenly hovering in the air before the driver’s window? With both windows open and food being handed over. The first time he nearly jumped out the window greeting the worker.  Then he decided he should bark.  But by the end he was handling it all with great aplomb. We were even able to eat our food in the car unmolested!

We spent the last night in the same hotel in Flagstaff we’d stayed in the first night and this time there were lots of dogs. We were in the room when one of them barked somewhere, also inside, and I heard a woman tell him “No!”  Whereupon Quigley had to bark and I told him  “No!”  The only other time he barked was when some women stopped in the hall outside to have a very loud conversation at midnight. Other than that, he was great.

Amazing. I kept marvelling at how well he did, given how hopeless it once seemed he’d ever be able to do anything like this.


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