Stepping Off the Treadmill

lazy[1]Plenty of writers face burnout, but these days mine centers around real-life family issues which culminated in July when I learned that my mother has a cancerous tumor on her pancreas. We learned this four days before we’d arranged (after much cleaning, sorting, and recycling) to move her into assisted living for her deteriorating dementia issues.

Compounding the challenges was the state of the apartment building she’s living in. The woodframe building’s exterior was being replaced when the contractors discovered major rot inside, resulting in more work and special levy fees for condo owners.

My sister, Val, and I dealt with all of this and were doing okay until Val had a bad fall last month and broke her left kneecap into several pieces. A two-hour long surgery occurred the same day and her knee’s been put back together with wire and screws. She’s currently in an enormous leg brace and will need help around the house and to get to physiotherapy, and so forth.

Combined with my day job and the facilitating I do for a writers’ group on Saturday mornings, I’m feeling a tad worn out. I’d already spent many months going out to my mother’s home to shop, cook, and clean on weekends because she was no longer capable. So, with the support and understanding of terrific work colleagues, I’ve just begun a four-month leave of absence from the day job. As you can imagine, it won’t be all fun or relaxation, but it’s a start at the slowing down process I feel is necessary for my physical and mental well-being.

I had one day to train my replacement. After that I went home, and had a nap, exhausted. I’ve been napping a lot lately. As writers and family members, we need to recognize when it’s time to step off the busy-life treadmill we’ve inadvertently hopped onto.

I’m grateful that I’m able to do this. I’m hoping to write and read a little more, as they are calming distractions from real-life challenges. Besides, it’s what I do. And I know I’ll sleep more, and visit my mother and sister more often, and take care of what needs to be taken care of. It feels somewhat surreal to end the year this way (I won’t be back at work till mid-Feb.) but it feels right. I don’t know if four months is too long or not long enough, but time will tell.

Compartmentalizing My Life

mujerdetective-841x1024[1]I have a part-time secretarial job at a university. I’ve worked in a couple of different departments over the past five years, yet only a handful of colleagues from each department know that I’m a mystery writer who spends her free time plotting crimes and coming up with intriguing ways to kill people. You can see why I don’t advertise this fact, right?

Marketing-savvy folks will likely be aghast at my reluctance to discuss my books, and tell me that I’m throwing away plenty of selling opportunities. But the truth is I simply don’t feel that comfortable talking about writing while I’m being paid to do other things. And when you only work four hours a day, you don’t get lunch breaks to sit and chat.

 

Occasionally, on quiet days, someone will ask me a few questions, and I’ll answer them, but I don’t encourage these types of conversations. This week, a colleague asked to purchase a couple of books for birthday presents. While I certainly obliged, I handed the books discreetly to her while no one else was around.

Everybody has a private life and personal challenges, or hobbies…important parts of their lives that they don’t spend much time, if any, yakking about at the office. It seems only natural to compartmentalize our lives. There’s a time and place for each of those boxes to be opened and explored. I’ve learned to pick and choose my times wisely.