The Strain of it All

Ooh crap! Now what?straw_and_camel

This seems to be the mantra of my family and of many people I know. Life just keeps piling it on. Everyone was so glad when 2016 ended only to realize that January of 2017 is tainted by association with December of 2016! It hasn’t ended or stopped, weird stuff, stressful stuff just keep happening.

For example: The weather. Snow is piled up everywhere and there seems to be no end in sight for the cold. The election, you all thought that was done but nooooo! The media and the government are still squabbling like children. People are still dying. My uncle passed away on January 2nd. There are school troubles, vehicle repair issues, kids are getting sick, unexpected bills are coming out of nowhere, home appliances are acting up.

The stresses just keep coming.

Your whole world seems like it is crushing you. Breathing is becoming harder. There seems to be a weight crushing your chest. Your head seems like it going to explode. You want to cry, or drink, or cry and drink. You can’t talk yourself into getting out of bed in the morning but you have to. You just want a hug and there is no one there to hug you.

The strain seems enormous and when you finally get the willpower to look up…here comes something else to be dumped on you. Eventually you will break.  The strain of it all will get you.

But don’t worry, there is hope.

It is all about how you look at it.

The definition of strain…

Strain  /strān/

verb

  1. force (a part of one’s body or oneself) to make a strenuous or unusually great effort.
  2. to pour (a mainly liquid substance) through a porous or perforated device or material in order to separate out any solid matter.

Noun

  1. a force tending to pull or stretch something to an extreme or damaging degree.
  2. a severe or excessive demand on the strength, resources, or abilities of someone or something.

If you look at your life from a passive point of view then you are letting strain be a noun. The strain of stress becomes a thing that is extreme and damaging. The same thing will happen if you take a passive view of your stress. The longer you sit and watch the tide of overwhelming events coming for you the worse you’ll feel. It is damaging and extreme. Even mountains will wear away when water hits it often enough.

However if you think of strain as a verb, an action word, things take on a different look.  The first definition states that strain is the use of great force and effort. Well believe me, the effort to fight the tide of stress takes a butt load of effort. Sometimes more than we have. That is why we must seek help. You don’t have to do it all alone. Talk to someone, friends, family, helplines, it doesn’t matter. Someone will help you. You never know when someone will have the answer to your problems that you didn’t think of.  The hard part is asking. Sometimes it is enough to just talk.

The second definition is even more important. And you are saying, “What? How is sifting through something related to stress?” Well guess what? That is the secret to beating it.  If you let yourself become the strainer then you will sift through the stress finding what is really important. Like a colander, you will catch the bigger stuff first. Those are the priorities. Sort them out first, then work on the smaller items. Or if that isn’t your way then sift out the big stuff and set that colander aside. Work on the small stuff that is manageable first.  Either way you are taking an active roll in a carrying the load.

Have you ever looked around your house and were so overwhelmed by how much cleaning there was to do. It was all too much, so you hid away and didn’t do anything. The next day it is only worse. If you would have done just one little thing it would have set you on the path to a completely clean house. You have to eat that elephant one bite at a time.

Strain is only unbearable if you stand passive and let it crush you. Take it one thing at a time. Its alright to feel overwhelmed when there are too many things happening at once. It is only natural. We can only do so much, but the point is that we must DO something. The tide is going to come whether you want it or not. That is the nature of things, but you don’t have to let the tide take you.  Hold on and strain out what you must.

That camel’s back wouldn’t have broken if it didn’t try to carry everything at once.

Writing Prompt: Tunnel Patrol

tunnel

Tunnel Patrol

“This is the worst job I the world.” Peter mumbled as his boots sloshed and squished through the rancid black water covering the bottom of the tunnel. It had been running at one time but Peter always suspected that after trying to flow down the pipe it had lost its motivation after about 50 yards and decided to try stagnation.

“Anything in tunnel 5?” Peter’s radio crackled echoing off the metal walls.

Sighing he pulled his radio off his belt. “Nope”

“Nothing in 7 either.” His supervisor replied. “Keep going.”

Peter replaced the radio and sloshed forward again. His foot kicked something that he really didn’t want to identify.

“Join the Tunnel Patrol,” he mimicked his girlfriend’s squeaky voice. “It’s a great opportunity. Yeah right, Cara, you’re not the one getting goo in your boots.”

A few more steps and Peter stopped suddenly. Had there been a sound? He listened harder but there were no sounds that hadn’t been there already. He waited 30 more seconds then picked his foot up to take a step.

He heard it this time, a rustling vibration coming from the darkness of the tunnel in front of him.

Peter froze. His heart set up its own vibration as the sound resonated again.

Slowly he reached for his radio. He keyed the mike. “Bobby?” He whispered. “Bobby! There’s something here.”

“Say again?” He supervisor’s voice blasted out. Peter slapped a hand over the speaker and stared into the darkness hoping it hadn’t heard him. But hope wasn’t in the tunnel anymore.

The rustling started again grating ever louder. The tunnel floor started to vibrate sending droplets of stagnate water splattering. It was coming.

A Writer’s Platform.

I have been working on this blog for a while now. I started because “writers must have an online presence” and a blog is something that is top on the suggestions. It was supposed to create a habit of writing and allow a place for readers to get to know me. Well…

I’m not really sure what I thought was going to happen. I know that a lot of people use blogs to promote work or to advocate for something in particular or just to vent the unfairness of life in general. I had no idea what I was going to write about, just that I was supposed to do something.

Well, write what you know. I know a lot about nothing. I am a mom with an outdated theatre degree. The only thing I’m good at is making do with what I’ve got. So I have been blogging for two years this month. I started out with a quote. “Not all those who wander are lost.”  I hate to admit it, but after two years. I’m still lost in the blogging world.

I have had some success with a few posts, but mostly I think the only people who see my posts are family. lol

I want this blog to be something else. Something more.

I have been getting closer and closer to getting published. I have written three books and I’m still trying to get someone to take them. I have hundreds of stories circulating through my head. I feel like I’m spending too much time trying to figure out what to write for my blog than actually writing. If I have to keep a blog rolling I want it to be more writing-centric.

I want to try something different. Our writing group has a little free writing session every meeting. We pick a writing prompt and write for fifteen minutes. So far I’m digging what I’ve come up with. I’ve never really bothered with writing prompts. I always had enough story ideas that I didn’t think I needed them, but they are kind of fun. So starting in March I will be doing a little something different.

I intend to post the results of any writing prompts that I work on. I hope that this will help my actual writing career goals. I know some bloggers who have segued into books just from their fiction pieces in their blog. I hope this will also start a readership of my brand of storytelling.

I can’t promise great works but I will guarantee that they will be from the ridiculous and crazy land called my head. From time to time I might still post about my family or other pressing bits of inspiration. I hope you will all stick with my on this new adventure.

Thanks to all of you for reading so far.

Overwhelmed and stressed out

Kid Schedules…Writing… Work… Cooking… Hobbies… Doctor Appointments…Research…Laundry…Volunteering…

…the list never ends

stressed out mom I know that there have been a lot of posts about stress and what it can do to you. I am a walking case of what stress can do to you. Chronic pain, anxiety, depression, over-worrying, headaches, lack of sleep, physiological imbalances-you name it I’ve got it. I don’t want it but I got it.

I suffer from an over conscientious personality. I don’t want to fail at anything and I don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings and I don’t want to let anyone down. I want to do the best that I can for everyone. For a while that didn’t include myself. I always let me come last on the list of importance. Everyone else came first. That didn’t work too well. Everyone preached at me that I needed to take care of me because if I didn’t then I wouldn’t be around to help anyone else. Okay, fine that made sense. So I tried to get in some of that ME TIME they always preach about.

I started working on my dream of becoming an author. I’ve been writing since I was eleven and I thought I’ll really start working on it full time. Full time being from September to May during the school hours of 8:30-3:00.  Well that sort of worked except for all the times that the kids were out and all the vacation times.

Then there is that driving force in my head about needing to be a productive member of society and this family and I need to contribute financially not just be a mom. I’m gonna sell the stuff I make. Well my bright ideas in the craft department include all sorts of things, jewelry, sewed items, painting bottles, making recycled paper journals, sculptures. I have enough creative juices to do all these things and I really want to.

Then there is the Autism thing. I have to find time to be a better parent and research more and find more ways to help my son. There has to be something that I can do that will help him more.  So out come the books and the websites. Oh and while I’m reasearching that I should keep learning better ways to write too and how to market myself on the web so everyone can find my stories or my crafts to sell.

Oh yeah I need to start working out that’s part of me time right? Get in shape and feel better.

BLAH BLAH BLAH!

I just managed to turn ME TIME into a job!

I’m more stressed out than ever now!

Then it hit me. I’m doing it all wrong. I realized that I’m trying to do everything at once which is how I got stressed in the first place.  I had an epiphany. LIFE IS A BUFFET.

buffet-table

When you go to an all you can eat buffet, you don’t take everything at once. You start with one trip, fill your plate and eat. Life doesn’t need to happen all at once. It’s okay to take one plate and fill it but when it’s full stop. Sit down and eat it. There is always another trip available.

I know that most of you are nodding and thinking, Prioritize. And you are right, but it is also about time management and balance. I don’t have to do all the things I want to all at the same time. However I don’t want to just stop doing all the things I want to in order to do the things I have to. That was where I was before I tried to get some ME TIME in.

So here is my solution.

I have to ACCEPT that I am only going to get done a few things each day. AND THAT IS OKAY! If Monday is bills and social media catch up day and I don’t get any writing, research or jewelry made- that’s ok. Tuesday is doctor’s and shopping day-accept it! Wednesday is laundry and writing- good, Thursday is writing or crafting-nice! Friday is writing. Saturday is housecleaning and laundry-yay me. Sunday is playing with kids, video game and popcorn day! I have to realize that I’m not going to get everything done today. Rome wasn’t built in a day- cliche I know, but cliches exist for a reason.

It’s okay. I’m not going to win any races. I’m the turtle and I’ll get there in the end one plate at a time. I won’t starve and I won’t over eat. The buffet will still be there when I’m ready for another trip.

There is no such thing as I can’t!

There is no such thing as I can’t!

Don’t try, DO!

Can’t is for quitters!

All these statements are shoved at us from all angles during our “formative years” from coaches and teachers and team leaders. They are trying to get young people to understand that it doesn’t matter how hard something is if you quit you’ll never succeed at it. I understand that principle. I approve of that principle. This is where we learn our work ethic from. The never give up attitude is quintessential to life in America.

Unfortunately sometimes it backfires.

Ambition and drive are wonderful things. Success is sweet. However, slow death from stress is not.

I have spent my life under the premise that if you want something done do it yourself. Relying on other people is not always a possibility. I’m a work horse that just goes and goes. It doesn’t matter how little sleep I have, if I can afford my bills, or even if I have lost my job. It doesn’t matter. You get back up and drink some coffee, rob Peter to pay Paul and get another job. Having a miscarriage? NO problem clean yourself up and go to work. There are no excuses for giving up.

How stupid am I?

I had to learn to say I can’t. I was recently told by my doctor that I had to realize that I had limitations. WHAT! No I don’t. I’m super mom. I can do all things! and I can do it on no sleep.

No I can’t.

I can’t manage 9 years without a good night sleep. I can’t keep putting my body through the ringer hoping that it will bounce back with a little extra coffee. I can’t be vigilant watching my Autistic son 24 hours a day. I can’t keep my daughter safe from the world, she is going to have to live in it sooner or later. I can’t fix everything by myself.

I need help.

This revelation has thrown me into a massive depression. To the point where I don’t even want to try. How do I deal with everything that is on my plate without the help that I need? Where am I supposed to get help? Family is too far away and friends aren’t always capable of doing what I do on a daily basis. Quitting isn’t an option because I have too many people relying on me. So what do I do?

They don’t teach you that in school. They just tell you that you have to keep going and never quit. So what happens when you have to quit? When you have to realize that you can’t do it all?  How are we supposed to cope? Nervous breakdowns? Prescription drugs? Recreational drugs? Alcohol? Heartattacks? Suicide?

What kind of a message is that sending to our kids?

My never quit attitude has shown my daughter that she needs to work hard for what she wants. That’s good. However she works so hard that she makes herself sick and she collapses from exhaustion every couple of weeks and sleeps for 36 hours. How did that go so wrong?

I always say in all things balance. I wish I’d listen to myself.  We have to find a balance between never quitting and learning our limitations. I love those statements that come from “helpful professionals” who tell you that “You just need to reduce your stress.” Yeah, didn’t think of that thanks. Or how about “Take some time for yourself.” Where? Which kid do I give up time with in order to get some time to myself? Do I give up what little sleep I get to have some “me time?” It doesn’t work that way. Our society is set up to tear itself apart not because of cultural issues but because we have not support structure for our mental state.

Some of you are thinking, Counselors would help. Yeah, no. I’ve tried that. She shook her head and said “I don’t know what to tell you, everything I could suggest you are doing already.” Well that helped. So now what? I need coping skills butI needed them about 25 years ago when I was in school and setting out on my journey through life. I needed them to be in place before the world crashed on to my shoulders and I had to play Atlas so that I had something to turn to when my  limitations showed up.

Imagine how different the schools would be if we taught our children how to cope with the problems in their life instead of just telling them they can’t  say can’t.

The Enforced Slow Down

I recently found out that I inflamed my bicep tendon at both ends, both where it attaches to my shoulder and my elbow. I was advised to rest my bicep and not lift anything heavy or least a week. Considering I’m the only parent in the house at the moment that seemed rather ridiculous. However my deltoid muscle was on fire, and my shoulder hurt so I thought I would go ahead and try to behave myself.

I suck at sitting still.

I am used to constant activity I have a lot of things to take care of. I don’t know how to do Nothing. I’m the person who thinks that if I’m watching TV then I should be doing something with my hands at the same time so that I’m not wasting time. I’m the one who reads while making dinner.  I’m the one who takes care of social media while eating breakfast. I’m the one who does research while  I’m waiting to pick up the kids from school.

I tried for several days to not do as much. I still ended up doing too much. As a result, my bicep and deltoid ached and my tendons became more swollen. So after using lots of ice to get the swelling down I decided to actually rest.

I suck it resting.

I decided to actually take time off.  I sat still. I watched TV. I ate popcorn for lunch. I decided to drink what I wanted to and eat what I wanted to the whole day  long. It was hard at first. But then it got easier the second day and then I found that I was sleeping better. I was waking up easier. And my imagination seems to have come back a little.

I’m still working on it I’m still trying to sit still because my arm still hurts. I don’t know how long I’m going to have to sit still, but the enforced slow down has helped my mind more than my arm. I’ve learned a couple of things.

First:  I think I’ve been putting so much pressure on myself to get so much stuff done and be a super mom and an author and a home improvement specialist that I’m killing myself slowly. I realized that I’m working so hard towards making sure everything is okay for everyone else that I’m forgetting to make sure everything’s okay for me. Everyone keeps telling me that if I don’t take care of myself, there will be no one to take care of everyone else. But it’s so hard to make time for yourself when you’re trying to squeeze so much into a day. I have so many things to do and so little time to do them. However the more I try to do the less I get done. So as I keep telling my daughter. Quality over quantity. I need to do less, but do it better.

Second:  I learned that actually giving myself time to do something that I enjoy made it seem a lot harder to go back to working. I think that I have been depriving myself of fun for so long that I’m desperate now to have as much of it as possible. I find that dangerous. I’m  tired of fighting the good fight. I’m stressed out enough right now, that sitting down and letting the world tick away to its inevitable conclusion is easy. The more I sit, the easier it is to want to keep sitting. It’s so much easier to sit and just enjoy. American culture is based on leisure activities. Unfortunately most people can’t afford them, but they’re still there. Work hard play hard. I want to. Bumming around is kind of seductive. I don’t want to go back to working that hard. But the work still has to be done and I’m the one who’s here to do it.

But I guess I need to listen to something else that I always tell my daughter. In all things, balance. I need to start working hard and enjoying what I work hard for. I need to learn that it’s okay to take time to enjoy a movie or just sit and read a book and not feel guilty about it. Perhaps I wouldn’t have injured myself if I had listened to that place to begin with.

Thanks a lot Zen, you double edged sword!

I have anxiety issues. Bad ones. I am a constant worrier. I’ve had panic attacks for years.  My husband suggested a long time ago that I try to “Zen it.” I know that sounds rather disrespectful, but it’s not.

What he meant was that I needed to quit thinking about everything all at once. I needed to think about only one thing at a time and leave the rest for another time. He would say, “Worry about it from 8 am to 5 pm because you can’t do anything about when you can’t do anything about it.”

Easy for him to say. But I tried because he asked me too.

Years have passed.

I can now for the most part think only about my problems when I can do something about them, except that I am a plan ahead kind of girl so I’m always thinking ahead. I really do try to only think about what I’m doing now and now worry about things looming in my future.

However…

There is a disadvantage to only thinking about what I’m doing now. My imagination has been caged. I used to alway be thinking and pretending and imagining. Not really any more. Some would say that it’s just because I’ve grown up. I don’t believe that. Growing up has nothing to do with imagination. I believe it is because I’m so focused on the now that I became too grounded in reality. I’ve readjusted my brain to think in a new way but now I’m suffering an overdose of reality.

I want to daydream again. I’m finding it really hard to concentrate on my writing too because it is not a task that can only be thought about when you are doing it. Writing is an ethereal beast that must be always on your mind. When you aren’t writing you must be planning and plotting. You must be working out what could happen and rearranging what you did to fit what you will do. There is nothing Zen about that part. Zen is only helpful when you are actually doing the writing, the sitting and typing part.

So I guess that I need to learn to wield the Zen double edged sword a little better. I need to learn to compartmentalize my thoughts. Zen the day to day and unleash the imagination beast to run wild in the meadows of my mind. Sounds pretty straightforward and easy right?

Maybe in a few more years…..

NaNoWriMo here I come!

Last year about this time I was freaking out because I was going to embark on an insane venture…NaNoWriMo.
National Novel Writing Month. It’s writing 50,000 words in 30 days. Everyone said it was intense and hard, only a few actually make it. Well I thought, “What the Hell I’ll try it.”

For days before I was feverishly planning and setting up buddy lists to help me through it. I was going to need encouragement and sometimes a kick in the butt. I was so nervous for Nov 1st that I hardly slept. Then I started. Within a couple of days I was past 5,000 words. This wasn’t so hard. I diligently sat typing every day. My kids and husband encouraged me and occasionally would chase me back to the computer with the threat of a squirt bottle. Weirdly enough I finished with days to spare. Hit just over 50,000 words. It wasn’t that hard.

This year I have been loafing around working at an actual job to make this stupid thing called money. All the time I’ve been asking myself why I was wasting my time when I could be writing. Well, everyone is finally sick of me moping around and have told me to basically “quit my day job” and write.

So here I am only a day before NaNo starts and I haven’t planned, stressed or even logged in yet! But I have whole year to make up for. Its time to write! I’m not stressed like I was last year. I am actually barely thinking about the pressure. Although this year I don’t have the luxury of my husband taking care of things while I write since he is gone for work and I am involved in a local theatre production that will be taking up a lot of my time. So I’m gonna have to actually hustle this time. It might be a struggle but it’ll be worth it even if I don’t make it (I will make it though, have to think positive).

A bird can’t help but fly, a fish can’t help but swim, a writer can’t help but write. So NaNoWriMo here I come! Continue reading

Destined to be a writer

When I think back to my childhood, I realize that I was always writing even without paper. I remember coming up with ridiculously intricate narratives as I went about my daily playing.

I know that most kids do that and it is simply imagination. However, I used to play out the scene I was imagining and if it wasn’t quite right I would start over. I remember playing the same scenario over and over until it worked out perfectly. Even if it was only a single line it word.
Needless to say I didn’t play well with others. They said it was just me being picky or a perfectionist. I know different now.

I also remember playing with my GI Joes and Star Wars toys. (This was the 70s and early 80s). I realized that it was more trouble to set them up and play than it was to just set them out and play it out in my head.

Now I play out entire plots and subplots in my head. Which is a good thing because I have barely any time to actually sit down and write it out.

I just know that everything that I have done has brought me to this point and I have learned more in the last year than I have in the ten before it. A year ago I knew nothing of author platforms or Wattpad or even NaNoWriMo and now look at me… I have a website, readership following on Wattpad, a social network as a writer, and a stack of rejection letters. Who knew I could get this far? Fulfilling a destiny is painful and hard but totally worth it.

Death by Paperwork

photo (1)

I don’t know about you but the more I try to organized the farther under the stack I get buried!

I’ve been trying to get organized for years now, but the rate at which things arrive at my house is increasing with every year. I have tried to do more paperless bills and statements. However, I have to have hard copies of so much stuff! For my writing, for medical records for my Autistic son, for research, for school information, and so much more. This list goes on and on! Not to mention junk mail! ARGH! I have started shredding all the bits of paper that I don’t need in hope that someday soon I’ll have time to make recycled paper out of it.

Why do we need so much paperwork? The information age is getting out of hand! Not all of the paperwork we must file, mail, or even save to cover our asses is really necessary. There are so many forms that must be filled out every year for medical reasons or for registrations to school or clubs…WHY MUST WE REPEAT?

Our time on this earth is precious. We don’t have an infinite number of years so why are we wasting so much of it in frivolous paper pushing? Not only do we have to keep up with the news, the email, blogging, social media, bills, research, and who knows what else, we must waste years of our lives organizing meaningless piles of paper.

We could be out seeing the world! Camping, hiking, traveling, loving under the stars, singing at the top of our lungs in the middle of nowhere, but oh no we are squandering out lives with paperwork! And what good does it do? Years from now all that filing we did to save things we needed so we could remain organized will have to be gone through again and all the stuff we don’t need anymore has to be removed! Double work!

And yet there is no escape. We must file and sort. We need all this information for the taxes or the doctors or the  schools. There is no way to stop. It is a defeated prospect from the beginning.  The only recourse is somehow keeping on top of it every day, every hour.  Hopefully someday we will find a better way, or the apocalypse will come and we will have plenty of fuel for fires to keep us warm and cook our food!