I just have to say how much I am enjoying my week’s staycation!
I am away from deadlines for the week and I didn’t realize how much I needed the space and freedom to be me — to create, to dream and to write on things that I am passionate about. I have even revisited a book had begun outlining some years ago — a scary tale of a young pastor in a rural area where old headstones introduce her to a family secret. (Cue eerie music, thunder and howling wind!)
But research on this book aside, this staycation has really been a blessing because those close to me have known that lately my creative spirit has been dampened. Better yet, I think the image of my creative spirit being suffocated is more appropriate. There have been so many changes in my “day job” that have been debilitating. Every idea and project now has many steps and countless meetings to go through before actually getting to the work. While these changes are not good or bad — they just are — I have been quietly observing how this “new way” of doing things is impacting creativity. I see it in the faces staring back at me in those Zoom boxes. Once passionate writers are now uncharacteristically glum. Once vocal writers are silenced. I know this too shall pass as change brings a season of transitions, but that’s another story for another day.
For today, I actually jumped out of bed at 5 a.m. filled with eager expectations for the day. After doing my chicken chores, I sipped my coffee and read the Bible. I then got to the gym where I realized how that time was a key role in having a healthy, positive outlook. It felt good to catch up with others, to laugh, to move our bodies to music and to work up a good sweat. And something amazing began happening as I pushed the lever up to increase the resistance on the bike during the spin class. I began having ideas — again. I began getting hopeful. I began dreaming. I began feeling like the old me, which was a wonderful feeling because she was missing for quite some time.
I know this staycation will come to an end and I will be back to a front row seat of a really bad play called “power plays and grabs.” I will be hearing the “dings” remind me that the next Zoom meeting will begin in 15 minutes (enough time to brush my hair and take off my chicken poop covered Mucks). I will be back to writing deadlines and spending many fitful nights worrying about the stories assigned that are MIA from writers who are AWOL.
Soon I will be back in the “real world.” But I wonder? Is there a better reality in which to live, work and play in than the one that masquerades as “real”?
I’ll continue to ponder, and as I do, I want to remind you that this Sunday, October 30, Old Stone Well Farm continues its Pumkinfest tradition, lighting the back hill with an inspirational message.
I wasn’t sure how the disorganization happened nor how my to do lists multiplied like out of control rabbits, but this was the morning I was going to face the mess on my desk. As I looked at the unbelievable task before me, I felt panicky. The panic wasn’t that the piles of disorganization were symbolic of all the work I was facing. I was panicky because this wasn’t me. I was always the organized one.
Back in my Manhattan magazine days, I was the writer everyone looked at suspiciously because my desk was so neat. Each story deadline was clearly marked on my wall calendar. Each story assignment — notes, word count, a list of sources to call for quotes — all placed in its own manila folder. Sometimes I would go to the supply closet for a colored folder — red, yellow, blue or green — just to give my cubicle a pop of color. The files were placed in order of importance in a file holder. Next to my computer would be a yellow legal pad with the day’s tasks prioritized. The mail was in its own little pile and magazines that I would read along with my afternoon cup of coffee — were methodically stacked on the floor near my desk. Everything was under control. I was able to focus and be productive. I was able to breathe.
But now? What happened to that organized, in control person?
It seems these days I’m always behind the proverbial eight ball. I’m always being reminded of something that had fallen off of the 100th revision of that darn to do list. Deadlines that are circled on a calendar seem to come all too quickly. My heart races, leaving me dazed and confused, wondering where did the time go?
This morning I was going to take my life back by organizing every piece of paper before me. That’s when the answer to my gnawing question of what happened to me came. I picked up a blank notepad that was thrown into one of the many piles. Its cover read, “Do More of What Makes You Happy.”
It was then the stressed-to-the-max floodgates holding back tears broke open. The piles of disorganization weren’t because I was doing too much or that my workload was unrealistic. The piles of disorganization on my desk were telling me that I had forgotten to do more of what made me happy — what fed my soul, what renewed my spirits, what restored my creativity.
I had forgotten that it was okay to step away from deadlines and go for a hike. I had forgotten that when faced with writer’s block that worst thing you can do was force the words to come. Rather, when faced with the frightening feeling that you have finally run out of words, that’s when you need to do something that makes you happy. Yet instead of unfolding that beautiful material I recently purchased to make another quilt, I had imposed a “no fabric therapy” rule until the story was written. Where did that get me? Stressed out and still missing a deadline.
I realized that these past few months I haven’t done anything — let alone more of — the things that made me happy: cooking over an open fire outdoors, laying the foundation for my 18th century bread oven, tilling the soil to expand my garden, scouting out the future site for my chicken coop and perhaps even a goat pen, even writing more for this blog, Accidental Country Pastor.
I stared at the mess on my desk, admitting that I had become a “pandemic overachiever.” I have been trying to gain a sense of security, of certainty, of control in a world that is out of control by focusing on things that can be measured in terms of progress and productivity. I haven’t allowed time to dream, to play or just be. When was the last time I allowed myself to nap?
Another Zoom meeting invite? Sure, sign me up. After all, I can’t give the excuse that I am not available, right? I am home most of the time. Yet with Zoom meetings come the extra work of having to actually wash my hair and throw on some mascara. Back in the good old days, meetings with colleagues were done over the phone, which was a lot less hassle. Not only could I forego my primping (saving time to perhaps sew some quilt blocks together for that fabric therapy that is worth the cost of all the material I bought), but I also didn’t have the stress that comes with wondering, praying, holding my breath that my rural internet would not act up. Yes, that is a real stressor. There is nothing worse than being in the middle of an important presentation, only to have the screen freeze and the warning appear “Internet Connection Unstable.”
The projects that would have prevented the drought my soul was now in, had been pushed aside as I fell victim to “webinar binging,” seizing the opportunity to attend free seminars and classes companies and organizations were offering. I didn’t want to miss any valuable information on how to navigate this new world the pandemic has created. Instead of filling my head with knowledge, though, I was robbed of valuable hours of my time as many, not all, but many of the webinars didn’t live up to the promotional hype. After my million and one free webinar, it hit me. No one knows how to navigate this world we are in. Period. All we can do is find peace in the chaos and live with the ambiguity. All we can do is “do more of what makes you happy.”
I am a pandemic overachiever. My messy desk is a sign of that. This morning I was going to take back my life by organizing the mess so that I could be more productive and face those looming deadlines head on. The mess, though, is still there. The work to be done is still there. Yes, there are stories to write. Copy to edit. A sermon to prep for Sunday. There’s even a webinar I was scheduled to attend. But not today.
I have things to do that make me happy, that restore my soul, and that reconnect me to my authentic self, not the self I think this pandemic world wants. I have a quilt to work on. I have cream to churn into butter. I have a run on the rail trail to go on. I have a video to shoot for worship at Old Stone Well Farm, which I love doing.