Posted by: Elizabeth Anne Mitchell | February 8, 2012

February 8 Check-in Scaling back but not gone

The past few days have been, um, character-building. I’ve spoken before about the problems of being “Generation Squeeze,” where one is pulled in two directions by the demands of aging parents and of teenage/young adult children. While we were looking for housing in Albany, which was stressful enough, thank you, my mother-in-law’s assisted care residence called my husband three times in the space of 24 hours about problems with her.

In the same 24-hour period, we both missed calls from our eldest son, who never calls, preferring to text. We got in touch with him the next day, hoping he was okay, to find out that he was calling for his brother, who was in trouble with his university. Great: 700 miles away from the mother and 1400 miles away from the son, we sat and worried.

Meanwhile, my muse was just happy as a bear at a fish ladder. “Oh, this is how Maeve feels when . . .” and “this will work well for this scene.” Oh, please, can’t I just have a nervous breakdown without turning it into prose? The answer of course, is no; the writer part of me uses all of this, working through the emotions and the worry and the pain to infuse what I write with all of it–refined, cleaned up, less self-indulgent, but real.

However, even my ebullient muse is slowing down with the worry, the calls, the trips to pick up my son (yes, the trouble was that serious). I’m not dropping out of the Round–if anything, I need this community even more–but I am scaling way back for the time being.  I may scale back up before the end of the Round, but I may not.

My only goal for the foreseeable future is the test mile. As Kait said in the check-in post, it needs to be a stretch; right now, 250 words is a stretch for me.  Most of it will not end up in my fiction, but it will keep me sane (I hope).

I have always liked Matt Hofferth’s What I have learned section; I saw that Lena Corazon has added that as well.  I would like to add that as a goal, but may hold off for a bit. 

Writing: I forgot to thank all the #teamsprinty folks last check-in.  I joined in one day late last week with 15 minutes to go, and wrote 616 words.  Whew!  It was just great.  I recommend doing sprints with them if you have the time–it’s 2pm EST if you’re available.  It is such a wonderful group! 

Exercise: Packing is wonderful exercise, I am finding. My shoulders and back are particularly sensitive, so I am glad that I have an 18-year-old that I can supervise for all the heavy work.  I am still walking, so that continues apace.

Friends: I have a character flaw that I don’t want to bore or burden my friends when all I have to talk about is my troubles.

Family: As I mentioned above, our younger son is back home for the next few months. Our older son wants to talk to us tonight about what to do with his life.  I am pleased that they trust us enough to want to ask us advice; it doesn’t mean they will follow it, but listening is something.

Dealing with my dad is bringing back all kinds of lost little girl feelings; if that were not enough, my brother has further tests this week to ascertain whether his cancer has returned.  Simply put, I am a total mess.

Day Job: My bosses have encouraged me to take all the leave I can manage.  No fool, I am very good at taking hints.

Please encourage all the other ROWers here.

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Responses

  1. When I’ve gone though difficult times, I sometimes switch over to journaling. I let my muse run, and my anxieties too, and dump everything in my head into a private journal.

    You could take pressure off yourself but still keep in the community by just making journal writing your goals.

    • Camille, thank you for the suggestion. Although I have not officially changed my goal, my test mile has become more journalling and less creative work in the last few weeks; it seems that is what I need to do. I appreciate your stopping by.

  2. A million, million hugs, ROWsis! You are facing a lot right now, but I am happy to hear that in the face of it all, you are going to try and tackle the test mile. Having a nagging muse that wants to turn your breakdown into prose is not always ideal, but sometimes it does help to channel all those emotions somewhere. Jami Gold just wrote a post the other day about “writing through life’s chaos,” and it does remind me of what you are talking about here. http://jamigold.com/2012/02/how-do-you-write-through-lifes-chaos/

    We are all here for you, my friend, and if you need us, all you have to do is call. I’ll be thinking good thoughts for you!

    • Thank you so much, ROWsis. As always, your encouragement means a lot to me. I also appreciate the link to Jami’s post, which helps me feel less alone in my chaos. Thank you for the good thoughts, and for the offer of support.

  3. I’m glad you’re continuing to write even through all of this. You’ve gone through so much lately that I’m surprised you have the energy. If, at some point, you have to put the writing on the back burner, there’s no reason you can’t still check in and just let us know what’s going on so we can offer some words of encouragement. We’re here if you need us.

    • Lauralynn, I am so grateful for your support. You and the rest of my ROW80 friends keep me from hiding; I will continue to check in, even when all I may be doing is throwing things in boxes willy-nilly, as is on the horizon, lol.

  4. My muse is the same way. She gobbles up emotions until, at some point, her mythical stomach is full to bursting. Then, she goes away somewhere to digest and refuses to eat any more, thus leaving me with a whole bunch of emotions and stress that I don’t quite know what to do with. Fortunately, she comes back later, nibbling at the edges of my stress-crackers at first, before jumping back up on the buffet. Everyone has their limits I guess. Perhaps the trick is to hover just in that middle I’m-stressed-but-not-too-stressed spot? If only life would sit down with my muse and work out some sort of dining plan.

    I’m glad you like the lessons learned thing. I just think there’s a lesson in everything, even when I’m pretty sure I don’t really care for the teacher.

    With that in mind, I’ll pass along a hard-won lesson from my past. I believe I posses that character flaw you referred to. We had apparently swiped our loyalty card enough at the local hospital, because they awarded us a free therapy session. I consider myself a bit too stubborn to listen to therapists (another character flaw), but something she said stuck with me:

    You know how good you feel when you’re able to help other people? How fair is it of you to deny other people a chance at that happiness by keeping your troubles to yourself? By not accepting help? A lot of people feel like they don’t want to “burden” others with their cares, but you have to learn to look at it as more of a symbiotic relationship. By accepting help from someone, you’re helping them to feel good; it goes both ways. Is making someone feeling happy and useful a burden?

    It really struck home for me, and is still something I struggle with. I guess I always figured that everyone has their own problems; I should just deal with mine and not make a “deal” of it. Yet I do love to help others…

    *Hugs* your way.

    • Thank you for the hugs, Matt. Your comment really hit me between the eyes, even if it did take me ten days to sit down and reply to it. *blush* It makes me feel really good to be able to help someone, yet I do have that knee-jerk reaction that you describe so well–everyone has their problems, and I should just crawl into the cave to deal with mine. i will continue to work on that; checking in when my muse is refusing my stress-crackers will be a good test.

      I also don’t like many of the teachers I’ve had, but the lessons from them sometimes have stuck the best because they hurt the worst. I appreciate your encouragement and sage advice, Matt. I hope Ashley feels better soon.

  5. Sometimes, it seems life wants to give you everything, all at once – and, hopefully, that gets the chaos out of the way for a while, once the dust clears.

    I hope that’s the case here – that everything settles out, soon, and calms to a place where you can cope more easily.

    It’s a wonderful thing that your sons feel they can come to you when life is tricky; that’s the type of relationship we are working to build with our younger kids, before their problems get to adult-size.

    I first was able to process the facts of Elijah’s birth, life, and death through Liacivaar, Jeniah’s infant son who lived only moments. The fictionalizing allowed me to do what I needed to do – explore those emotions in writing- but with a buffer of not-quite-realness that was like a scab on that gaping wound.

    Maybe your muse is kinder than you know….

    I am a good listener. I don’t have much in the way of advice for dealing with aging parents…..the best I’ve managed for my difficult pair is to leave them to their own lives, even though it is lived just down the road from us. Anything else leads to toxic levels of angst. My parenting advice is only good in a general sense, and I have no practical experience beyond the 10.25 year mark….

    But I am good at listening, and processing feelings, and, sometimes, I’ve been able to listen, hear, and give back thoughts and feelings that were there all the time, unseen.

    And I like – no, LOVE – making other’s lives a little brighter.

    I am sending you hugs, and a reminder to breathe, and the thing I would love people to say to me when I feel I am sinking slowly into the quicksand of overwhelm…..

    It’s not always going to be like this.

    If there are little steps you can take, that’s good. If there aren’t, there aren’t….but you can still breathe, and pack, and gather yourself for when you can do something…..

    And you can know that you’re not alone.

    I will be sending strength and calm your way as you move through all the transitions and tribulations……

    • Shan Jeniah, thank you for the strength and the calm. It does help to know that I’m not alone and that this chaos will pass. As for the aging parents and the toxic mother-in-law, a wise therapist told me once that one should avoid toxic people, no matter what their familial tie might be; as for parenting, I’ve found that the principles are set by age 10.25, even if the particulars are different at 18 and 20.

      I appreciate the hugs as well.


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