May 262017
 
  • I am so tired at the moment that the only thing I’m longing for is sleep. All I can think about is how marvelous it would feel to just lay my head on the table and close my eyes.
  • Of course I promptly forget all about that every evening when it’s time to go to bed, and I then start battling tiredness with food.
  • Which is not unrelated to the fact that I’m about two to three kilos heavier than I want to be which at times makes me feel totally fat. And the next minute I see myself in the mirror and marvel at the slimness of my hips. These days when I tell someone how much weight I lost they tend not to believe me.
  • I slacked off in a rather grandiose way the last week which means I will have to do everything today. Until 2.30 or so. I am postponing the taxes, though, will have to do those over the weekend. Strangely enough I don’t enjoy doing taxes.
  • I am also full of ennui to the brim. None of the hundreds of unread books (or the dozen of books I have already started reading) appeals to me, everywhere I look there is so much stuff to do that I just lay back and flip through yet another book or website. And then I think how unappealing all of this is. Even the chocolate I’m eating by the handful is unappealing.
  • One of the most unappealing things at the moment is the novel I’m writing. I am about four hours away of finishing the rough draft, and of course that’s the point where I decide the whole thing is just too bad, too boring, and not worth it.
  • It’s a good thing that I know by now that that is just a normal part of the process for me. I’ll go through phases where I think it’s a) not too bad, b) the best thing ever, c) completely horrible in various stages. None of this means anything.
  • Of course that doesn’t make the writing any easier.
  • Of course sitting here waiting for me to be in a better mood won’t be changing anything, the only thing that will change my mood is kicking myself in the butt and do something.
  • This will be a fun weekend, I’m sure.

So, how are you doing?

May 152017
 

So the concerts went well, and we’re trying to get back to our routines and normal life. But it is harder than we thought.

I did expect to be exhausted and not good for much for most of the week, but I didn’t expect to feel completely limp and faint for the whole week. Friday was the first day I felt almost back to normal, but only almost. And my husband has felt the same.

So I spent most of last week basically doing nothing. A little knitting, a lot of reading, and not much else. I didn’t even go for runs, and had short walks instead because I felt so low on energy. I did sleep a lot, and set my alarm for 6.30 instead of 5. Turns out that eight hours of sleep is my limit these days.

But today I have decided to go back to normal. So I set my alarm for 5.30 (didn’t want to go overboard), woke up at 5 and did my morning routine thing. Now it is 6.20 and I’m writing this. I’m hoping to get back to writing my novel soon, hopefully after breakfast. So far this morning I have opened the document and stared at it for five minutes. I have no idea what will happen next, and am hoping that my subconscious will work that out while I’m having breakfast.

The downside of the concerts being over is that now I should have way more time and energy. And I should be able to do everything that has been left undone for the past two years.

But of course that’s not how it works, isn’t it? I’m always hoping for vast amounts of time to open up and then they never do. But my list of things to do is really long. I still want to declutter. I stopped a few weeks ago and haven’t gotten back to it. I still want to sew all the things. I still want to finish the weaving projects that have been lingering for years.

When I look at all of that at once it’s really overwhelming. My husband is almost in a panic right now because there is so much to do in the garden, and then he wants to practice all.the.instruments, and there is a lot to work on in the house as well. And I can totally understand him because I feel the same.

Of course there is only one thing to do. Take a deep breath, make a list, and work on it, slowly, one thing after the other, not stopping for the next few months. And at the end the house will be decluttered, our son will have a newly renovated room, we will have our living room back – mold-free – and there will be fresh vegetables from the garden. Only it won’t happen all at once.

But the novel will get written, and the instruments will get played, and our lives will become a little calmer. I hope.

May 052017
 

This weekend is the one my husband and I have been working towards for two years now. Tomorrow and the day after we will perform songs from 1967 with a band.

We have been practicing and rehearsing for months and months, we will have three people’ staying at our house overnight, and we will feed the whole band, all six of us.

 

I didn't really want to do this concert. It was my husband's pet project, and when he first came up with the idea I said no. In fact I said, “No way, not with me.”

 

Then I decided that if this is so important to him I will support it. Also I keep forgetting that I love performing more than I think I do.

 

Still. This will be exhausting for sure. I won't get enough sleep, I will have to be the one making breakfast and lunch and dinner, and doing all the dishes, and being around all day in case somebody needs something.

And then after dinner I will be standing on stage, helping with sound, singing background and shaking a tambourine. (Shaking a tambourine is surprisingly exhausting and painful. I find that an hour or so of banging the tambourine against my hand leaves me with a dire need of applying an ice pack. And then I'll do it again for another hour, and again the next day.)

 

And after the concert on Sunday we will unplug everything again, and move all the amps, mixers, cables, instruments, microphone stands and such back to our house, go to bed way too late, and on Monday I will need to get up at 6.30, make breakfast for our son, and then make breakfast for everybody else when they get up, after which I will start my normal teaching day again.

 

I'm hoping that the making of music will be fun, and I'm sure it will be. I'm also looking forward to having weekends off and being able to focus on my writing and my own music, and maybe decluttering the house.

 

Soon.

Apr 122017
 
  • It is the first week of Easter break, and I’m so out of sorts that I typed „Thursday“ in the headline at first. As you know I’m always a little thrown by things like weekends and breaks, and this week my husband is also away with a friend for a few days in Italy. Of course I thought I’d have huge amounts of time on my hand in which I could do all.the.things. Finish sewing the muslin for the performance dress, make all.the.music, read all the books, write like the wind.
  • Instead I spent Monday morning waiting for my husband to leave, then got frozen pizza at the last minute, made that, had lunch, taught a student, went to a doctor’s appointment with out son (we biked there and I managed to get lost twice), then teach another student, and that was that. Then go to bed way too late.
  • Tuesday the sloth descended on me, and I basically did nothing the whole day but sit, read and crochet. Until my back and arms hurt. I skipped my Tuesday run, did not practice, did not shower, and was extremely cranky by the end of the day.
  • Since past experience has taught me that me sitting and reading and knittein (or crocheting, whatever) and doing nothing else is a fast track to depression I decided to do everything right today.
  • I got up, did my morning routine, wrote, had breakfast, wrote some more, then waited for our son to get up (bad move when you have a teenager), was late for the run that I had decided to do today instead of yesterday, tried calling my mother, and just when I was about to get out the door to run errands she called me back, we talked for 45 minutes, I was way too late for erranding, went to the health food store and the pharmacy, went back, made baked beans and eggs for lunch, decided to read a bit before doing the dishes, and really buckling down, and the next thing I knew it was three hours later.
  • While I am halfway through the book I started yesterday somehow that doesn’t really give me that fulfillment and rosy glow that I hoped for.
  • I plain forgot to blog last week, by the way, which just goes to show how out of wack I am.
  • I promised my husband to buy gasoline for the lawn mower back in the fall, and he put the empty canister next to my bike. I then promptly forgot until he reminded me a few weeks ago. Also twice since, and last week. I might want to go and get gasoline but it’s always really weird to bike to the gas station, get the canister out of your paniers, fill it with a few liters, carry the canister inside to pay because I can’t just leave it standing around, and if I put it in the paniers the bike will topple over, and the bike back home.
  • I also forgot that I need to go to the cobbler to get my shoes back twice. Even though I put it on a list. Lists only help if you look at them regularly.
  • And now that my husband isn’t here not only do I have to cook every day (I have almost forgotten how to do that, by the way) I also have to water the millions of plants everywhere that are supposed to be planted in the garden in a few weeks. His whole studio is full of pots with seeds and tiny plants in them. Also I can never remember which of the vegetable beds outside is the one without seeds in it. I just water them all.

I’m really not cut out to deal with change in any way, I know. I’m hoping to get better some day but right now the only way I see is to just get the shoes and the gas right now (before the cobbler closes), then do the dishes, do strength training, go to bed on time, and hope for the best for tomorrow.

So, how’s your day going? Sloth? Not-Sloth?

Mar 282017
 

Yes, I know that’s early.

I’ve been whining about not getting anything done for months now. And it was even worse on days when we didn’t have to get up for school, and I didn’t have to teach. And I tried being more disciplined (nope), and writing my novel in the evenings (not going to happen), and telling my family that really, I would spend all afternoon working on that novel-thing but it never happened.

I had this regular writing time in the morning, right after our son left for school and that went somewhat okay most days. Depending on when my husband would get up I got about thirty minutes of writing time in. Or less.

And I tried, and tried, and tried. And then there was this Sunday where I was adamant about working on my novel but in the morning just when I was pulling out my computer to start our son would show up for breakfast, so I made him breakfast and sat with him as he ate, and then just when I thought I’d had a bit of time to myself my husband came down for breakfast too, and then it was time to do the dishes, and then it was time to help with lunch, and then it was time to do some more dishes, and then I practiced the piano, and then I went online for a bit, and then every single time I sat down thinking, that now would be the time someone wanted something from me. You know how this goes.The wifi went down, and I had to fix it. My husband needed me to find out which train to take to a concert the day after, he wanted my help with an email he was writing, there was always something.

Some time around 4 pm that day I just gave up.

And I remembered that just about every single writer I knew who still had a day job said that they were writing first thing in the morning. And 5 am came up a lot. And just a few days earlier I had listenend to the „Petal to the Metal“-podcast, and they had talked about this, and so I borrowed the „Miracle Morning for Writers“ book, read it that day, and set my alarm for 5.30 the next morning.

As recommended I did my meditation, and a bit of yoga, and affirmations (still not quite sure about these), wrote in my journal, and then I started working on my novel. And it went very well. And right after breakfast I worked on it some more. And it was fun! Not the drudgery from before. I was doing really well. And I was even thinking about novel revision throughout the day, and spending a bit of time in the afternoon to prepare for the next day’s revision.

It was glorious.

So I did it again the next day, and the next, and after a week I set my alarm even earlier to 5 am, and that’s what I’ve been doing for a few weeks now, I’m getting up at five, even on weekends, even when I go to bed too late, I don’t care, I just love this so much, and yes I know that’s weird.

But no matter what happens throughout the day, no matter who wants something from me, or if something goes wrong, or if I have a lot of work that day, no matter what I get to spend time just for me and with my writing first thing in the morning.

And it’s making me really, really happy. A little tired too but I’m hoping to work that out soon. Also it’s not as if I had been getting enough sleep every night before that.

So. What do you think? Is being really happy worth getting up at five?

Mar 082017
 

In the past ten days I have been kvetching to everybody about the fact that I haven’t gotten anything done in all that time. And then the person I was speaking to turned to me and said, „But you have been doing your running during, haven’t you?“ And my first reaction was, „Duh. Of course I’ve been running. That goes without saying.”

And that made me realize how much my definition of „doing nothing“ has changed.

There was a time when I was still living with my parents where I didn’t have a to do-list, I didn’t even use a calendar, everything I needed to do I could just keep in my mind, no problem. And doing nothing at that time did not include any kind of physical activity or housework for sure.

Mind you, when I was a teenager „doing nothing“ meant a lot of reading (we’re talking about ten books a week or so), a bit of playing the piano and the odd walk because even a couch potato as sedentary as me needs to get some movement at times. It also involved a bit of piano playing and singing. And knitting. Some sewing. Very little TV because we’re talking about the time when there were only three channels in Germany, and none of them showed anything during daytime, apart from weekends.

These days when I talk about „doing nothing“ or rather „getting nothing done“ I mean that I am somewhat on top of housework, and grocery shopping, and laundry, and that I have managed to do something like ten minutes of singing warmup and my twenty minutes of piano warmup, and my regular exercise, and such. And of course the knitting.

But the important things, the ones that count, are the creative ones. The writing. And the blog, and the podcast, and all the projects that I want to finish. And so I feel like I did nothing if I didn’t manage to write or revise anything.

And no, that doesn’t mean I’m hard to myself. It means that I am someone who wants to do projects and follow her creative dreams, and finish things. And if I am content with just the everyday things that won’t happen.

I’m still somewhat proud of being able to deal with the everyday things, and that exercise and playing my instruments are a regular part of my daily routine, that is as it should be. It still doesn’t mean that that’s enough for me at this time of my life.

I mean, after those two days of rehearsal the weekend before last when I was completely wrung out, after that I didn’t expect myself to get back to my projects right away. I scheduled a day off. And when I found that I was still really exhausted the day after I took another day off and that was okay.

But not doing anything besides mundane everyday things for a week without anything being seriously wrong? Not okay.

So, what about you? What means „doing nothing“ to you?

Mar 012017
 

Now time management seems like it's not enough. I find I often have time to do something, like an hour after dinner or so, but I lack the energy to do it. And that is a problem.

I'm not the type of person who strives to be all productive all day with no downtime, and no room for spontaneity or doing nothing but there are quite a few things that I want to get done every day, and I get grumpy if I don't manage that.

I read something on the internet about a guy who schedules three minute meetings, for example, that is not what I want to do with my life. Planning like that means that every thing that you haven't planned for – like being stuck in traffic – means your whole schedule gets thrown off course.

On the contrary, I have learned to plan for buffer time between things. When I stop teaching for the day I could theoretically just turn around, sit down and do something else. But experience tells me that I often need about fifteen minutes to wait for the student to leave, pack away everything I needed for teaching, check my email one more time, and maybe read something on ravelry.

Of course I would be more productive if I didn'tdo that but forcing myself to not do it usually just makes me cranky and after a few days I go on strike and spend all my time surfing the web. If I allow myself that fifteen minutes I'm happy to start practicing afterwards. Or making dinner, or doing strength training, or whatever.

Now I've talked about this at least on the podcast but elsewhere as well but my big revelation in the past few weeks was that time is really not the problem, energy is.

The way my life is structured right now I should have about an hour or two each night where I can do something productive, and I can still eat dinner in peace, do the dishes, read and have quiet time before bed.

I am definitely not a night owl so the things I schedule at that time are usually things like, “watch a video about book marketing”, or sewing, or spinning. Nothing taxing, nothing that I need a lot of concentration or energy for.

So I had scheduled that – very sensibly – and I had even managed to wash the dinner dishes in a timely manner instead of playing iPad games or reading, and then I found I was just way too tired and couldn't do anything anymore.

So I declared defeat and went to bed, read for two hours and turned the lights out too late. And was angry at myself for not getting the things done that I wanted to.

After a few days of that I got really angry, and so I told myself that I absolutely had to sit down, spin and watch a video, even if there was not a morsel of energy left in me anymore.

So I moaned and groaned, and moved my spinning wheel in front of the computer and spun and watched that video for half an hour.

And then the funny thing happened.

I had more energy instead of less.

That was strange.

My very first impulse when I am feeling low on energy is always, always to sit back and do nothing. I mean, that is how you recharge, right? I already know that doing nothing for a long period of time makes me feel completely limp and unable to cope with life, so I force myself to exercise even when I feel like I have no energy at all because I know from experience that exercise makes me feel more energetic in the long run. But not giving in to that evening slump felt completely impossible.

My theory (and not only mine, check out “The Power of Full Engagement” for more on this) is that there are several kinds of energy that I have and need. Physical energy, mental energy, social energy, all kinds. And all of them need replenishing. And sometimes what I need is not to sit and read and do nothing but instead to move something forward that's important to me.

So the past two weeks or so I have forced myself to practice for the upcoming performance. Even though I felt awful and tired and exhausted beforehand. I still didn't feel all that energetic afterwards but I didn't feel more tired and exhausted either.

And the funny thing is that I have had less trouble sleeping. I guess my subconscious is feeling better because I'm taking care of things that are important to me.

Who would have thought that there were so many things to learn yet?

 

Feb 232017
 

I used to love having breakfast in bed. It seemed like the epitome of luxury. When I was still in university I would even get up in the morning, throw some clothes on top of my sleeping tee, walk to the bakery, then make breakfast, and take it into bed with me on a tray. Ever single day.

Then I met my husband. My husband doesn’t like to have breakfast in bed. After a while I decided that I’d rather have breakfast with him than in bed so we established a new routine.

Still, every time I was alone I looked forward to going back to bed with my tea and bread or muesli and a book.

Until I found that I didn’t enjoy eating in bed anymore. I’d rather sit at the table, dressed for the day, and not have breadcrumbs in my bed. Weird.

The one thing I am still doing, though, is setting my alarm early so that I can read or write in my journal for half an hour before getting up. I was really loving that stretch of time, that part of the day when I was completely alone in the quiet before I needed to talk to anyone, or do anything.

And then something weird happened. On weekends or on days without school when I don’t need to get up at seven I stopped reading in bed but instead got up immediately.

First because my husband doesn’t like coming to breakfast only to find everybody else is still in bed (he gets up much later than anybody else in the house) but then because if I stayed in bed reading the whole day would have a very unstructured and unproductive feeling to it. And I could read just as well while having breakfast. And then afterwards. And I’d already be wearing real clothes instead of pajamas, and would be ready for everything the day could throw my way.

And then the other day our son asked me to wake him up a little early so that he could look at something for a test in school. I don’t mind because we don’t actually wake up earlier if I do that, it only means I don’t lounge in bed for thirty minutes before getting up.

And lo and behold our morning was much less stressful. And I still got the same amount of reading time, only a bit later. And there was much less yelling of, “You need to hurry, you’re too late!”. Which is a very good thing.

And so I’m actually debating trading those thirty minutes lounging in my nice and warm bed before getting up for a little less stress while having breakfast. I’m really curious how that will go.

Jan 292017
 

After being really motivated and excited to get moving on reaching my goals and changing things up I’ve had a not so good week or two. I can’t even point to a day where it started, I only know that I did not do the things I wanted to, started binge-eating again, and skipped exercise two times in the last week alone.

And I just don’t know why.

There was a moment when it dawned on me that my husband’s „Summer of Love“-project is starting to loom (there will be two performances in May), and maybe that’s when the overwhelm set in. Or maybe it was helping our son with writing a paper about a science project that took several hours over several days, and at the same time I tried to do all my own things on top of it.

And then I finished reading through the revised novel number one, and then I couldn’t quite decide whether I should write a few more scenes for that one, or start reading the rough draft of novel number two.

Of course a decision like that can make you not do anything for a week or two.

And I didn’t sleep well. Again. Woke up in the mornings, way too early, and was tired all day long. So that didn’t help as well.

So I decided to get my act together, and just do the things on my list, and get on with life. But it didn’t quite work, and this afternoon I found myself gazing at the computer screen, procrastinating like crazy, losing yet another day.

And then I felt that familiar thing again. That feeling of being paralyzed and unable to move, or do anything. In the past I have reacted to it by putting myself to bed for a day or two or three, telling people that I’m not feeling well. And I’d sit in bed reading and eating and drinking tea, and not feel better. Until the day when I needed to get up again, or got fed up by my own inertia, and then suddenly I would get moving again.

Only I found that sitting around waiting for the black hole to go away doesn’t really help. And that sometimes that feeling can last months or years.

So I learned to counter the black hole with exercise and with doing things, and with not eating too much chocolate. Taking care of myself by tackling the things I’m scared of and don’t want to do.

This afternoon still feels lost to me. And now that I’ve realized that the black hole has been sucking me in for more than a week I’m not all that confident that it will go away tomorrow.

Seems I have to make myself do things that feel impossible. Like sorting through the papers on my desk, and playing the piano, and writing a blog post even if it’s not a good one.

I have ninety minutes until dinnertime. I bet I can at least do most of the things on my list.

So how are you feeling these days?

 

Jan 112017
 

I could say that getting more done on the projects that matter to me is a New Year's goal but then I've had that goal for ages, and remember that back in October I decided that I really need to spend more time on writing novels because otherwise I'll never get them finished.

Which is why I seriously buckled down in November, and found that even spending an hour a day on writing was seriously hard for me.

Now I should have lots of free time. I only teach about four hours per day, often less, I don't do much on weekends, I don't commute, I don't do a lot of housework, and so there should be a few hours per day free for things that matter like writing, and blogging, and podcasting.

Now I am still exercising quite a bit, about 45 minutes per day on average. That means on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays I don't schedule anything big in the morning because that's when I go walking/running, and on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays I block off between twenty and forty minutes after work to do strength training.

Still, I'm usually done with breakfast by 8, I don't really cook, just help my husband cut a few veggies here and then, and eat lunch at 1. That's five hours of time, and even with housework and building a fire in the woodstove, and talking to my husband for an hour while he has breakfast, there should be an hour somewhere in there to work on something creative.

So I started writing down what I did in chunks of 15 minutes. I did start last week when it was still winter break. Even though I only did it for a few days, and even though I sometimes forgot to write it down that exercise was eye-opening.

After breakfast I'd sit there, knitting and reading, for three hours. Three hours! And then I went to my computer and spent an hour on the internet. And after lunch I went back to knitting and reading and surfing the web, and then I barely managed to do a minimum of piano and singing practice before squeezing the strength training in, then there was dinner, watching some show with my son, and then bed.

The first day that I tracked my time I spent six hours knitting, reading, and surfing the web.

Well, I like doing all these things but six hours is a bit much.

Now I'm teaching again, and of course the numbers have changed a little. Because I'm spending most of the afternoon teaching. As I should.

But still before or after every single thing I do, housework, practice, or teaching, I check e-mail, instagram, twitter and blogs. It is a bit embarassing, really.

Now I don't want to stop these things completely. I really like blogs and ravelry and instagram and books and knitting. I still want to do other things as well, like sewing, and weaving, and writing.

So I think I need to change things up a bit. Limit my time online. Not give in to check instagram and twitter quickly before starting something else because quickly is always half an hour or more.

I don't really want to use one of those programs that block your internet access. I've tried that in the past, and I always get around it in some way. It does help that right now I'm sitting in the kitchen (right after breakfast) and the wifi is still turned off but in the long run I will have to find a way to build new habits. Like leaving the studio five minutes after the last student, and not half an hour. Like not spending every single minute between students checking social media.

And most important to actually write and sew and weave and spin when I have thirty minutes here and there.

How are you spending your time? Are you happy with where it's going or do you wish you had more time to do what's important to you as well?