Massive re-assessment post. Brace yourselves. I have been so heavily scheduled the last few weeks that I’ve barely had time to talk to Kevin, much less anyone else. A lot of that has been contracting with a few experts to help get the SLF ready for its Kickstarter and the next year of programming.
I have known for some time that it isn’t possible for me to do five people’s jobs, but actually contracting with fundraisers and finance people is also a process that takes time. We made a lot of progress on that last week, though, and I think it’ll mean good things for the SLF (and by extension, Maram makerspace and Jaggery lit mag).
I’m actually feeling so relieved, to have people who know these jobs much much better than I do, stepping into do some work for the SLF in August. Fingers crossed that through this process, we’re able to set up sufficient operating funds to position the SLF solidly for the next few years — or better, decade. More on that soon.
But between that and trying to finish Feast (which I started more than two years ago) and hand it in this week, finish the novel revision (which I started more than five years ago) and hand it in this week, it’s been an intense few weeks.
Truly, though, it’s more than just the last few weeks. That’s just the cherry on the top of a mountainous sundae.
It’s been a very intense summer. I’ve managed to spend a reasonable amount of time with the kids, thank all the little gods. But the last week, esp., I’ve been kind of exhausted and on the verge of tears every night (and Daddy, don’t worry, I’m doing okay now, it was just an intense work period, these things have to happen sometimes). I come to bed and I can’t relax enough to go to sleep, so then I get up and work for a few more hours, and that quiets the brain-monkeys enough that I can collapse.
There just wasn’t TIME to do the things I find rejuvenating — cook and garden and read for pleasure — even watching tv fell by the wayside. I found myself playing Polytopia compulsively sometimes, which would make me so angry with myself, because I didn’t even really enjoy it — I just seemed to need a way to make myself shut off for a little bit.
There’s a thing in gardening — indicator plants. Those are the ones that are the most temperamental — when the indicator plant starts to wilt, it’s a glaring warning siren, that you’d better take start taking care, or the whole garden is going to fall apart. Usually, for me in the garden, that means watering, which I’m not the most consistent with. (I also am bad at remembering to drink enough water myself. Working on it.)
This summer has been a real lesson in what the indicator warnings are in my life:
– playing a phone game compulsively, without enjoyment
– not having enough time to post the photos from my phone (I’m weeks behind on some of them)
– not enough time talking to close friends (Lisette, I’ve wanted to call you several times, and just completely couldn’t manage it, gah — soon!)
– not enough time talking to Kevin — for much of the past few weeks, we’ve had to communicate tersely via texts, primarily, because there just wasn’t time
– taking more baths
– not singing around the house anymore (too generally tense)
– wanting a drink
That last one is interesting for me. I’m not normally much of a drinker at all — I went through most of adult life barely drinking — maybe a glass of wine at a dinner party, but more often not. I like being clear-headed and in control (maybe a little too much, which is a separate though perhaps related question for another post), and so I’ve mostly stayed away from things that mess with your head. (I know my dad is reading this now and thinking, ‘good.’ Yes, Daddy). I’ve always had a fantasy that when I’m old, I’m going to try all the drugs, the psychedelics, etc., but right now, I’m too protective of my brain and body; they have enough challenges as it is, why add more?
But a thing happened after cancer. (My diagnosis was 4.5 years ago, and for those just coming in now, I’m fine, knock wood!)
During the five months of chemo, I mostly didn’t drink. It was hard enough just staying awake and getting through the days, esp. towards the tail end of treatment. And then there was surgery, and recovery from that, and then months of radiation. It was at that tail end of that year, when I really, for the first time in my life, found myself really wanting a glass of wine or a hard cider at the end of the day. I was so drained, and simultaneously so wound up and frustrated, and I had started taking a lot of baths during that year, and that helped, but adding a glass of wine helped more.
Self-medicating, clearly, and I’m not sure there’s really anything wrong with that in small doses. A little wine, a few baths, can help get you through a tough spot.
But it’s an indicator, a warning sign, that my life is out of balance, that there’s too much work, too much of me pouring out, and not enough refilling the spring. That’s a metaphor we use in writing — we ask our students, ‘What refills your creative wellspring?’ And maybe it’s visiting an art museum, or walking in the woods, or something else, but if you don’t make space for that in your life regularly….well, you won’t be writing anymore.
Twice in the past week, I hit a breaking point, where the various issues that I was juggling were so complex, so fraught (and at times, I was really mishandling things, and even doing damage to others in the process, which I really regret), that I ended up calling up an old friend in tears, even though I didn’t really have the time. I wasn’t ever trained for running a small business, you know, or for management, or for taking big, deliberate financial risks, like betting $15K on a cookbook — this summer has had a lot of me doing things that are enough outside my wheelhouse that I was sometimes fumbling badly.
I HAD to take the time for those calls, clearly, because I spent four hours on the phone the first time, and three hours the second time. Both conversations clarified things for me, left me more centered. (Thank you Kirsten S. (who isn’t on FB and won’t see this, thank you, Roshani). There were also two earlier conversations at WisCon, which were similarly helpful, because, people, I may seem together, but I was really losing it, and thankfully, I had a couple people who helped pull me together then, which got me through the first half of the summer. (Thank you, Benjamin, thank you Kel.)
I should have been making the time for that kind of call and conversation MUCH more often in the last year, and going forward, I’m going to try to structure more support and mentorship in my life, so I’m not feeling as much like I’m feeling my way in the dark as I try to indie-publish a cookbook and run an arts foundation (or three). (Also, I have been a BAD FRIEND to my friends, stretching myself too thin, and I want to be there for them better too. It goes both ways.)
One thing Kel said to me then has been really resonating with me. They said I needed my tribe, and I needed them around me, taking care of me, and they didn’t see that happening. And, okay, Kel sees me once or twice a year at a convention, so they don’t see that in fact, there are people trying to take care of me.
But y’know, I’m trying to do some BIG things here, things that are so big that sometimes they scare me. The SLF does good, and has the potential to do so much more. I need to make it clearer to my tribe that I need help. I am quite sure that I come off as more self-sufficient than I am, which is a big part of the problem. I apparently suck at asking for help and making it clear when I’m shaky, so I have to work on that.
At least once a year, I want to see them in person. Close friends and family, my sisters (Mir Mo Ga and Sharms) too. In my fantasy, we’d take a vacation all together, a retreat, but they don’t all know each other, so that probably won’t work. Also, small children, jobs, finances, complex schedules, etc. Gah. But I really want to make a piece of that happen, if I can. Maybe we can do it in pieces. Roshani has started coming to ICFA with me, and I’m hoping Kirsten can join me there too. We ‘ll see.
And I need more local tribe, I’m pretty sure — my best friends are mostly far away, so while I need to spend more time on the phone with and visiting them, I also need to build up my local support network. I know a lot of great people here, but not intimately enough? Something like that. I want to build a strong cohort of people supporting each other in our goals and life, which, honestly, may start with drinking a little more wine together. Let the walls down, let the fragilities and insecurities be more seen, make the struggles visible. A weekly coffee or lunch, maybe. Something. (Valerie, Nara, Amanda, I miss you.)
I went for a swim last night, and it was terrific — exercise has been one of things actually getting me through this summer, and I am so grateful to Pamfor being patient with me slowly getting up to speed to run with her, with my new trainer Liz at the gym (who is really good at adjusting her regimen to accommodate my body and its quirks specifically, and also changes what we do every time, which is such a relief for my easily bored / distracted ADHD brain). Exercise has saved me.
I’m going to build in weekly therapy sessions for the fall, just to force myself to have an unbiased check-in, to help keep me centered, and not frazzled, so much in the middle of juggling spinning plates and knives that I can’t pause to breathe.
Swimming also lets me think. They say swimming and running are two sports which are particuarly good for folks with ADHD brains, and it seems really true for me (so must remember to make sure the kids get signed up for fall swim lessons too; they can keep themselves alive in the water, but they can’t swim laps yet — I just really learned how this year, and it’s SO HELPFUL).
I solved a major novel revision problem and also a minor one in the pool last night, and it was the first chance I’d had in weeks to do that kind of deep generative thinking. Everything else I’ve been doing has been so organizationally focused, which is also good and important, but when it takes over my brain, the writing dries up.
So, watch for the indicators. Take action to avoid getting in this state again. Hiring a bookkeeper for the SLF (such a relief) is like laying drip lines in the garden at the start of the season, with a timer, so you don’t have to think about watering. I didn’t manage the drip lines this year. Next year, I want to do it with a smart timer, that checks the forecast so it won’t water if it rains.
My birthday was weeks ago, but I’ve been pondering this post since then, not having the time to write it. So this is me at 48. It’s been a super-productive summer, but it almost broke me. I need to get through the deadlines of this week, and then SLOW DOWN. Build the scaffolding, the support structures, for me, my family, my tribe.
Then we’ll see just how high we can climb together.