I’m not a person who moves slowly. Growing up, I spent many years taking piano lessons and practicing for hours. I always added a bit more speed to the songs than they really needed. When I started learning how to type, my mother told me she wanted me to type at least 60 words per minute; I figured that was too slow. I walk quickly, I talk fast, and even in graduate school, I often worked at breakneck speed. I have a lot I want to do, and I get a lot done.
Learning to taking things a bit more slowly has not been easy for me, but that seems to be the lesson in these past few years. I like to think it’s helped me in the quest for balance. That seems as elusive as ever, but I haven’t stopped trying. For me, January was the perfect chance to start focusing on balance again, to reconnect with a few things that are important to me, like writing and working out, and making a little time for me each day in the hopes that I won’t get as stressed out.
Three weeks into the new year, I might be making a little headway. I appreciated Lynn’s thoughts on Writing Resolutions and understand the challenges of hitting daily word targets (I can do it, but they never feel quality – forced is more accurate). Angela’s tips on how to write when it’s not your primary job also helped me think.
So far in 2019, I’m edging into my personal goals a little at a time, with routine on the one hand but also some haphazardness.
It feels a bit like trudging through the snow, but it’s better than not going anywhere. This year, I’m focusing on the fact that I’m just doing something, rather than nothing. I want to keep it up this month. Next month, I can add some more.
What has that looked like for me?
First, some clarity on what my personal obligations look like, as I’ve found it’s one thing to say you can take time for something, and another to figure out how it all fits. I have a kindergartner, a 35-40 minute commute, a spouse in the midst of some job craziness, and a job that doesn’t fit neatly between the hours of 8 and 5. As a teacher, I often spend half my evenings planning lessons or grading assignments, plus some weekends. I leave school around 4:30 to get my child, spend the hours of 5 to 7:30 prepping dinner and playing mom, help get him to bed, and then have a couple of hours to get things done. Also, I coach an academic team that has practices 3 days a week right now, so Tuesday and Thursdays I get home at 9:30pm if I’m lucky.
None of this is to say I don’t have time; it’s just that in this month, those are my realities, and I came into January with the main goal of reducing my stress so that I can make better choices on a daily basis.
That means this month, my priority was not writing, but working out. For the first two weeks since school’s been back, I’ve targeted a 5am (weekday) wake up. I get myself downstairs, do five minutes of yoga through the Daily Yoga app, plank for 30 seconds, turn on the treadmill, and walk for 20 minutes. On Tuesdays and Thursdays, I add in some really, really basic hand weights for about 5 minutes.
It seems like so little, but I think the cumulative effect has been really good for me. That 30 minutes of time allows me to breathe, be alone, and just do what I want to do for me (that part of equation is the 20 minutes on the treadmill, where I watch something on my iPad).
The first week I missed 2 days; last week I hit all five. I’m determined to hit everything this week and next to finish up the month, and I’m trying to keep the movement going through the weekend. It’s not much, but it’s better than my January usually is.
And then there’s writing, which I wasn’t going to worry about this month. I was ready to just not worry about it, then took a few chances. I spent some time writing over winter break, then pitched an idea to another site just before school resumed. That pitch led to a day of writing almost two weeks ago, which led to a day of editing this past week, and all that will lead to me excitedly sharing the results soon. This blog post marks my fourth consecutive week of doing some sort of writing, which is more than I’ve done in a long while.
(Confession: I didn’t really want to write today, but reader, I did it.)
I don’t know where any of this leaves me. I think these small steps have given me a good start to the year (as in 2019) and helped me feel like I’m taking back from the challenges that this academic year have brought, both personally and professionally.
The theme of my life right now seems to be persist. The past few months have brought me a number of challenges, and I haven’t been terribly good at figuring out how to handle them. But I think I’m learning that it doesn’t hurt to slow down a little bit.
What’s your theme so far for 2019?