I wrote this blog June 9, 2010. As my writing career begins to transform into one that includes lots more writing, revision passes, marketing and promotion of THE MAVERICK'S RED HOT REUNION, and my ongoing volunteer activities, I needed this reminder to slow down every once in a while and just breathe.
People's lives are busy. Some people actually define their lives by saying, "I'm so busy, or too busy or these are busy days." They revel in the busy-ness of their lives. They revel in the going out and about to do a zillion errands, or projects, or luncheons. They revel in being seen as "busy." Busy-ness defines their lives.
But sometimes I wonder if these people who are so "busy" are actually just avoiding themselves. Avoiding personal introspection. Avoiding examining who they are, or where they need to go. Other times I wonder if these busy people are busy because it makes them feel important. The busy-ness defines them.
Ever met somebody like that? I've met a few. I may have actually been guilty of committing the act of "busy-ness" myself. Heck, I was young once. I did my fair share and plus of extra work when I was employed outside the home and afterward. I remember an incredibly intense time after I became a Mom where I spent about 6 or 7 years volunteering in the school, the church, the neighborhood--basically did it all. For free. But then I think part of my motivation was the free babysitting *grin*.
Yup. I was a "busy" person. And I knew a lot of "busy people." It wasn't until I was forced to sit down and take stock that I truly began my inner journey. I admit that I was a self-help book addict for years. Heck, with the crazy dysfunctional background I came from, who wouldn't be? But I never really examined who I wanted to be until I couldn't be out in the world being, well, you know, "busy."
Yup. I couldn't be busy because I got this weirdo bug in my ear that made me dizzy. Beyond dizzy. I had a serious cases of perpetual vertigo. It was the kind of vertigo that made me sick, caused blackouts, and had accompanying bouts of tremenous heat and frightening moments of disorientation. The only way to beat it back was to STOP BEING SO BUSY.
I was felled by a tiny bug in my inner ear for 6 MONTHS.
At first I was so sick, I didn't have much energy. I napped. This was unheard of in my house. I am a "get up and go" kinda girl. Naturally, after I had a few months of serious downtime, I got bored. You know boredom is not always a bad thing. Boredom means you're healing. Boredom means your mind is getting ready for the next creative adventure.
Now if a "get up and go" girl can't really, uh, go anywhere in the real world, what is she going to do? Oh, hmmm, any good guesses out there? Oh, yeah. Write. And experiencing that illness is how I rediscovered what I know I was always meant to do. Write. I started to write my first novel. It was an escape, a joyful experience, and I fell in love with my childhood dreams all over again.
That was a wonderful year. The said book was finished, queried and requested by Silhouette Desire BEFORE I even knew about Romance Writers of America, writing craft, Goals/Motivation/Conflict, plots, revising, and more.
Fast forward almost five years. I'm still focused on the writing. I love it. I have four books under my belt (though I call them 8 given all the recent plot revisions), and I am submitting, being requested, and happily involved in all my RWA/PRO/Chapter organizations. I am also blogging, FaceBook connecting (imagine if they'd had Facebook back when I first got DIZZY? I might not be writing because I'd be "busy" connecting with my social network), TWEETING, helping with an online workshop, volunteering to help with the PRO Retreat, judging contests, entering contests.... YIKES! I am afraid I might get dizzy again.
And yes, before you ask, I am blonde. Let the jokes begin now.
But I won't get DIZZY. You know why I believe in my heart I won't get dizzy? Because all my "busy" stuff is what I want to do for my career (and my family--which comes FIRST). I have learned the fine art of saying "no." Or better, "let me get back to you about that request after I think about it." Or better yet, "I would like some help with this please."
Most of all, I've given myself permission to walk away from my commitments and take a deep breath. When dinner starts, if the phone rings, I don't answer it. Period. I keep my commitments to a set amount and I don't feel obligated to be perfect (losing perfectionism is a great way to give up the "busy" life). I don't say "yes" to make someone think better of me. And I don't say "yes" to gain approval or puff up my ego. Frankly, I don't consider saying "yes" to anything that does not reflect my Top 5 Priority List.
Ah, the Top 5 Priority List. I shared this list with you in January. I learned about this method of establishing boundaries from a LIFE MAKEOVER book I read when I was dizzy. I reevaluate it every quarter. Usually it stays the same, at least the top 2 items stay the same. The bottom 3 vary depending on season, where I am in my life, and how the rest of the family is faring.
But what is a priority? What does this word mean to you? Here is a brief dictionary explanation:
*A thing that is regarded as more important than another.
The housework didn't figure high on her list of priorities.
Seriously? It never does figure high on my list of priorities. Sure I want to prevent my toilets from being deemed toxic & hazardous, but if my house is dirty and you want to come over because you're down or need a friendly face, I'm your girl!
*The fact or condition of being regarded or treated as important.
The safety of the country takes priority over every other matter.
Or in my world the health and welfare of my family, and myself, is regarded or treated as important. If I am trying to do too much everyone suffers, including me.
*The right to take precedence or proceed before others.
Priority is given to those with press passes.
Now I love this. The items/things/people who take precedence or proceed before others in my life are my family first, my writing (actual writing, not blogging or stuff of that nature), my health, my dearest friends, my spirit and my soul. Everybody and everything else must wait in line. Period.
This getting your priorities straight isn't a perfect process. Sometimes I revert and nibble off a bit more than I can chew. Usually the first thing that suffers is my health. So I get a pretty quick reminder to get my priorities sorted.
Ironically, my weirdest time to keep my priorities straight is through the summer months. I've got these writing goals, but I scale them back a bit, or make room for flexible writing time, during this time of year. Darling Daughter is underfoot, we've got summer travel plans, and I want to enjoy my family during these lazy days. I don't stop writing, but I do break it up differently. And my priority is to work on my MS or WIP in Revision. If I'm not on Facebook or I miss a blog post, well that means I'm focusing on my first priority: the health and happiness of my family. We're probably at the pool, or shopping, or visiting some museum. And that's okay.
That's the key to maintaining your priorities and boundaries: telling yourself it's okay to let something slide or go slack every once in a while. REALLY!
Here I am 4 years later with even more books written, a publishing contract, the Darling Daughter off to university, and still writing as much as I can every day. I'm involved in the Heart of Dixie's 2014 Readers' Luncheon as the Raffle Basket coordinator and my debut novel releases in June. My priorities are still the same: take care of my health and my family's welfare, write another book, prepare for my career to launch, and then I will work on my volunteer duties. And that means asking for help because I will need extra hands to get this job done.
I will also say "no" to any other requests for my help until I have cleared my plate of the tasks currently at hand.
How do you prioritize your life? Do you say "yes" before thinking it through? Do you say "no" without guilt?