Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Lassoing Life

I think we can all agree that 2016 was an incredibly difficult year. Too many things happened locally, nationally, and internationally: beloved celebrities passed away, the Syrian civil war and terrorism took far too many lives, and the US presidential election strained relationships and us as a nation. On a personal level, I had my share of struggles: my husband ended up in the hospital for another staph infection (on the week we closed on our new house) and ended up in the ER later that year for a work-related accident; my father had a stroke and I flew to Denver to be with him; my stepson had overwhelming challenges that required our assistance; and my health took a nosedive.

Of course, no year is free from challenges. But some years are simply harder than others. Now that the year is nearly gone, I'm trying to regroup and find my way back to better health, better time-management skills, better coping mechanisms, and yes, better ways to find motivation to write. Thankfully, I've had some time to relax and regroup. I work at a university and every year we have a nice holiday break where everything is shut down from Christmas through New Year's. I love it (though I wonder if I'd like a bonus more!).

Yesterday, I accomplished quite a bit. I made a list of things I'd like to get done on our house in 2017, went through the huge stack of paperwork that had accumulated on my desk, paid bills, got in a work-out on my treadmill, and found recipes that fit my healthy eating plan. In other words, I felt like I'd lassoed the bull that has been running rampant in the corral, bashing into the fence and kicking up manure everywhere. Yes, that's how life has felt for the past year.

When you have a chronic illness, a set schedule is almost impossible. Waking up with a horrible rheumatoid arthritis flare means I miss work, miss my workout, usually make poor eating choices (though I'm hoping to change that), and miss writing. I end up in bed and take long naps, watch movies, surf the 'Net, and just try to ignore that I feel awful. My schedule ends up in shambles and every day I have to regroup. It becomes utterly exhausting physically and emotionally to go through this on a weekly basis (sometimes I'll make it two weeks without getting sick, but that's becoming rare).

And yes, this affects my writing life. It also feeds the horrible beast known as Resistance. It takes mental energy to write. After every flare, I'm drained and writing is the last thing I want to do. This saddens me considering writing is my fuel. But with Resistance tackling me at the one yard line every single time I try to work on the novel, I either 1) go down before hitting the goal line or 2) push through and make a touchdown (i.e. write all the words!). Unfortunately, #2 is becoming the exception rather than the norm.

How to change this? I'm trying to figure it out and come up with some strategies to help. But I've come to the conclusion that, as a person of faith, none of my solutions will work unless I put God first. Praying for guidance and strength is a must. Yet I constantly forget to do this. Whether it's the brain fog inherent to rheumatoid arthritis or my brain crowded with too many thoughts, I tend to misplace my best intentions.

We all try to make New Year's Resolutions, yet by March, most of them are gone by the wayside. I'd rather not do that. Instead, I'd like to create coping strategies I can use for the rest of my life. I'm tired of flailing in the ocean with my head barely above water and the current trying mightily to push me under. I can't do it anymore. I need to find a strong ledge so that the water can rush around me, but I can stand firm.

What does this ledge look like? I'm not sure. Bullet journals? Lists? Meditation? A reminder on my phone to stop and pray? A blocking device so I can't access social media after 5 p.m.? Maybe a combination of all?  All I know is that I can't keep walking down my current path. Something needs to change.

And isn't that the beauty of life? We can stop and say, "No more" no matter what day or month it is. We don't need to wait for New Year's to press the reset button.

For me, I'm looking forward to taking each day as it comes. As the song by Merle Haggard says,

"One day at a time sweet Jesus that's all I'm asking from you
Give me the strength to do everyday what I have to do
Yesterday's gone sweet Jesus and tomorrow may never be mine
So for my sake teach me to take one day at a time."


  1. I don't have the same challenges you have, but this year has tested my coping skills, too.

    I've had to accept that I cannot write during the workweek, especially now that I've returned to full-time employment. My brain cannot deal with a full workday and then switch gears to creative writing. So, I've had to set aside my writing time on the weekends.

    I've also--just within the last two months--started meditating, more to help me release workday stress at night so I can get decent, restful sleep. That's helped too. (If you go this route, I highly recommend Headspace--10 minute meditations led by a man with a soothing English accent.:-) The first ten are free and then you have the option of purchasing a subscription to gain access to more.)

    Whatever you try, I hope you find what you need.

    1. Thanks, Ilene. :) I have a hard time writing after the workday, too. Sometimes, I'm fortunate that I can actually snag some writing time during the work day if things are slow, but it's really hard to downshift into that mode.

      I will check out that meditation thing. Thanks for the recommendation! I hope that 2017 is kinder to you. :)

  2. I didn't realize the difficulties that challenge you each day - health wise. But you have the right plans in place. God and prayer first each morning. Even five minutes reading scripture. You love history, and I am amazed at the history the Bible offers once I got through the genealogies in Genesis. I loved reading through the whole Bible and am doing it again in 2017. It just inspired each day. Best wishes for a healthy and happy 2017.

    1. Thank you, Sandi! Yes, when I start my morning off with God, I find that things naturally flow smoother. :) I always read a devotion first thing when I get to work and it definitely helps. :)


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