Feeling “Scattered”: The Tricky Balancing Act of, Well, Balance

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Those of you who practice yoga are likely familiar with tree pose. In it, you stand on one foot and slide your other foot up the inside of the opposing leg until it reaches your inner thigh. And here, you stand, rooted as firmly in your stance as an oak sinking its roots deep into the rich, dark earth.

Seasoned yogis make it look effortless. Their practiced focus never seems to waver, their stance as calm as the mighty oak itself.

And the rest of us? We waver. We falter. We lose our balance, arms windmilling as we try not to tumble sideways. And why do we falter? Not usually because of our bodies. We falter because we lose focus.

That’s life. One minute you’re writing the next great American novel, and the next you’re watching baby goats on YouTube. True story.

And, in real life, we’re not standing in a yoga studio filled with tealights glistening in Himalayan salt candle holders. Life outside our yoga practice is more like trying to do tree pose while a screaming toddler throws Little People at your head.

And no, I don’t have kids, but sometimes life itself feels like a screaming toddler. I want a cookie! Let’s go out for frozen yogurt! Why are you writing a novel? Didn’t you hear about the yogurt idea? Where are we at on that cookie?

Or it’s the rule-loving side of us that’s screaming. Pay the electric bill! What will the neighbors think if you don’t weed the flowerbeds?!

And sometimes it’s not our inner id or super ego that’s giving us the problems. Sometimes there are intense emotions that make balance seem elusive. Things like grief, sadness, uncertainty, fear, insecurity. And if you’re living with a mood disorder, not knowing what your misfiring synapses are going to throw at you next? Will it be the terror of a panic attack, the painful waves of despair, or the siren’s song of hypomania?

Whew.

Sometimes modern life feels like one crisis after another. This year, for example, I literally spent part of New Year’s Day in the urgent care because of chest pains, that, thankfully, turned out to be a bad bout of esophagitis. My migraines have come back with a vengeance after years of being fairly well-managed, and in trying to improve my physical health, I injured my hip and spent weeks in physical therapy. On the homefront, our house seems to be falling apart. The washer went. The roof leaked, which broke the washer again. On and on. Nothing earth-shattering. Other people are dealing with far worse.

But each little thing chips away at our balance. So, what can we do?

First, we find our focus.

In balancing poses in yoga, when we lose our focus, we lose our balance. Practicing meditation and yoga are great for this because they train our mental focus muscles. And these skills require exercise, like any other. If you don’t run that mile, you lose the ability. Same with focus. If we don’t practice focus, we become scattered and focus becomes elusive.

It helps to have a list of values that guide us in life. For me, those are spirituality and magic, creativity and storytelling, and relationships and community. Refocusing on these core values allows me to let the little things slide right over me—given time. Sure, the roof is leaking, and that’s a big deal, but I still need to create a space to focus on creating art, living a magical life, and maintaining my relationships. So, I call my brother and chat for a while. I whip up a protection spell for the house. I write a chapter in my latest WIP. Anything to refocus on the bigger picture.

We have to remember that balance comes and goes. It’s not a destination.

Sometimes, we will be scattered. We can’t be this perfectly poised, grounded, centered person every moment of every day. Yes, that space exists inside of us even at our most frantic, but we will become disoriented from time to time. When we do, a simple centering exercise can help us reconnect.

Life has seasons—seasons of stillness, seasons of growth.

Growth can feel overwhelming, scary, and chaotic. Whether we’re growing our family or our business, we’re adding a lot more to our plates, and that’s overwhelming at times.

For example, I’ve entered a period where I really want to grow in several areas of my life. I’m studying aromatherapy, as I’m attempting to incorporate my own homemade essential-oil based goods into my life. Nature and magic infuse my life and my writing, and this is another outlet for my creativity. My life is awash in new ideas, new information, and new beginnings. Will I be any good at it? Can I create something useful? Can I master this new skill?

I am trying to go slowly, but also challenge myself. And writing remains my focus. I’m trying to master deep POV and get OAK-BOUND and SPELLFIRE’S KISS ready for submission later this summer or early fall, all while penning a first draft of WILD TAROT.

And as for my ROW80 goals, they are shifting in the midst of this quest for balance. I’m about 21K into WILD TAROT, and I’ve just sent OAK-BOUND off to a professional editor for her feedback. I’m also taking a monthlong workshop in deep POV to further strengthen this skill.

I’m tiptoeing into aromatherapy, taking two courses on Udemy as a starting point. I’m experimenting with perfume blends–Boho Soul turned out well, but the first attempt at Kitchen Witch was a bust. Now in the works: Awaken, a citrusy scent meant to help uplift the mood and focus mental energies. I don’t know if these will ever go anywhere outside of my own use or for family and friends, but it’s still a fun experiment.

Much progress has been made in terms of tending hearth and home, and the house is feeling much homier and more settled these days. I still have the attic and a couple closets to declutter and organize, but overall, we’ve drastically reduced the amount of stuff we own and everything has a place.

That’s balance. It comes and goes. As long as we know our core values, what we truly want our lives to look like, we can be assured that balance will return. In the midst of the mess and the magic that is life, balance, like all things, ebbs and flows.

What about you? How do you achieve balance in your life? Does it ever feel elusive? Do you have any practices for rebalancing?

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Crafting a purpose-driven writing career

I often find myself veering between offering practical takeaways on the blog and delving into the deeper, broader, and somewhat ambiguous qualities that make life so interesting. I’d like to think this post blends the two.

So here’s a brief recap: Once upon a time, there was an overachiever who worked three jobs, which was all well and good until she ran her health into the ground. (That overachiever, of course, is me.) More than six months later, I still have a case of the blahs, and from those health woes has arisen two feelings. One is, oddly enough, a sense of gratitude. If I were to count my blessings, there would be a lot of them, and I thank my lucky stars for that. Having a supportive husband to lean upon, having a boss who’s forgiving of my crazy schedule as I head out to doctor’s appointments, having health insurance to help pay those bills…I’m grateful for those things.

But the second feeling is this sense of…well, of urgency, I suppose. All those days when I’m lying in bed with a headache, I’m partially kicking myself for not being able to work, to get more done—more words written, more blogs posted, more items crossed off life’s growing to-do list. And then I kick myself more for not being able to leave work at the door. I’m learning that there is a difference between being task-driven and purpose-driven. Tasks are the items we write on a list. Purpose is broader. It’s what helps us chart a course through life, what gives us meaning and a sense of accomplishment. Purpose is the reason we set goals, whether we’re planning to run a marathon or write a book.

It’s that gratitude for the life I have and that sense of urgency, combined with a blog post by Jens P. Berget, The 5 Reasons Why I am a Failed Writer, that got me thinking about purpose-driven writing careers—including purpose-driven writing. Jens writes:

I write because I love to write. I want people to read what I have written, and I love feedback. And I work to become a better writer.

But I don’t have a goal when I write

I am telling a story. I want it to be entertaining, but do I want my readers to cry, to learn something, or to never forget about the main character? The truth is that I don’t know. I just write without having a single goal for the story or how my readers should react.

I believe writers should have a main goal with everything they write.

Since I write romance, you’d think my goal was obvious. 😉 But the genre is more complicated than that. You don’t get the same feeling from 50 Shades of Grey that you do from The Notebook.

What are some common themes that crop up in your writing? I notice a few in my own stories: healing, self-acceptance, recovering from grief. Nature and magic play key roles, all wrapped up in my own interpretations of myths and faerie tales. Purpose runs underneath all of those things, a tree’s deep roots anchoring it to the earth that sustains it.

When the road signs get confusing, a sense of purpose in our writing career–and our life, in general–helps us navigate.

The purpose isn’t for our readers. No, the purpose is for us. It helps us stay out of the rat race and stay focused on what we want. It helps us create the life we want to lead.

This goes beyond tone, beyond theme, beyond genre. If we’re writing in three genres, it spans all three. Why do we write? What draws us to the page? Do we want to entertain? Do we want to make people laugh their cares away? Do we want to challenge people? Do we want to inspire our readers? I write to give people hope, to help them heal, to create a spot of beauty in an all-too crazy world.

And that sense of purpose is what kept me pushing through the migraines and the fatigue and the aches earlier this year, to finish MADE OF SHADOWS, my first paranormal romance. And remembering that sense of purpose—creating art to make the world a better place and improve people’s lives—is what keeps me pushing. Making art—in my case, storytelling—gives me a sense of purpose, a way to reach out and help others. When I was constantly burning the midnight oil, I could only focus on task after task. I lost my sense of purpose, and I started to drift. 2012 is my year of finding my bearings and refocusing on the values that are most important to me.

It’s also the catalyst behind many of my blog posts. I hope this blog will serve as a way to open up discussions about creating lives of intent and meaning. I’d like to offer these periodic writing updates, but also offer practical knowledge about simplifying life, achieving balance, and living our dreams. And I know I’ll learn more than a few things from everybody else along the way.

What about you? Why do you write? What values drive your life?