The past few years have been a gut-twisting rollercoaster ride of occurrences for me. A lifelong dream of finding a publisher for my book sandwiched in between the unexpected death of two loved ones. The pandemic, homeschooling, lockdown, finishing my second book, my first book being published…so many unusual and life-changing events happening for an such extended period of time takes a toll. It became difficult to see too far ahead and planning for anything more than a sudden impact was impossible. I was in a constant state of high-alert, prepared to tackle whatever calamity life threw at me next. And when things finally calmed down, the flat yawning landscape before me, bare of disasters and obstacles, is a both a relief and a little daunting.
I’m experiencing a bit of a plateau right now. My first book has been on sale for almost five months now and the initial frenzy of publicity has died down. With the pandemic still preventing in-person events, things have grown quiet. The panic of trying to get the word out about my book and make the most of the holiday shopping season is now just a constant underlying pull to keep up social media accounts, try to reach new readers and garner reviews.
The frenzy of trying to finish my second book is over and now I await feedback from my publisher. I am three chapters into my third book which is coming along nicely. I keep looking over my shoulder while I write, wondering what else I should be doing. Things are too quiet. I have a nagging feeling that I must be missing something…
The trouble with highs and lows is that they can feel like the norm. The intense pressure to produce or perform or grapple with an emergency takes up an enormous amount of mental and physical energy. It’s been exciting to see a great review on a website or an interview in a local paper. And it’s been equally exhausting cleaning out boxes that belonged to my mom who passed away. But every day of life isn’t always filled with such an emotional spectrum as mine has been lately. Most often, my life is pretty uneventful. Making that transition to a normal pace of life is an adjustment. I have to re-program my brain to move at a slower pace and let go of the feeling that I haven’t accomplished enough at the end of each day because there is no need for me to do twelve things at once any more.
So how do I turn the off switch? How do I stop my mind racing like it does when I’ve got a book to finish writing, another book to edit, an interview, dinner to cook, a house to clean and a school board meeting all in the same day?
For me, the trick is to concentrate on what I’m doing and tune-out the voice in my head, shouting at me to do more, urging me to knock some of those items off my long-term to-do list while I can. I’ve realized I’ll always have a to-do list. It never goes away, much like my never-ending laundry pile. Cross off an item and another one appears almost immediately, just itching to consume my time. It’s counter-intuitive to my personality and work-ethic not to jump on that next item. I’ve always done twelve things at once – when I was working in entertainment, as a mom and as a writer. But when I’m so busy that I can barely remember to breath…sure, I might get things done, but I don’t enjoy the process very much. I don’t remember much of my day because it was so filled with tasks to accomplish I never had a chance to appreciate them. Calling my grandma wasn’t something I was enjoying, it was something I could do while I made dinner and did laundry.
The thing about plateaus is while they might be flat and boring, they’re also usually obstacle free – no mountains to climb or obstacles block your view. It’s a perfect opportunity to see how far I’ve come, where I’m going and where I’d like to be. There’s nothing boring about that.
So these days, I am trying to be mindful of what I am doing. I try to hush the nagging voice in my head urging me to do more and instead pay attention to the task at hand. I make lists that I can check off or put reminders in my phone, so I don’t need to worry about forgetting something I can’t get done today. And I say ‘no’ if taking on a new task will prevent me from focusing on the few tasks I need to accomplish. I can’t do everything and I am learning to be OK with that. Somedays I am better at it than others.
All too soon I will have to climb another mountain or ride another roller coaster. So for now, I am trying to enjoy the flat and steady scenery I’m passing through.