Friday, December 22, 2017

Stress, Satellites, and Deep Space

It's that time of year again. Everybody everywhere (at least in the USA) is preparing for Christmas, and the stress level is hovering somewhere between the stratosphere and deep space. Between the parties, shopping, decorating, entertaining, wrapping, sending cards, baking (and more baking), and hosting Christmas gatherings or traveling to them, attending church services and office parties, we're driving ourselves nuts.

And in my case at least, I have no one to blame but myself.

To make matters worse, it seems my expectations rise each year. I want to not only equal, but surpass what I did the previous year--even if the money or time or energy isn't there. I scramble to find ways to make the season festive, as well as meaningful, considering the real reason we celebrate this most holy day of days--rivaled in my opinion only by Easter. And of course, my stress level rises right along with my ridiculous expectations, and is, at this very moment, in an orbit around the earth alongside 35,000 or so satellites. I expect a call from NASA any day now.

Take a few minutes or hours or days to remind yourself just
what this season is all about. Remember what you're doing with
your writing--and why. Be content with relaxing for a while,
reveling in your family and friends, and rejuvenating your
creative side so you can resume your writing when the Christmas
tree comes down and all the cookies are gone. Yes, all the cookies
will be gone eventually. Don't shoot the messenger.
Why do I, year after year, do what amounts to torture and then resort to self-flagellation when I know perfectly well I've set my sights too high? I guess it's for the same reasons I place unrealistic expectations on my writing career. Trouble is, I don't know why I do that either. Perhaps being unrealistic in our expectations of the many things we do these days is the new normal in our present-day society.  If so, that's sad. Darned sad.

I'm also guilty of trying to "harken back to the good old days" when I think of simpler times, but I seldom do what I dream of doing. Inevitably I fall victim to the hustle and bustle of the season, squeezing in activities I don't have time for, and more often than not, don't want to do in the first place. Goodbye, Good Old Days. Hello, Present-Day Chaos. I do that with my writing too. Instead of writing a blog post once a week, I tell myself I should post every other day (I have three blogs in addition to this one) and even pencil it in my calendar, when I know perfectly well I'll fail right out of the starting gate. Then comes the self-recrimination. It's a vicious cycle that I need to break in every aspect of my life. Perhaps you do too.

If you're not guilty of the things I talked about above, I salute you for your wisdom. I admire your ability to prioritize your time and money and no doubt enjoy your holidays, and your career, a whole lot more than I do mine. I will, of course, enjoy my Christmas this year. I always do, and I'm always pleased with what I've done to make others happy too. It's not the gifts or even the parties or treats we bake. It's the fact that we take time out of our busy lives (and writing careers) to concentrate on our families and on the Gift that surpasses all other gifts. I will also resume my writing with a peacefulness born in the beauty of the season.

More than anything, I wish for you joy and happiness, relaxation, and the enjoyment of everything this precious season holds for us. Put your writing aside for the moment and concentrate instead on the reason you write in the first place--to make a difference in the world, to support your family, to achieve a dream you've probably held for a long time.

There will be time in 2018 to continue chasing your dream, honing your craft, reaching your goals, and achieving your expectations. Take time out at the end of this year to enjoy yourself with your family and friends, refresh and rejuvenate. You deserve, they deserve it. The new year will come soon enough.

Merry Christmas and a Happy 2018 to all!
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