Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Resting My Driven

So, as I have mentioned before, I have plans. My plans have plans. My strategies have strategies. Multi-tiered goals are in progress at all times. And then something happened. I got tired. I have no idea how this happened, and I swear on all I hold dear that I eat my spinach, broccoli, Swiss chard, and thanks to CityGirl’s blog, my exquisite acorn squash drizzled with a cilantro chili vinaigrette. But this tired thing happened anyway. Drat the tired.

As a practiced expert in self-analysis, I sat myself down for a little therapy session (no, I’m really not completely crazy), and said, “Okay, you’re tired. It’s time to ease up. Hey, you can even watch TV and knit if you like.” And the frazzled, overworked mule within almost wept. So, away I went to catch up on a season and a half of Grey’s Anatomy (I swoon for Major/Dr. Owen Hunt) and picked up my knitting project (this is a good time to admit that my very first knitting project was a blanket... really, I should have started with a nice scarf).

Inexplicably, my mood got murkier. That was completely not the point of this resting-up exercise. So, then I said, “Self, we were tired, and now our mood is like the bottom layer of a toxic dump run-off ditch. What now?” More Grey’s Anatomy. Check.

As my outlook further declined, I started to marvel (with a dose of horror) at the amount of work I had put into goals that hadn’t yielded much, and that started to depress the stuffing out of me. But I couldn’t find the exact words to describe this until last weekend, when, during a puppy-induced walking extravaganza, I realized that I felt as though I had been investing in the Never Bank. And that it was likely I would just keep using up my life force to make deposits in a bank that might never yield anything. Hardly inspiring. Well, as much as the pups loved their walk, my bright, energetic, and cheery wasn’t found and I marched home to wallow in knitting and more Grey’s Anatomy, thinking that at least Major Dr. Owen Hunt would understand me (he’s all broody, tortured, and earnest just like I love my television romances).

A week passed, and everything in my life became more bland. Bright moments still happened (like that acorn squash recipe), but overall, my writing didn’t give me the familiar spark and my life in general became mostly joyless. Bleck, I say.

Worse, thoughtless comments flying around me actually hit their mark and made me sadder, where normally, I would have brushed them off like pigeon droppings from above. Somehow, thoughtless ugly comments and pigeon doodoo go together. But without my droppings brusher at the ready, my mood, laden with the uglies (and not the good kind), deteriorated, enough that I think I worried some of my trusty friends who are used to the more upbeat, conquer-the-world me.

Thankfully, another puppy walk, or three, later, I realized exactly what I need to do to fix this little troublesome patch. I need to boot my driven off the couch and back to work. It isn’t time to look around and wonder where the spoils are, and I have to know myself enough to realize that forward motion is everything to me. As long as I am making progress, either by my daily writing, or even walking or getting out and meeting people (or starting a blog and loving every minute of connecting with fabulous people), I am moving forward. Forward is what matters, not that elusive image of what success looks like. Success is showing up and participating in the journey. And that is exactly what I forgot while I wasn’t pushing myself with enough force.

The truth is, there is a time for rest, but only as a rest stop, not as a state of being. And I don’t mean to imply that I don’t take rest time even during my busy, driven days. I do. I seek stillness. But even in that, I push myself to give myself that time. Also, since I’ve gotten my diet cleaned up, my body really tells me what it wants and most specifically when it wants to go to bed. I am not pushing myself to stay up writing until midnight and then wake at five to get to work anymore (I did that for a year). And it’s okay that I couldn’t keep up that pace, because taking care of my body is one of my innumerable goals.

So, the moral of my little story is “you got to know when to hold ’em and know when to fold ‘em. Know when to walk away and know when to run.” (Thanks Kenny Rogers.)

I am curious to know how you deal with the stresses of going after goals or how you stay positive under the strain of hectic lives. I’m always looking for new strategies (and any good, healthy recipes.) Please note, I can't have chocolate. ;)

Quote for the Day from The Mountain is Young by Han Suyin

"Do not worry to give a name to what you do, my friend. Is it not sufficient that to you something is given, not to be buried in the ground, but to use? Use it well, with no thought of success or failure..."


Caroline Starr Rose said...

Wow. This is full of a lot of amazing stuff.

When I was teaching, mothering, and writing, my wise sister encouraged me to aim for attainable excellence. It's hard when from the moment you wake up your life is filled with obligation, commitments, and hard work. Thinking toward all aspects of my work (my life!) in this way was freeing. It became best for me to just revise during the school year, as my creative energy was mainly spent in the classroom.

Was this ideal? No. But it worked, helping me to aim for my best but to be realistic, as well.

DebraLSchubert said...

"Success is showing up and participating in the journey." Julie. Hits. Nail. On. Head.

It's all about the journey, baby. We all have our low points on the roller coaster ride. Remembering it's a continuing ride and will have it's "up" moments again is key. Oh, and I love you, btw. That should help, too. ;-)

Indigo said...

Thanks for this! I'm just glad to know I'm not the only one that hits these points, that feel like you're falling off the edge of no return. (Hugs)Indigo

City Girl said...

Such a great post - this is something I really struggle with myself, especially because now, with the restricted diet, my body gets tired less often but when it gets tired I need sleep and rest like now. I have to eat some wheat and dairy the next two weeks because i am getting the first set of food allergy tests done right before Thanksgiving, and i am terrified I will be exhausted again, but your post was a great reminder that rest as in a rest stop is a great approach :) Oh and so glad you like the acorn squash with cilantro vinaigrette!

Jemi Fraser said...

I tend to work best when my life is running at full tilt, but I really have to watch. I tend to get pneumonia or some other illness if I don't slow down eventually. It's a tough balance.

Stephanie Thornton said...

First of all, your acorn squash recipe sounds amazing! I just made acorn squash pasta that was pretty tasty, but yours sounds better!

Sometimes I hit the dumps too and it sucks. But I figure so long as I'm writing and enjoying it, that's all that matters. Sometimes when I really need a little artsy spark I paint. I'm not good at it, but I enjoy it. And I find when I'm writing and painting that everything else in life, even the most mundane stuff, becomes more vivid.

Anyway, I just discovered your blog and I'll be back!

Frankie said...

I'm broody, tortured, and earnest; and I want a scarf.

Julie said...


Thanks for the nice words and your advice. When I was teaching, it became my everything and other than thinking of, and occasionally working on, my writing, there was no balance in my life at all. You did a much better job!

Thanks for stopping back by the blog.

Julie said...


Do you know that I just realized that being the BFF of a rock star makes me like 40% cooler? And even though being loved by a rock star doesn't look the way I used to imagine it (John Taylor from Duran Duran of course), it makes me feel blessed.

Thanks for always supporting me in my hilly writing path. And I love ya, too!

Julie said...


I can promise you unequivocally that you are never the only one. That's the lie that our inner demons tell us. "You are alone," "No one cares," "This is how the rest of your life will be." They are powerful lies, but lies all the same. And you and me and every other person who fights those demons are cared about enough to always push through to get to the other side of the uglies.

Thanks for stopping by the blog and happy writing!

Julie said...

City Girl,

Your change in your sense of tired is exactly the same as mine. With my current diet, I am pretty motivated all day, my brain is focused (doesn't traipse off the way it used to), and I'm fired up. But when I get tired (way earlier than I used to, it's so time for bed). So, I feel a little grandma-like wandering off to bed by 9, but unless I want to start eating some fake fuel, that's the only choice or maybe find a way to get to sleep in past 5.

I really am looking forward to hearing what you notice about reintroducing the foods. And by the way, your post about sushi was a little cruel... it looked so good and it was so far away. :)

Julie said...


You sound like I did when I was teaching. I was putting in more than 90 hours a week, creating my behemoth lessons that included battle reenactments, running a drama club, and acting as the school videographer and producing weekly videos that the students loved. I did that up until the point when I got really sick and couldn't seem to get well. That is part of why I left teaching; I simply couldn't give less than my all because the students were that important to me. But that lack of balance problem was all mine, as I've found since I haven't been teaching.

But it is much easier now to maintain balance, but I will always have that ability to work too hard.

Thanks for your comment.

Julie said...


Welcome to the blog! And I can't claim credit for that recipe at all (City Girl's blog is responsible for my new fav)! Do tell about this acorn squash pasta though, don't tease! Tis the season for the squash in all its variations.

I also do some drawing/painting. I am not what would ever be considered adept at it, but that's part of what I like. There is no goal for my drawing beyond fun, no desire to be great. And I love crayons! I haven't painted in a while, but it sounds like fun.

Thanks for commenting!

Julie said...


Broody, tortured, and earnest. Hmmm. Really? You are going to have to work on that if you expect a scarf, and you know the most calming, restorative color is pink. How would that be? You could be the only pirate with a pink scarf next Halloween. Consider.

Thanks for stopping by, as always!

Tawny-Taylor said...

A wise woman told me "moving backwards sucks ass." Whenever I get down I say that, chuckle, then keep on truckin.

Love you!


aleonard said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
aleonard said...

I can tell by your faboulous outfit today (the knee high suede boots) that you are back at it and I like seeing you that way! Keep up the good work...and the cute clothes. They make coming to work a little more exciting for me anyway. It makes the day better to have a fashionista next door to model the lastest runway fashions...and tell me all about the good bargains you found! ;)

Jessie Sams said...

Hello Julie,

I am new to your blog and hopped on over to it after reading a comment you had left on Debra's blog; in it, you used the phrase "looking for love in all the right pages." As soon as I read that line, I said, "That woman is fabulous." Your writing style in a short comment made me want to read more, and ... here I am.

You could have been writing this post about my life--every thing I do is part of a list to accomplish something else. When one thing is finished, I don't feel like I ever get the chance to kick back and say, "I did it!" Instead, one short happy dance later, it's on to the next to-do list for the next goal. At times, my life is stressful. Moreso than I even want to think about. As with you, even my down times are used to complete side projects that are working toward a goal (finish the stockings by Christmastime, work on my son's scrapbook to keep it up-to-date, write that blog posting by X date). And yet, I love what I do--all the crazy things I get myself involved in work together to make my life so much more fulfilling.

This week things really started falling into place for me, and I got one piece of good news after another. I knew weeks like this don't come along all that often, so I opened up a document and started listing everything that went right. Next time I hit a bad week, I'm going to open that document up and stare at it to help me remember why I do what I do.

When things are building up too much, I've found that leaving everything behind for a set amount of time helps me get refocused. This past summer, my stress levels were nearing an all-time high, so I jumped on a plane and left home for a week to do nothing. I repeat N-O-T-H-I-N-G. In fact, I ended up playing Peggle (an addictive computer game) the majority of the week. I came back ready to tackle the next thing on my to-do list.

Oh, and another thing that helps (that's much cheaper because it's free)? Playing "Footloose" (the song) really loud and getting my butt out of the chair to dance like a fool. It worked in college when my roommate and I danced to that song to break up studying for finals, and it still manages to get my energy flowing.

Now that I've written far more than what a comment calls for, I need to go and read the rest of your blog. I don't want to scare you or anything, but from what I've seen of it so far, it makes me want to send you a virtual hug.


Kasie West said...

What a great, honest post. I love many things about it, two of which are: you talk to yourself almost as much as I do and the other being that normally you brush pigeon dropping away as though they are nothing. :) My friend once got pooped on by a pigeon. It wasn't pretty.

Goals are good. Non-obsessive goals are even better so good luck with those.

Julie said...

Ms. Tawny Taylor,

You make me sound fierce with that little lecture I gave you. And I truly believe (but I guess I had to remind myself) that our choice is to move forward or to move backward, and backward sucks.

It reminds me of that truly inspirational line from The Shawshank Redemption. "You can either get busy living or get busy dying."

And the truth is, I know how limitless your talents and intelligence are, so you can't blame me for wanting to help you push past the silly hurdles that try to slow you down. Carry on and love you, too!

Julie said...


Everything I know about being a frugal fashionista, I learned from your stylish self. Thanks for the shout-out to my gorgeous new boots. They have made friends with my other shoes (except my favorite summer heels, who are very bitter and snarky about the competition).

Having you in my life is a blessing.

P.S. A.L. is the graphic designer who helped with my blog header and took my picture. Amazingly talented friends rock!

Julie said...


Welcome to the blog and thanks so much for the nice comments. I like doing gratitude lists, too, but sometimes when I'm in the dumps, it's like it's physically and mentally impossible to even remember what I am grateful for (not unlike needing to go to a doctor, getting there, and forgetting everything you were there for because you just want to run away from the white-coated person).

And your trip sounds wonderful. I might have to consider a trip that doesn't involve running around and trying to see everyone I left behind when I moved away from my home town. Maybe something with a warm beach. Will consider.

And you can never go wrong with Footloose (and yes, I have my eighties badge... and have the soundtrack, which I had to re-purchase after wearing out the tape).

Glad to have you as a reader and thanks for commenting!

Julie said...


I'm sure that metaphorical pigeon droppings are very different from actual pigeon droppings, and hence easier to brush away.

Thanks for stopping by the blog and commenting. I loved your blog post and also your willingness to share some of the ups and downs of your writing experience. I think a lot of people think that as soon as you have an agent, all the unicorns come to feed out of your hand and bliss is achieved, not that the hard work of writing continues. It was fantastic of you to share your experience! Thanks!