Self Care Day on the 6th: December 2013

December 6

Whew! Guilt is like a virulent cold. It’s around all year, but it seems to become twice as contagious during the holidays. We have massive lists of shoulds and oughts and musts but seem to get stuck in place, staring at the list with one eye, and looking for an escape hatch with the other.

Well, consider this your permission slip to examine those obligations for their true value, keep what still seems important, and toss the rest.

Seriously. Stop wasting your precious life eating your own soul with guilt over stuff you don’t really want to do or procrastinating the stuff you actually do want to do.

I just spent a little time with a favorite cousin who is a fantastic writer. He’s also great at other things and has a cadre of interests (and the books to match) to fill three lifetimes. During our visit he said just about the saddest thing I’ve heard in years. He has a couple of writing projects that he wants to work on, but life has been lifey recently and he hasn’t been able to devote much time to them. It’s completely understandable. Truly.

Here’s where it got sad, though.

He feels so guilty about neglecting his writing that he won’t allow himself to enjoy other stuff in the meantime.

Oh, heavens.

If you are going around feeling guilty about not writing and you are still not writing, stop wasting your precious life. Either sit down and write or find something else to do.

Seriously. Take a step back and reevaluate where writing fits into your priorities.

Ned Andrew is a writer and is usually fantastic at motivating himself to work on stuff well ahead of time. There are days, though, when he’s just not in the mood. Luckily, he has me to intone my mantra of, “If you really aren’t feeling it, take a walk, read a book, or whip up a meal and come back to it when you’re ready.”

I know this flies in the face of the advice writers usually get about sitting down and making a business-looking habit of churning out a certain number of pages or words before allowing themselves a break. It’s good advice for the most part, but if you find yourself staring at a blinking cursor for hours without a single inspiration, and your whole being is screaming, “I want to go for a walk!!”, this isn’t a recipe for great writing. It’s a recipe for misery.

Please, dear, go for the walk.

Okay, now that you’ve gotten some fresh air, let’s take a moment to size up some of the other “obligations” that we carry around.

If you are sitting around feeling guilty about not sending Christmas cards* and you are still not addressing those envelopes, stop wasting your precious life. Either sit down with a stack of cards and stamps or find something else to do.

If you are walking around feeling guilty about not calling your mother and you still haven’t picked up the phone, stop wasting your precious life. Either dial her up or find something else to do.

If you are beating yourself up with guilt over avoiding the gym and you still haven’t managed to darken the door, stop wasting your precious life. Either lace up your shoes or find something else to do.

Sort your list into three categories:

Now  —  Later —  Never

Now: Some of the things on our guilt list are tasks we actually do want and/or need to do right now. For those items there are all sorts of little tricks to get us out of the precontemplation stage and into action. That’s where the daily habit of sitting down and churning out 3 pages helps writers. If you are determined to get those cards out, make it a game with the whole family putting them together assembly-line style. Pour yourself a cup of coffee**, get in a comfy chair, and dial Mom up. Put on your running shoes.

Later: Let’s face it. There are things on your list that aren’t urgent and which you really aren’t in the mood for right now. It’s okay to take a break or reschedule those tasks. Taking a walk or a month-long cruise might be just the distraction you need to return to your work refreshed and raring to go.

Never: So how many of your self-imposed “obligations” are promises that you will never actually honor but are nursing a massive guilt cold over? Enough of that. If you’re not going to do it, own that. Return the book advance. Ditch the cards. Send Mom flowers. Buy bigger pants. Once you stop perseverating over this pile of never-to-happens, maybe you can redirect that energy into something truly worth your  attention.

And what if you are feeling guilty because you aren’t actually going to sort your list into three categories and make decisions about which ones to address and which ones to procrastinate and which ones to forget about?

All together now:

Stop wasting your precious life. Do it or find something else to do.


* or Hanukkah cards, Kwanzaa cards, birthday cards, birth announcements, wedding invitations, thank you notes…

**or your beverage of choice

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About Gina Lynette

I have been called a, "PollyAnna, sugar-coated idealist." I like to think of myself as more optimistic than that.

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