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Releasing the Pressure.

Last night I came down with a cervicogenic headache. The result of way too much time spent sitting at the computer over the past few weeks, putting unnecessary stress on myself to be productive with all this extra free time.

I recently finished typing the revised edition of my book Paid To Dance: Asha’s Story Part Two. After that, I finished typing up four new short stories, AND designed the eBook covers for them. Last weekend I finally reached a months-long goal of uploading my book The Wilted Rose to Kobo, and yesterday I also published The Wilted Rose to Google Play Books. I’ve also been working on my Irish psychological suspense novella.

When I get into this anxious-productive mode, my self-care drops, and so does my overall mental and emotional well-being. I have been finding it so hard to control the anxious thoughts dominating my mind and driving me to produce results. But then I remembered that these are just thoughts-my own thoughts, my own high standards. No-one else is placing these expectations on me. There is no external deadline being imposed on me. And I can just let these thoughts go.

There is a little resistance to letting them go, of course. But I let them go anyway. Over and over again, as many times as it takes for them to go away for good.

Last night during meditation, I feel like I finally let go of the expectation I’ve been placing on myself recently, to power through this revision and publishing process and be super productive during self isolation. I had a moment of clarity, where I realized I just didn’t want to this to myself anymore. I have reached this point before, and I am patiently remembering the lesson.

Right now I am being reminded that there is no rush. I am living life on my terms now, and don’t have to provide evidence of success in any specific period of time, or fit in with another person’s timeline, or prove the validity of my writing journey. I can walk this journey at my own pace for the rest of my life. There is no need to rush anything. This has been the biggest lesson isolation has delivered to me so far.

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How Isolation Is Helping Me Slow Down and Enjoy The Journey of Writing and Publishing

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Last night I laid awake all night. I felt so restless when I first went to bed, and after hours of lying there staring at the ceiling, I started to feel claustrophobic. I felt so unsettled, and I wanted to cry, but I didn’t know why. Was it because of everything that’s going on in the world right now? Is it a sense of overwhelm at all the writing and publishing tasks I’ve signed myself up to to fill my self isolation time? Probably a bit of both. Regardless of the cause, I didn’t fall to sleep until after 6am this morning, and woke up around 9.30am. Ugh.

The introverted writer part of me is enjoying the extended time at home to focus on writing. This is the positive spin I am trying to maintain about this whole thing.

Think of all the things you’ll have ticked off your list by the end of this! Just get stuck in and focus on that, and isolation will be over in no time.

But I’m starting to feel like I’ve got too much time to spend on writing and publishing now. That maybe I’ve over-committed myself in my isolation goals.

This time around, I want to treat the writing and publishing process as a journey, not a destination. I’ve been trying to do this for a long time, but often my obsessive, results-driven monkey-mind takes over, and once again I become a slave to the process. Putting unnecessary pressure on myself to get projects completed, not enjoying any of it.

Even just writing this out makes me realize the pressure I’ve been putting on myself over the past month.

I recently finished typing the revised edition of my book Paid To Dance: Asha’s Story Part Two. After that, I finished typing up four new short stories, AND designed the eBook covers for them. On Saturday I finally reached a months-long goal of uploading my book The Wilted Rose to Kobo.

I want to get all of my short stories individually uploaded and published to Kobo. And then I want to restructure my short story collection The New Neighbors and re-publish it. The thought of these sizable tasks is making me feel flooded with overwhelm.

Over the past week I’ve also been working on my Irish psychological suspense novella. With all the revision and publishing prep work I’ve been doing, I felt I needed to spend some mental energy on something a bit more creative. But my anxiety is also triggered by unfinished tasks and projects (not helpful when you are a writer, I know). And unfinished is exactly what my Irish novella is. Cue more anxiety.

I want these things done yesterday. I know this is ego-driven anxiety: My ego wants results, and wants the feeling of satisfaction that comes with the finalization of publishing. 

In isolation I have also started a regular yoga practice. I have been meditating for a few years now, and have introduced a few more short meditation sessions to my daily routine, and have actually found that doing these in between tasks helps me mentally transition from one task to the next. I have been trying my best to move through my days more mindfully and with more ease and flow.

More and more, I am discovering a part of me is opening up to being more mindful of my writing and publishing journey. Opening up to allowing myself to enjoy each step, and being okay with incompleteness. I’m noticing a part of me that is pushing back at the urge to push, push, push. To surrender to the process. When we have any major spiritual shifts like this, it can keep us awake. I’m convinced that the integration of this new knowledge is what is keeping me awake.

I know my ego is not liking this, because the ego wants results. A new part of me is opening up to new levels of patience and mindfulness of the journey, allowing myself to enjoy every step. To observe it all more mindfully. And this is not something I’m used to. I’m used to rushing, feeling rushed, rushing myself, and not feeling satisfied with what I have achieved in a day.

Last year I routinely kept track of my daily, weekly, monthly and quarterly achievements, noting them in my diary. This was not so much to put pressure on myself to achieve, but as something to reflect upon when I was feeling that things weren’t moving along as quickly as I’d like. To remind me of the little things I was doing each day to move toward my goals. I have not been doing this so far this year, and I feel this has been contributing to my anxiety. I think I’m going to start.

For awhile now I have been trying not to rely so heavily on the achievement of goals for my happiness and contentment. But I must admit that I do love routine, lists to check off, and the sense of accomplishment that comes with reaching my goals, however small they may be. I’m realizing now that this organised part of me is not so much a bad thing, it just needs to be kept in check. I have consciously decided not to try and resist this part of me so much. In my attempt to sooth my anxiety in not being so outcome focused, I feel like there is a part of me that is being left unfulfilled.

In the wakeful early hours of this morning, I realized that what I need to do is find a balance between the two. Satisfy the organised part of me that thrives on ticking off lists and accomplishing goals, but also being mindful of enjoying the process.

This is a new way of being for me, and I am about to learn how to be this new way. I am going to learn how to be more mindful during all my daily activities. Not over-committing myself to the point of overwhelm, but still feeling a sense of accomplishment, and setting a few goals for each day that are easily achievable.

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Grieve Writing Competition Entry 1

As many of you already know, in March of this year, my long term relationship ended, and with it my time living on the Gold Coast.

For two years I had been caring for my fiancé, who suffered a debilitating back injury at work in January 2017. I thought the past 24 months had been hard, dealing with a constant barrage of financial, health and home-related stress, but nothing compared to how hard it was to walk away from a nine-year relationship and start a new life 800 kilometers away. Within the space of two weeks, my life on the Gold Coast was over, and I was headed to Yeppoon, a hour’s drive from Rockhampton on the Central Coast of Queensland.

In the past three months I have experienced the strongest grief I have ever felt; for my relationship, for my beloved beach-side home in Coolangatta, for the life I left behind. This grief has been fraught with confusion; did I give up too early? Should I have stuck it out for longer? There have been a lot of confusing feelings, a lot around my self worth, and I’ve certainly doubted whether I made the right choice.

During this massive life upheaval, I used writing to process my grief. I wrote two flash fiction short stories: Home Is Where The Heart Breaks, in which I reflect on suddenly  having to leave my beloved home on the Gold Coast, and Hypothetical Child, about the impact that my decision not to have children has had on my life. The Hunter Writer’s Centre in Newcastle, New South Wales, holds an annual writing competition called the Grieve Writing Project, that publishes an anthology of flash fiction and poetry on the theme of grief. In April I submitted both stories to the project.

It has been a huge challenge to leave my old life behind and start anew out in the world on my own. I have experienced a period of anxiety and depression more severe than anything I experienced over the past two years caring for my partner. I have felt completely separate from my former self, disconnected from my passion for writing. I have been very reluctant to accept my new reality, and embrace my new surroundings here on the Central Coast. With the help of mental health professionals I have worked through a lot in these past months, and I have finally reached a point where I feel I can allow myself to accept my new reality, and be vulnerable enough to feel happiness and joy again as I move forward. As part of this healing process, I have decided to share these stories now. I hope that by sharing my experiences, it helps those who are going through the same experiences. If any of my friends ever feel like they need, I’m always open if you’d like to talk, whether for advice or just to listen.

 

Home Is Where The Heart Breaks

I never thought I could love living somewhere as much as I have loved living on the Gold Coast. For the past year and a half I have walked on the beach every day, taking my troubles to the ocean. Breathing in the fresh air, feeling the sand and seawater between my toes, I forgot about my problems for an hour. This place has nurtured me through what has easily been the most challenging period of my life.

We moved from Broadbeach to Coolangatta six months ago in the hope things would get better. Our unhappiness followed us; we had become more like housemates than lovers. We weren’t living in the space together, merely existing alongside one another. It was painful and depressing, yet I still loved the unit itself- the balcony off the back, the little yard, the tree-lined park just over the fence where locals played football and walked their dogs. I walked from Coolangatta to Snapper Rocks every afternoon, and watched the surfers ride the waves at sunset. Amidst my misery, I felt so lucky to call this place home.

And then I just left; I could not bear the misery a moment longer. I returned only to pack and move out, and by then I had already been erased from the home Richard and I shared. The week I was gone he took the pictures of us down; he couldn’t stand to keep looking at them after we split. It was ‘too painful, he said. I find myself feeling similar about the Gold Coast in general now; a place I was once so proud to live, I can barely stand to look at a picture of, because it is a reminder of something so treasured being taken from me too soon.

Separating from Richard, I didn’t anticipate everything else I would have to separate from as well. The family, the friends, the home. I don’t know what makes me feel sadder- leaving Richard or leaving this place.

It feels unfair that Richard gets to stay here, and I resent him somewhat for it. This lifestyle is wasted on him- he doesn’t appreciate living by the ocean the way I do. I have friends and a community here, yet the situation dictates that I’m the one that has to leave.

There is still so much I want to do on the Gold Coast, so many places to explore. The seaside bike path from Bilinga to Tugun, the sunflowers in Kingscliffe and the mountainous Byron Bay Hinterland. I always thought I’d have more time to prepare myself to leave, but my time here has run out. I need to let go of the way I thought things would be, but I’m just not ready yet.  I don’t understand why, but the journey of life is moving me on. It’s time to go now, and I have to say goodbye.

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