Finding the Rhythm

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It’s been nearly a year now since I started working from home. Just a few weeks short of a year since I have been in charge of my own schedule.

When I started this process I was excited. I thought that if I just listened to myself, and worked out my circadian rhythm, that I could find a schedule that suited me perfectly and I would be able to work well each day, get the jobs done, and still be energetic and energised at the end of each day, and ready to go each new morning.

I thought that when I was no longer a permanently exhausted pigeon, I could figure out if I was an early bird or a night owl and run my day accordingly.

I thought that if I wasn’t squeezing myself into someone else’s schedule, that I could make it all work and be relaxed and happy about it. That I could find the perfect way to structure each day. That life would become easier to juggle.

And don’t get me wrong. I love my life. I really do. Even when I’m feeling totally challenged and busy I love my life right now. It’s great.

But I’m learning a few things about schedules.

I like schedules, I’ve written about them before. I like to have a plan, laid out, set out for me so that I know where I’m heading, what I’m doing. But if I’m not careful, that structure, that framework can become a cage. A prison with solid stone walls. And when things change – I get more work or I take up a new opportunity – then I can find myself squeezed against the bars of the schedule.

Life changes. There is a rhythm to the day, for sure. But there is also a rhythm to the week, to the month, and to the year. And I don’t know what all those are yet.

Right now it looks like winter is likely to be a busy time for my editing business. A time when I get a few extra jobs. Where there’s more to squeeze in.

In the summer I didn’t have much editing work at all. But I did a lot of writing work – producing books, marketing and rewriting, and even playing with book covers.

In the summer I worried that I would never get any editing work and that I wouldn’t make the business pay. In the winter I worry that I’ll never get my books to market, that they’ll be stuck in the editing, interior formatting, and cover design stage forever.

I think there’s a better way of living.

In the summer: to be grateful for all the writing I can do. To be busy creating. To enjoy the creative growth.

In the winter: to be grateful for the money coming in through editing, and to keep the writing just ticking slowly along, without feeling guilty for not reaching unrealistic goals.

I need to learn to live in these rhythms, not put burdens on myself that I can’t carry. I can’t keep up the amount of writing and book preparation and marketing that I did in the summer right now, because I have editing to do instead. I need to let it go a bit, allow myself to slow down. Not stop completely, but slow a bit.

I need to be more flexible, to keep the framework for sure, but to use it like a vine, weaving myself in and around it in order to grow.

I thought I could find the perfect schedule that fit everything into my life in perfect harmony, day by day, week by week. But I’m finding that is just not possible.

Instead I need to find the rhythm of my own life. Not just the daily rhythm, but weekly, monthly, and annual rhythm. Small adjustments each day depending on my energy levels, and larger adjustments as the seasons change and the workload changes with it.

The world is made with seasons – spring, summer, autumn, winter. Sowing and harvest, times to work hard and times to rest. As we have sheltered ourselves from these changes using electricity to give light and heat, and big-name supermarkets to give strawberries all year round, have we lost the rhythm we need to feel for ourselves?

Do you see these rhythms in your life? How does the change in season from summer to winter affect you? (Or from winter to summer if you’re in the north.)

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It’s all happening now!

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Life is a funny thing. It runs along, and runs along, and we all make it through each day, and then suddenly big changes happen. And even though they may be long anticipated, there always seems to be a surprise when they finally come to pass.

I made a decision last June that I would leave my position in the university. It was a firm decision, though I didn’t know what I was leaving to go to, apart from doing more writing, of course.

Anyway, it was a decision, and it was firm, I was going to work until the end of my two contracts and then that would be it.

My first contract, the teaching contract, finished in December. I shed many tears after my last class, and then found that I didn’t miss the teaching nearly as much as I thought I would.

Then I fell into the new routine of two days at university per week, working on papers and helping my remaining PhD student to get his thesis together. It all got very comfortable. I started my new editing business and I collected a nice number of customers. I had a new direction to head in. I launched my books. Life was going along well.

But, as it turns out, it’s was going along well towards the edge of a cliff.

Next week is my last week at university. Next week this chapter in my life comes to an end. And I think that it doesn’t matter how much you prepare yourself for this kind of thing, when it happens, it’s a shock.

A couple of weeks ago the chemistry department held a prize giving event, and as part of that I was thanked for my teaching and given a beautiful pearl pendant necklace. Yesterday we had a proper farewell lunch (shared with a beloved colleague who is also leaving) with gifts of flowers and wine and chocolate, and a HUGE cake. Next week, on my very last day at the uni, there will be another lunch from another part of the department to say goodbye.

It’s long anticipated, but it also feels like it has come up quickly. I have been preparing for this time for the last year, but at the same time there will be major adjustments to make. I’m ready to leave academic life, but at the same time, academia was a dream that I invested so much in and giving up that dream is still hard. I’m looking forward to leaving, but I will miss the camaraderie, the friends and colleagues, and probably even the work. And no matter how much we all say we’ll stay in touch, the fact is that things will change.

I won’t have much time to dwell on it though. I formally finish work on Friday the 15th and at 7am on Saturday the 16th I will be in a plane heading to LA. Not because I want to see LA, as such, but to visit my beloved sister, the wonderful Catherine Joy (of Catherine Joy Music – check her out on Facebook). That also has been long planned and long anticipated but to actually have it happening now feels … well it feels big. Especially getting up at 3am or whatever on Saturday. I don’t want to think about that part of it.

So yes, life is changing for me. In a big way. I look forward to sharing the ups and downs of the new life with you all, and I hope you enjoy hearing about my new small adventures.

I’m hoping that my life can become the quiet life that I long for.

I tell you one thing, I feel so very blessed, so incredibly privileged to be able to even attempt this change. I know that this jump into the unknown is only possible for me because I was born in this country, I was born white, the government loaned me the money for my university studies and paid me to undertake them, and many other blessings through the years that are in no way dependent on what I’ve done. I am so grateful.

So I hope to help others with the privilege I’ve been given. And to make good use of the time I have in the years ahead. Here’s to new (quiet) adventures!

Seasons

Priorities

Earlier this year when I was trying to figure out what to say no to I made a mind-map of my life. I divided it up into sections – family, church, work, writing, and health. In each section I put the activities that I wanted to include and make time for and I used that map as a method of saying no to those things that didn’t fit in the segments.

It was a good way of seeing what there already was prioritised in my life and of figuring out what things just didn’t fit into my priorities. A way of looking at what I valued, and a way of testing each opportunity as it came.

It wasn’t that long ago that I filled in this mind map but I can already see things that no longer fit my life. For example, one of the planned tasks under ‘work’ was to apply for a new position that I knew would be advertised at my workplace this year. This position was an opportunity I had been waiting for for years. I thought it would fulfil my desire for permanency and security and I was ready to go for it.

In the, I don’t know, three or four months since I completed the mind-map my ideas completely changed. I no longer want to apply for the job. I wouldn’t accept it if it were handed to me on a silver platter. I’m ready to change direction and so grateful that I’m not locked into a long term position.

I often get sucked into what I call ‘The Enid Blyton Mindset’. The idea that if you get everything under control, get into the right school, job, or relationship, or have a certain amount of money saved, or figure out the right exercise routine, or somehow just get every area of your life just right, then you’ll live “Happily Ever After”.

Of course, it doesn’t work like that. Things are constantly changing. Your exercise routine might work really well until you get sick, or the amount of money you have for a buffer might be exactly right until your car breaks down and it all gets used up. Life is particularly skilled at throwing spanners in the works. We need to be flexible, constantly changing, constantly growing.

Some seasons of life are particularly hard. One of the seasons of life that I found especially draining was when my children were small. As much as I loved my children (and still do), it was all I could do just to get through each day. I lived in a constant state of exhausted fog. I don’t think that I could have done any writing when the kids were small, even though it is the thing that gives me life and joy now. It just would not have fit into that season of my life.

The thing I’m trying to say is that our needs and wants can change over time. It’s not that we have one perfect life set-up that we are struggling towards and when we get there it will be bliss. No, I think we need to be flexible with ourselves and take the time to have a good hard look at where we are every so often so that we can adjust our list of priorities. What was once so very important may now be dropped off the list. If a new priority (maybe taking care of ageing parents) comes on to the list, other priorities (the morning tea roster at church) might have to be knocked off. Or it might just be time, like it is now for me, to deliberately change your life so that a new major priority can get major chunks of time.

What do you think of the idea of seasons? Is it time for a change in your life? Or are you just hanging on to see a certain season through and wondering if things will ever change?

I am saying no to things this year in order to spend more time on my writing. This post is part of a series I am writing about what I have learned about saying no. I’d love to have you join me on this journey. If you want to make sure you never miss a post, you can sign up on WordPress and the post will be sent to your email address every week without fail. I apologise for the lateness of this week’s post. I’d like to blame anyone else, really, but it’s my fault. Life happened. We’ll try again next week!

I am also writing a cosy mystery and it’s coming to the pointy end now. If you would like to hear more about the writing process, and see the cover reveal, drop an email to rijamos@gmail.com and I’ll add you to my newsletter list. The newsletters are chatty, with a writing-focus, and only come out monthly so they won’t clog your in-box.

You’ll notice some special art in this series. If you want to see more of it you can find the artist on instagram @deteor42. Today the artist says the art is very millennial but I’m sure all us older ones can still relate.