I guess pacing is pretty important. It's not everything, but it's a major factor in my life.
You see, as a creative person, I'm often driven by ideas that come to me. I jump at the chance to get them 'down on paper' or implemented in some way (shoot a photograph, produce a video, publish a book, create some software, etc.).
During November and December 2017, I worked very hard to generate publicity for my book, "a man wearing a dress." I was under a lot of stress as money has been tight for me (the reasons are complicated) and income from other kinds of work has been limited. Although it turns out that I was probably doing an acceptable job, I'm not a professional publicity person, so I was constantly worrying that I wasn't doing enough, or working "smart enough," or perhaps even being counterproductive without realizing it.
Finally, it was time to travel to be with family of origin for the Christmas holiday. Wouldn't you know it, I felt extremely worn out by then. I felt a slight sore throat coming on but thought it wasn't going to amount to much, so I embarked on my trip. I caught a train to my mother's house in New Jersey. That was Friday the 22nd. The next day, at I developed a full blown head cold. Sneezing, coughing, runny nose, fatigue, the works. Not the flu, but certainly not fun to be with. So I spent the rest of the weekend in bed.
I remember feeling, as I was curled up in bed, as if I was now "embryonic." I imagined that I had somehow reverted to a bundle of stem cells, regrouping before growing into a new organism. I was too tired to imagine what I was to become, but this seemed to be a necessary stage. I imagined that I was about to grow into something better, but I can't tell you what gave me that confidence.
Fortunately, by Monday (Christmas day) I had recovered just enough to share dinner and gifts with my mother, my siblings, and our children.
On the way back the following Wednesday, I remember sitting on the train as it sped along the Connecticut shore, heading back to Boston. I had already finished reading the book I had brought with me (Beyond The Messy Truth), and had already read the newspaper I bought days earlier. It was dark by then, so there was nothing to look at outside the window. I had no seat mate to converse with. I had no energy to open my laptop computer to write anything. Finally, I realized, I just had to sit.
I had to just be.
Back at home, I ended up doing "nothing" for days. All motivation seemed to have evaporated. One day, I didn't even leave the house, just stayed in my bathrobe and hung out. My cold was over. I watched some TV, played some games on my phone. Took a nap. Shouldn't I be doing something? But I had to just let myself be. I worried at times. Had I completely lost it? Was I so burned out trying to publicize my book that I just couldn't do it anymore?
The bitter cold snap didn't help. Who wanted to go out in that? Of course, I did do a little grocery shopping, etc. I made plans to attend a low-key party with some friends on New Years Eve.
And then something interesting happened. A new friend approached me for help with an emotional crisis. I dove in and provided hours of support. She thanked me and worried openly that she was taking up too much of my time. But I said it was all ok. And it was.
You see, her appeal for my help was kind of like the angel Clarence in the movie It's a Wonderful Life. Clarence jumps into the river because he knows that George Bailey will forget his troubles for at least a moment and jump in to save Clarence instead. Here I was, jumping in to save someone, and it did a number of things for me. First, it energized me - stirred me into action. But second, and perhaps more importantly, it gave me a chance to observe what resources I have to express love in this world and support others in need. Helping her felt good to me and left me with a sense of fulfillment.
But, wait, ... as they say, ... there's more! The gratitude she expressed back to me gave me another chance to accept love from someone else. And that, in turn, helped me take another step in realizing that I deserve love in this world, even from myself. And finally, some of the advice I gave her, to pace herself, take one thing at a time, etc. turned out to be great advice for me! Of all things!
So, here I am, back at publicizing my book, working on developing some income producing work in the mean time, and worrying a lot less about how it all comes out. Sure, money is still tight, the future is uncertain, and I have a lot on my plate in my personal life. But going into burn out mode won't change any of that. I might as well take good care of myself, relax, just work on each task, take breaks, get enough rest, and stay open to any good news that might come along.
It sounds simple, right? And yet, somehow, it's easy for fear to creep in when you don't realize it, and you're back on the treadmill, the rat race, living the stressful life.
It's just life. Sure, my projects are valuable. And at the same time, I'm a valuable person. Taking good care of myself by pacing myself is really job one. I'll always express love and support for others, but learning to receive it and ask for help and support when I need it is just as important. After all, without me in good emotional shape, my projects are not likely to go well anyway.