At the start of 2018, I had a huge to-do list. My goal was to get out a book every month. Between my fiction and nonfiction, I mapped out a plan to make that process doable.
So I settled in to write.
According to my editing program, I’ll easily clear more than 1 million written words this year. That’s a lot of words. But it’s nothing new. I’ve kept that pace for the past several years. I love writing; it’s what I want to do for many years to come.
In February, I went to my annual writing retreat. I was feeling a bit meh about life. I wasn’t unhappy. I just wasn’t focused.
And even that wasn’t the best way to describe it. I have a great life. I’m satisfied in many different areas. I wouldn’t change who I am today for any of my previous years.
Still, I didn’t have that WOW energy I knew I was capable of. I hoped my writing retreat would relight my fire. I hoped it would motivate me to stick to my goals.
I figured it was just going to take some time. 2018 was definitely a year of change, so I told myself to go with the flow a bit more.
My daughter graduated from college in the spring. And a week after she graduated, she left to backpack around Europe for six weeks. That added stress to my life. Though my daughter is naturally a careful person, knowing she was by herself in several different countries added to my worries.
With her gone, it gave me even more time to write. But I still found myself not finishing projects. I moved on to several new books without finishing the old.
Then my daughter returned home and started looking for a job. We developed a new lifestyle, one where we’d do lunch together, walk together, have long talks about life. Those book projects faltered once again.
As her job prospects waned, she evaluated her wants and desires and decided to travel even more. She signed up for a one year work visa program in a land far away. And as of October, she was off again, working and traveling and living her life as she saw fit.
I yo-yo’d back to having more time to write, continued on with several old projects, and picked up a new one.
Life was good – great even.
So why was I still feeling so blah?
I Just Need A Little BAAM In My Life
The first time I went to Europe, I went for the summer with my husband and daughter. We were mugged five minutes after leaving the airport.
We landed in Madrid and had plans to take the train into the city, where we were to meet our Airbnb hosts for our apartment. The train is connected to the airport, so we assumed it would be a fairly easy process.
We all had backpacks on, computer bags wrapped around our shoulders and carried in front.
My daughter got on first, followed by my husband. I followed behind. As my husband stepped through the open doors of the train, I saw a young man stick put his hand in his pants pocket.
I freaked. I went into shock, anger. I grabbed the would-be thief’s hand, looked him in the eye and screamed: NO!
My husband didn’t notice. He got in and sat down next to my daughter. I sat across from them, and unfortunately, the would-be criminal got back on the train and sat down next to me.
I start sweating. I didn’t know what to do. What was this man capable of? I couldn’t communicate with my husband. I was afraid for my life. I kept staring at my husband, nodding next to me, trying telepathically to get him to notice something was wrong.
A few stops later, the man left the train. And I told my husband what had happened.
It was one of the best lessons we’ve had. Luckily, we’d read enough about pickpockets that my husband had put his money and identification in a zippered compartment in his bag. There was nothing in his pocket of any value, so the thief left empty handed.
For some, it might have ruined the trip. For us, it energized us.
We developed code words to let each other know if we felt threatened or nervous. We talked about ways we could have inside communication without anyone else knowing what we were discussing. We discussed safety and learned how to be more confident everywhere we went.
Our journey hadn’t been ruined before it began.
Life-Changing Moments Change Life
When I think back over my life, the times when I made the biggest changes were the times when the most life-changing moments occurred.
When my dad died at the age of 54, I rethought everything.
When I heard the words “we don’t like what we’re seeing, we need to biopsy this”, I rethought everything.
And when I watched that would-be mugger stick his hand in my husband’s pocket, something clicked. I was pissed. How dare he ruin my very first vacation in Europe, when I’d only been on European soil for all of a few minutes! I was also motivated in a way I’d never been before.
Each of those moments caused an instant zap in my life that pushed me in a new direction.
I thought about that as I meandered through this year – those sudden bursts of energy that renewed my quest for life.
That’s what I needed. (Without the life-changing moment, however. I can live without them.)
I needed something to make the “meh” go away. But what?
What was it that was holding me back?
Maybe it’s my age. As evidenced by my posts here on this blog, I do a lot of reading on midlife reinvention. And I know a lot of things change as we age.
A recent study revealed that cognitive tests show people perform their best when they work about 25 hours a week. If you work any more than that, your performance starts to dissipate. Those numbers become stronger as you age.
Could it be as simple as that? Could I have reached a point where I’m simply doing too much?
I know for a fact that I write best in the morning. I can write several thousand words quickly the first few hours of the day. But the more time goes by, the more my creativity starts to wane.
Maybe that is it. Maybe I’m pushing too much.
I’m a classic type-A overachiever. I’ve listened to my inner voice for a long time. And I push, that’s what I do.
Could that be a part of my problem?
I’m Rethinking My Journey
Every year I choose a word for the coming year. I spend several weeks contemplating my desires, and find a word that fits my actions.
I noticed that this was the first year I had trouble coming up with a word. And I reflected once again on my year of “meh”.
It’s been a great year. I have everything a person could wish for. A great life. A loving husband. An amazing daughter. Spectacular friends. I travel all the time. I can do pretty much whatever I please.
Is it perfect? Definitely not. But all in all, I have to say I’m a happy person. I just feel like I’ve lost my drive. And that’s not all a bad thing.
My strongest desire is to have more of the good, and enjoy it all the more.
I’m tired of the stuff I don’t enjoy – really tired of it all – and I barely can think about it anymore.
But the good stuff, yes, please. I’m old enough to appreciate all of the joy in my life. I’m also old enough to tell the not-so-enjoyable stuff goodbye.
That’s when it hit me. Downshift. That’s my word for 2019.
Downshift – change a rewarding but stressful career or lifestyle for a less pressured and more fulfilling one.
I want to take away the feeling of “meh”. The blah feeling that makes me feel as if I’m burning the candle at both ends. Instead, I want to add back in more of what it takes to feel like I’m contributing more of what I’m meant to do.
If writing books is what brings me joy, why am I busy writing for other publications that don’t fill me with the same joy, nor contribute to my bottom line? Why not back away from writing that doesn’t bring me joy, and spend more time doing what does?
I’m at a point where I can say yes and no to what I do every day. And I’m ready to “downshift” even more to take in more of the good.
What matters most is
- Spending time with my husband, my daughter, and my friends
- Traveling and seeing new parts of the world
- My health
- Breathing deep and thoroughly enjoying what I do each day
I think my 2018 “meh” feelings came from being busy with the wrong things. From writing things I didn’t enjoy. Working with people that weren’t aligned with my beliefs. Focusing on things that truly don’t matter in my world.
The big picture matters … somewhat. Some energy needs to go on making it the best world I believe it should be.
But the only place I have impact is at my level … me.
If I write for me, I change the world with my thoughts and viewpoints.
If I spend time with people that matter to me, I contribute in my own special way.
If I take care of me, I have more to give.
And if I push everything else away, the “meh” feeling slips away.
Downshift. It’s time to focus in on what truly matters.
That’s where I’m heading for 2019.
What’s your word?