Around my brain in 80 days (tickets non-refundable)

It's late and I'm tired.

I started out this morning (well, late last night really) doing something stupid. My old boss called, needing me to get her out of a bind by editing some documents. This was not a request that particularly bothered me, as it was much easier than she had made it out to be, plus I would be paid for my efforts. I can handle that.

The bad part is, however, that this opens the doors to all sorts of other requests she might have.

When I left my job- the one with all of the psycho dieting co-workers- my boss offered to let me work entirely from home. I knew where that would lead. She would genuinely need something, as she has the habit of being overworked and getting herself into binds. One request would turn into another...and another...and another. That's the way our relationship works. I don't think she consciously takes advantage of the fact that I feel a lot of empathy for her. But there you have it.

That's why I'm feeling some sort of dread, that I have opened the gates for more and more requests. I know I have the choice to say no at any further date. That yes, I can feel sympathy and empathy for her situation, but also feeling sympathy and empathy for my particular situation. And say no if that would be best for me.

I feel that I'm not really doing anything "important" at the moment, so I have no right to turn my boss down. She's working, I'm not, ergo I'm obligated to help her out. I feel lazy, playing with my beads, trying to recoup some of my costs, reading, preparing readings for class, etc. It doesn't feel like work. I don't feel productive.

Yet when I create is when I'm most productive. The lifting of the depression and the stabilizing of my moods has helped in that respect, in all areas except my poetry writing. I write kick-ass poetry when I'm suicidal. However, I can deal with a dearth of poetic impulses for not laying in bed all day and a little vacation in the psych ward.

Creativity is central to who I am. Of course, beading and crochet and sewing and writing are things I do. But the urge to create, the need to create, is a core need of mine. I can't function without those outlets. When anorexia stole these abilities from me, that was part of the reason my soul shriveled up and died. I could not keep it alive without the ability to create things, to create ideas, to turn them into reality.

That is often what keeps me going.

I know I have issues with needing to feel productive all the time.

Reading for fun = Not productive
Reading for class = Productive

Making my jewelry = Not productive
Managing my online shop = productive

These divisions are quite artificial. If I had never read for pure enjoyment, I never would have ended up a writer. If I didn't make any jewelry, I wouldn't have anything to sell. I get that. I just have a hard time letting myself relax. It's hard when no one else in my immediate family (my brother aside, but he's an anomaly in more ways than that) really allows themselves to take a break. And to take a break and not feel guilty about it.

I think that is the key thing. I relax and feel fine with it. That you don't have to earn it. There are times when you do have to put it off temporarily. If your kid is puking broccoli all over the floor and you want to read the newspaper, nuh-uh. That floor needs to have broccoli removed. For me, though, there's always a puke-covered floor. Always something I feel needs attending.

This worries me about school next year, that I may have taken on so many things that I will drive myself quite batty with everything I have to do. My program is more about learning the craft of science writing rather than learning specific facts and details, which is quite the relief. But even so, it doesn't mean I will be devoid of all work to do.

I don't want this year to be a repeat of the last 6 years I spent in school. They were miserable. I know that creative outlets aren't a luxury, they're a necessity, and I need to treat them as such. It's difficult for me. I want to say, "Yes! I'm going to do it! I'm going to set time aside just for me!" But I can't. I just can't promise that. I feel bad that I can't promise, but to do so would be a lie.

But sometimes, reality is what it is, and I have to deal with it. Whatever way I can.

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Harriet Brown said...

You're describing dilemmas all of us creative types feel and deal with on a daily basis. There are no answers, easy or otherwise--and you will no doubt go through periods of trying it one way and then another. That's cool--that's life!

Just wanted to let you know you're not alone with these struggles and dilemmas.

mary said...

IMO, we are all creative beings Carrie which is sometimes what frustrates me most about school and book learning. Often they forget the creative aspect. They don't tap into the richest source of our connection to one another. Creativity!
I guarantee that if you provide an outlet for most any person that you will see a contentment come over them when working/playing. It can be music, dance, gardening, or any art at all that requires attention. I'm not sure if it's because we are giving of ourselves or just because it's such a wonderful diversion. I'd hate for 'science' to ruin the magic by trying to prove it is or isn't healing and frankly I don't care. I don't care if we can't SEE what influences outside of the body influence the inner to alter in chemistry. I simply know it does and that's enough.I just think it's wonderful we have the opportunity to have safe havens.
Your jewelry reveals a happy person within! I love looking at it! : ) Keep going with it!

carrie said...

Thanks for the reassurance, both of you.

I know that I can't create if I'm overworked, last minute BS-ing notwithstanding. And I can't work if I don't have a creative outlet. It's a balancing act, a difficult task for someone prone to black and white thinking.


Sarah said...

Hi Carrie --

It can be so hard to draw boundaries, like with your boss. I think, for me anyway, I have trouble with it because I have such an aversion to voicing my own needs. I never want to say no to anyone because I never want anyone to think I can't do everything and anything. I don't want to show any "weakness" which I know is silly, but here I am anyway.

About the urge to be "productive" -- at least you are analyzing it, you're examining it. That's got to be a big part of the battle.

Be gentle with yourself today.


PS -- so glad to hear you are studying science writing. That field needs you!

Faith said...

Sarah called it. Boundaries. They are so hard to set and harder to enforce but they are essential.

Just because you opened the door for your old boss doesn't mean she gets to eat Cheetos on your couch, put her feet on your table and use up all of your toilet paper. In other words, just because you have said yes to one thing doesn't mean you need to say yes to everything.

I am just learning how to do this. Hope you are as successful as I have been so far!

carrie said...

Sarah and Faith-

My favorite word: boundaries. I'm rolling my eyes a bit, but it's true.

I'm aware (somewhat) that saying yes once doesn't mean saying yes a bazillion times. I just need to learn how NOT to feel guilty for not being able to (or not wanting to) help someone out. I mean, if a friend needed a ride to the ER and I was in my jammies, screw the PJs, we'd be in the car. But I think you get the idea.

This could get interesting once I have students. I've heard they can, um, abuse the email address priviledge, so that might be an issue. Among others. We shall see.

Thank you again.

Sarah said...

oops, sorry I misinterpreted! Not feeling guilty -- definitely can't offer any advice there. ha!

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I'm a science writer, a jewelry design artist, a bookworm, a complete geek, and mom to a wonderful kitty. I am also recovering from a decade-plus battle with anorexia nervosa. I believe that complete recovery is possible, and that the first step along that path is full nutrition.

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nour·ish: (v); to sustain with food or nutriment; supply with what is necessary for life, health, and growth; to cherish, foster, keep alive; to strengthen, build up, or promote


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