Sunday, November 18, 2012


Deadlines help drive me. They also drive me insane. Like most Americans, I am too busy.  I love being busy doing the things I love until I have a tight deadline, and then my stress level starts rising.  I have gotten better at handling the stress, but I often wish I would stop and smell the roses--or in this season--stop and enjoy the gorgeous fall weather and leaves.

I finished my novel, Darling: Mercy Dog of World War I, on time and immediately dove into an outline for an American Girl. The college semester is coming to an end, which means final papers and work to edit and 'grade'. The holiday shoppers are ratcheting up their spending, which means Ebay items need to be posted and the booths need to be stocked. Plus kids and family are coming for the holidays.  So what do I do to make life easier? I rent a third booth in downtown Staunton in the middle of the madness, which needs to be decorated and filled before Thanksgiving!

Why do I/we add to our crazy lives? I know from other posts (Linda and Michelle's recent ones come to mind) that I am not the only one who does this to my/herself.  And I can't blame it on the husband or the kids. It's all my own doing!  Interspersed in the madness are long walks with the dogs, caring for the horses and 'picking' at auctions and yard sales, which help recharge me.  But I know right now I have taken on too much because the piles of items to be washed and cataloged are tipping over, the stacks of unorganized notes on the American Girl are scattered on the floor, the horses' coats are caked with mud, and I missed the deadline for this post. All are undeniable evidence that I can't ignore -- I am losing it.

Stop and enjoy the leaves before winter is here in full-force, I tell myself. Only Ziggy rolled in something horrible, the salt and pepper shakers need to go in the booth, and Mom is coming for dinner. Alas, the leaves may be on the ground before I finally take a deep breath, and I will have missed their beauty.

Do you drive yourself, too?  And how do you stop? I need some suggestions!


Laura Crum said...

Great post, Alison. I have to admit, this is a pet peeve of mine. I work very hard not to over-schedule myself, or my kid. I think free time just to look around at the nature that surrounds us is the number one most important thing. To that end, not over-scheduling is my number one priority. Which means that I give up/don't do many activities that are fun/worthwhile in and of themselves. So there is a tradeoff. But I honestly believe that having the space and time in our lives is worth what we give up to get that freedom.

As for how I do it--my first thought when a new opportunity/activity comes along is: Do I really want to make time for this? Long experience has taught me to very careful what I say yes to. And I'm good at saying no. For me, this is the best way to live my life. I have time to wander around my garden looking at the plants. I have time to watch my horses eat and listen to the rain on the roof of the barn. To get this I gave up things such as book tours, teaching classes, recreational shopping, lunch dates with friends...etc. The things I gave up are nice things, too. Its a tradeoff, as I said. But that's what works for me.

Francesca Prescott said...

You are just amazing, Alison.

I don't achieve half as much as you, which I tend to feel somewhat guilty about. I used to drive myself far more intensely, trying to write, ride, exercise, have my hightlights done once in a while, do my nails, do grocery shopping, clean the house, pick up kids and transport them to their various extra curricular activies,cook good dinners, etc etc. I could never say no to anyone. Then I had an accident and broke my leg badly, had to have surgery, which slowed me down immensely for almost a year. When I got better, I started all over again. Rush rush rush. And then I had another accident. Was someone trying to tell me something?! Something had to give, there was no way I could do everything. I chose to write. Yes, I gave up riding. Now I'm riding again, but not writing much. I'm doing other creative things, and keeping up with the house and the garden, and the kids (well, one of them, as my daughter is at university in England). I feel very lucky to have the luxury of spending time with my horse, not just rushing and riding and then rushing back to fit in a few hours of writing between groceries and laundry and dog walking and...well, you get it.

Yes, I feel guilty about not writing, but not guilty enough to push myself hell for leather like I used to. I enjoy walking the dogs, talking to them, petting them, pottering around, enjoying the garden, watching things grow. I get invited to lunches with girlfriends but it cuts into my horse schedule (mainly because my horse is 45 minutes away by car, so just the trip takes an hour and a half every day) so I never go. I don't mind: I love my girlfriends and see them once in a while during the evening. I like being alone, actually, but I don't think I'm anti-social at all. I'm just really aware of how lucky I am to be able to enjoy my horse, to ride every day, to hang out with girlfriends at the stable for a while. It's what makes me happy.

Alison said...

Laura and Francesca -- thank you both for your thoughtful replies. I think you are definitely balancing life to perfection (no guilt, right Cesca?) Right now, I think the rushing suits me because I feel so energized and I love the new 'antiquing' addition to my life, which has given me new challenges. For you, Cesca, your horse is your new challenge. And Laura, you still have your wonderful son at home -- enjoy him before he sets off on his own.

Keep up with your wonderful lives!