Sunday, August 06, 2006

In Praise of Refilling the Well

For those of you who are completely new to the Playground blog, I'll let you in on a little secret. Okay, it isn't a closely guarded secret, but I'd like to think it isn't completely obvious. Wishful thinking, I know.

Here it is… I don't handle stress well.

Collective gasp.

And… just about everything stresses me out. Realizing I'm stressed out stresses me out.

Now, the laughing I hear from the Playfriends just isn't nice.

I like to believe that my acknowledgement of this problem is a step in the right direction. That I'm learning to work with this particular personality flaw, rather than spending all my energy wondering why I can't take things in stride like my way-too-laid-back husband.

The fact is, I am the way I am, whether by nature, nurture, or some mysterious combination of the two. Why spend my life paralyzed by the desire to be different? Just learn to cope with my own needs and flaws. (Easier said than done, but we're talking about baby steps here.)

This personal problem was aggravated last week by Conference Brain Drain and settling Drama Queen in a new school. I planned ahead and gave myself the week off from everything but my paying jobs, because I knew my introvert self would be exhausted after six days amidst 2000 other writers (see last week's post).

Still, I felt surges of guilt about not writing and spending the unexpected free hours reading some great books. I spent time just cuddling with my kids on the couch while they watched television. I took several naps. On Saturday, I made a spontaneous decision to see a movie and do some window shopping, which is all I can afford after traveling so much in July. As I ambled slowly through the crowded mall, I had one of those lovely AHA moments. I realized I was refilling my well.

We've talked about this before on the blog, about those things we do to rejuvenate our creativity, like read, watch movies, take baths, garden, etc. I knew all that stuff-in my head. But not in my gut. It took a week for me to realize what I was doing and how good it was for me, for my family, and for my writing. But refilling your well isn't just about the writing, it's about you as a person. Deep down inside, I believe we all have a well, a depth of living water that provides our souls with sustenance. This is the energy we use to cook, clean, listen, cope, nurture, write, lend a helping hand, and perform dozens of other day-to-day activities. When the well runs dry, we get grumpy, tired, impatient, and depressed. In short, we need to refill this well to be good writers AND healthy, happy people.

That's a nice thought, you may say, but I don't have a whole week to recuperate like you. I know. I normally don't either. And it has been a goal of mine for quite a while to build small spaces into my day that rejuvenate and revitalize me (not to mention CALM ME DOWN). I'm not great at it… yet. But one day I hope it will be as natural to me as breathing.

Here are a few things I've tried to incorporate:
*5 minutes of deep breathing
*5-10 minutes of mentally imagining myself in a happy, peaceful place
*8-10 minutes of self-guided meditation (there are also some great meditation CDs out there, if I have more time I like to do one of these)
*bubble baths
*browsing through catalogs
*cleaning out a drawer or shelf (I'm kind of amazed at how good this feels)
*having a 5-10 minute conversation with someone I love, a REAL conversation
*taking a nap

Now, obviously some of these take longer than others. I rarely have enough uninterrupted time to take a nap, except on the weekends when my husband is home to run interference with the kids. But I often have time to stop and just breath. The problem is, I don't remember to do it. I wish I had an alarm that would go off to remind me, instead of waiting until I'm wound tighter than a rubber band and everything and everyone is getting on my nerves.

So my question for you today is: How do you remember? How do you recognize that need to refill your well?

Here's wishing you a few minutes to breath and time out to enjoy something relaxing today.


PS I just noticed that this is post # 300!!! Awesome!


Lis said...

This is my first time commenting here, but this post has great timing, made me realize I haven't been refilling the well lately. For me when I'm doing that I read, garden, listen to music, clean if I get desperate enough lol and just try to stay away long enough that my mind clears out of its fog and I get back the joy of writing instead of the pressure you get sometimes to put words down on paper or the computer screen

Linda Winstead Jones said...

Refilling the well -- I sit in the swing outside, or lie in the hammock if I have the time. I listen to music or meditate. I buy shoes. (Don't ask me why finding a great pair of shoes refills my spiritual well, but it does, I swear)Have you ever noticed how laughter fills the well? Laughing with friends is the best.

As for how I know when it's time, I drag and I snap. I feel tightly wound, and I'm normally not. I do try to work in something every days, even if it's just a few minutes of meditation. It was very hard to find evern that time at the conference, and I still feel like I'm playing catch-up.


Playground Monitor said...

I know I'm in need of a refill when I start getting short-tempered and impatient. Reading does wonders for me, and it can be any kind -- a novel, a good magazine article, a book on gardening or decorating. Just something to take my focus off the rigors of life. I should meditate more but I forget. Maybe a note posted above my computer would help. :grin:

I have some drawers, cabinets and closets that really need cleaning. Maybe that note should include specific projects.

Maven Linda Howard said...

I think that, as women, we tend to over-analyze everything. When you break down all the things we categorize as "refilling the well" do you realize what they mean?


Whether mental, emotional, physical, or all three, it all comes down to resting.

Problem Child said...

Remember, you can't be everything to everyone all at once.

And recognizing you have a problem is the first step in healing... :-)


Kathy said...

Last week, in the midst of Brain Drain, I watched this show that I thought was sure to be one of the worst on the planet. It is, So You Want To Be A Superhero. While I don't like reality shows per say, I laughed so hard at this one I nearly soiled myself. And I just happened to be in a place where the laughter was greatly appreciated. So if you want to expose yourself to plenty of laughter, watch SYWTBAS on Thursday night at 8 p.m. Central on the Sci-Fi Channel. Also, you can usually catch the previous episode right before that one at 7 p.m.

For a childhood Comic Fan, Stan Lee's presence and the character's outrageous costumes and behavior make a very amusing diversion for all. Basically, it's great escapism, which also rejuevenates the well.


Angel said...

Hi, Lis! Great to hear from you.

Maven Linda H: I never thought of it that way. Yes, overanalyzing is something I do a lot. But resting... yes, it is resting and relaxing, isn't it?

Why is it so hard to give ourselves permission to do that? From the time I was a child, sitting around and reading a book was viewed as lazy. That's a hard thing to get over. :(

But rushing from one thing to the next doesn't get good results either, no matter how much you may accomplish. I have to be very careful not to get overwhelmed, because when I do, my children are the first ones to feel the effects. My patience level gets really low, which isn't their fault.

A delicate balance, that... but a necessary one.


Smarty Pants said...

Rest is good. I need more rest. Now that my marathon summer of traveling is behind me, I'm looking forward to some. I have felt guilty in the past when I've been doing something other than writing, but it's important. Besides, if book ideas come from everywhere around you, you need to get out of your writing space and find them. Myself, I found an idea for a future book on a stupid episode of a news/entertainment show like Inside Edition or something. Why I was watching that, I don't know, but I'll take an idea where I can get it.


Instigator said...

Refilling the well. That's what I need to do. Although I have no idea when I'm going to fit it in between school starting, work, revisions...

I think tonight I'm going to take a nice long bath and meditate. I feel better just thinking about it.