Stress Management Ruminations

I want to do it all! 

I expected the past week to be tough , but it got tougher. I knew I had to go to NYC for my full time job for three days. I don’t like to give up my workouts, so, on Tuesday I rose at 2a.m. so I’d have time to make the 1hr and 10 min commute to the gym, run 6 miles and do a weight workout, and arrive at Amtrak in time to purchase a ticket and get on the 6:30a.m. train. I planned to use my time on the train to work on my new book, but I was so tired I fell into a sound sleep in the “quiet car.” I hit the ground running when my train reached Penn Station, taking the subway to Wall Street and walking to the site of my day’s work on Water St. Once again, I planned to use my evening alone in a hotel to eat in and get some work done. But one of my colleagues was staying at the same hotel and we agreed to have dinner together.  The recommended restaurant, which was supposed to be a few blocks from the hotel, proved to be over a half hour walk. Not a hard walk physically, but certainly adding to my lost work time. Dinner was a delicious but protracted event, and it was after nine by the time I was back in my hotel room – not late until you think back to my rise-and-shine hour of 2a.m. 

Wednesday wasn’t quite so bad, since I was already in the city. I did manage to accomplish some work between my 5a.m. wake-up and my 8a.m. walk back to Water St. Took Amtrak home at the end of the work day and cozied up to my dog and husband (shamefully, in that order) at about 8p.m. 

Thursday was a repeat of Tuesday. Even for me, a morning person, these 2a.m. mornings are wearing me down. After a long day in NYC, including a presentation, Amtrak and I traveled back to Albany, and I drove home arriving shortly before 10p.m. Had to drive with the windows open to stay awake. 

I’m getting my third cold in about 6 months and hadn’t had a cold previously in several years. Between all the book stuff and work and trying to be consistent with workouts, I’m stretched beyond what my body and mind can handle. What I want to do and what I really can do seem to be competing. I’m coming up on one of the busiest times of year at my full time job, and my publisher is looking for results from my book marketing efforts for Autumn Colors, and I really want to have another manuscript ready to send to agents by January, and my personal trainer (who, admittedly, I pay to push me) is looking forward to preparing me for another marathon. 

Something’s got to give. I feel stressed most of the time, and have so much going on in my head that I sometimes lose track of my long “to do” list. I look at my options. I so wish I could retire from my full time job, but that’s simply not an option financially. Could we cut expenses enough to survive on the paltry income we’d have with two small pensions and two social security checks? Probably, if we were willing to live in a hovel. Our house and related costs are the biggest ticket items on our expenses list. But we do love our house, and when I’m working at home the view of the river and our property gives me such pleasure.  Life would be easier in a no-maintenance living arrangement. But right now that’s not a choice we’re willing to make. 

Promoting my book has become priority one for me. I don’t expect to make a lot of money on this one, but I do hope that I can make enough of a mark with its sales record that a reputable agent would be more willing to consider my next book – which in turn would mean I’d have a better chance of book #2 being picked up by a publisher who would make more of an investment in its success. I’ve repeatedly said I believe I have only one chance to make this mark. If I can’t make Autumn Colors succeed, I may never have another book published. It’s imperative, for my long term plans, to make this a success. 

So I can’t quit my day job and I can’t cut back on my promotional efforts, and I can’t stop working on book #2. 

Yesterday we went to my family’s annual clam steam, a sort of reunion of family members and friends. The hostess commented about the importance of making time for pleasure now, not living exclusively for the future, and not being obsessed with having a lot of money. I don’t know what their financial status really is – I suspect they are comfortable because they’ve lived a fairly simple life and I would guess she has been diligent about savings. But I believe her when she says they’ll never be rich. Still, in recent years they have made it a point to take major and minor trips together, carving out the time and reserving the money to pursue some pleasure now (between the hard work days) rather than focusing exclusively on doing things in retirement. Which is what my husband and I have been doing. It got me thinking… 

I still have to keep my day job, with its travel and long commute. And I will have regrets if I don’t give my all to promoting my book. So what’s left? 

Training for another marathon? 

Giving up workouts entirely would be counter-productive. However, might it make sense to go into a maintenance workout mode, at least until the surge of the book promotion efforts is over? In terms of actual hours saved, it really wouldn’t be huge. I could maybe get up at 3:30a.m. on workout days instead of 2. And could maybe work out 3-4 days instead of 5 or 6. And could limit my weekend long run to 1-2 hours instead of 3 or more. 

All doable. But what would that do for my stress level if I don’t build in some pleasure time?   

I think I need to carve out at least a half day, or preferably a full day, every weekend or even every other weekend to focus on doing fun things with my husband and dog (in that order this time!). Perhaps turning off the “must do” mode for a day would refresh my brain and attitude enough to improve my efficiency the rest of the time.  Studies show that people on a job who take regular breaks work more efficiently the rest of the day. Might that theory apply here also? 

I’d still rather retire from my full time job. 

But I’m writing this to be productive, not to whine. So focus on the positive. The world won’t stop turning if I, a back-of-the-pack runner, don’t run another marathon before fall of 2011. Actually it won’t stop turning if I never run another marathon, but I don’t want to go there, since I really get a healthy high from crossing that finish line, especially if I’m not the last runner across. And stressed or not, I’m not yet willing to give anything up permanently. 

What I want really isn’t a lot, compared to achieving great wealth or celebrity or an Olympic gold medal. My goals are higher than some but still not unreasonable.

 And I still want to do it all eventually!

About Dawn Essegian Lajeunesse

I, like so many others, am a novelist struggling for recognition. My last three novels, THE EYES HAVE IT, IN HER MOTHER'S SHOES and STAR CATCHING, are available in e-book format through Amazon and other formats by request here or on my website. AUTUMN COLORS was my first novel and is still available through Amazon and B&N in multiple formats. My early writings are women's fiction, one also suitable for YA. My work-in-progress is a historical fiction about the Armenians who settled in Troy, NY in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Come visit me at my website:
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