Monday, 28 October 2013

In Praise of Being Busy

Having a lot to do and think about is often stressful, but it can also be exhilarating. It can force you to prioritise and organise the various elements of your life. A long to-do list can be motivating and, when you tick off tasks, very satisfying. Being forced to do things can give you more energy. It makes you value the odd moments of fun or relaxation you manage to squeeze into your schedule. Being busy gives life a fullness that can yield a lot of pleasure.

I think my experience of depression makes me hyper-aware of the busy-as-good phenomenon. My lowest points have been drawn-out periods of inertia, when I neither wanted to do anything nor was able to do anything. Feeling stressed and anxious usually indicates an improvement in my life; it is a sign that I am pushing boundaries and challenging myself. But being busy is more than that - whereas I can spend two weeks stressing about a 15-20 minute appointment at the Job Centre when there is nothing else going on in my life, being busy means there is a limit to the stress.

I started noticing the pleasures of business when my dad had a heart attack in March this year. Despite the demands of hospital visits, driving him around and trying to ease my mum's stress, it was my most productive period of writing since I finished my MA the previous August. Although the seriousness of the situation may have made me realise I have to prioritise writing before it's too late (I don't remember consciously thinking this, but I can't rule it out), I believe the main reasons for this productivity were practical. Instead of thinking I'd get around to writing later, I knew that I had to grab time when it was available. I even scheduled writing sessions, rather than allocating 'sometime this afternoon' or 'later'.

Being busy also helps you develop a routine. Back in August and early September, when I was making an effort to be healthier and happier, I made myself follow a routine that involved eating a proper breakfast and exercising. I only realised how happy it made me when my dog died and I sank into sadness and then depression.

Now I'm busy with my new puppy and preparing to do NaNoWriMo for the first time - and I wouldn't have it any other way! I've endured one of the worst months of my life, but now I'm feeling better and I'm ready to be busy again.

Monday, 7 October 2013

Endings into Beginnings

I've had a terrible month - my darling springer spaniel, Roxie, died suddenly on 12th September, the day before her 10th birthday. I was devastated. She helped me through the toughest times of my life, when I couldn't imagine wanting to live, let alone having the motivation to go to university and write. I miss her every day, at the oddest times. I used to get so annoyed when she followed me to the toilet all the time, but now it feels weird to be alone!

The month got worse when we found out that my grandmother was dying from 3 bleeds on her brain the weekend after Roxie died; she gave up her battle last Wednesday. She was 88, so we were prepared, but she went through a lot of pain and it was horrible to watch. I can only imagine what it must have felt like for her.

The third ending in September was a positive one: I finished my novel! I didn't want to use Roxie's death as an excuse for not entering the Mslexia novel competition like I said I would, and although I know she was a dog and knew nothing about novels, I felt that she would have wanted be to finish it. The novel is far from perfect - it needs a good polish and its brevity makes me nervous, as if I have forgotten to include a lot of stuff. But nevermind, I can put it aside for a while and move on.

Conversely, my life has also been full of beginnings. One of my best friends had her first baby yesterday (and it's a girl!) and another got engaged earlier in September. I also have a friend whose second baby is due in December. It's an exciting time!

The major beginning for me is... I'm getting a puppy on Saturday!

His name is Murray and he was supposed to be ready 16th October, on his 8 week birthday, but the vet said the puppies could go a little earlier, so it turns out that I will get him on the 1 month anniversary of Roxie's death. I can't wait to own a dog again (and to belong to him). I always knew I would want another dog soon after Rox and I think he's the perfect choice to be my second one. I met him a couple of weeks ago and he was very, very cute - I can't wait to bring him home!