March? Already? And New Things!

Many many things about 2017 thus far have sucked royally. (Not the least of which was last week’s death of a good friend from back in Madison.) But I’m getting through it, in part, by noticing how it’s whipping by. I cannot believe February is almost over.

I’ve also been trying really hard (amid doing my part to #resist) to focus on positives. Positives like my last post about Gally. Positives like my new sous vide cooker. (If you have recipes, do send them my way!) Positives like constant reminders that I live with the best partner anyone could ask for, in a country that (while it does have its problems) has prioritized inclusiveness and care for its residents.

I’m also gathering additional happy things. I’ve started communicating more regularly with some distant friends. The simple act of staying in touch with good, kind, smart, creative, vibrant people has done wonders for my mental health and outlook.

Also, I’m working on an exciting new podcast project! I suspect it won’t appeal to many of the people who already follow my doings, but that’s kinda the point. I’m working on this because it’s something I love and am interested in. The act of working toward creating something new feels like a tiny act of resistance in and of itself. Especially since this will be aimed at a marginalized/under-served audience.

I’ll say no more for now, because I want to wait until things are a little closer to fruition before announcing anything. Consider this a tantalizing teaser. And a recommendation to get out and create something if you’re able. It truly can help.

Gallifrey One and Balancing Priorities

Gally was a GREAT time this year, as always!

Gally was a GREAT time this year, as always!

Much as I’d love to write a whole, long, in-depth post about what a wonderful, life-affirming time I had at this year’s Gallifrey One convention, I simply don’t have it in me. And that fact is what I’m here to write about.

I knew, going into the month before the convention, that I wasn’t going to be able to throw myself in as wholly as I have done many years. When possible, I like to speak on panels, attend meetups, and even do the occasional on-stage interview with a guest. This year it was not possible.

As I’ve alluded to recently, I’ve been working on getting my mental health under control. I haven’t reached a real crisis point, and I’m determined to do everything I can to make certain that I do not. Late last year I started on anti-anxiety/antidepressant medication for the first time in over a decade. If you’ve gone through this process, you know it’s not usually an easy thing. Finding the right medication is difficult and can require some trial and error. Finding the right dosage of the correct medication(s) is yet another wrinkle. It can be a long and drawn-out process, but if you need the chemical assistance to keep you going, it is well worth the time and effort. I know it has been for me.

Anyway, having just switched to a different med several weeks before Gally, I decided I’d kinda take a back-seat convention-wise, and that was absolutely the right thing to do. I was already committed to doing a Verity! meetup (it would have taken something truly serious to get me to back out on that!) and the live Verity! In Defense Of panel (something that requires very little effort on my part). So no problems there.

The one other item I decided was worth doing was being a guest on a live one-off episode of Paul Cornell’s Cornell Collective podcast. It was late on Friday night, and there was a moderate amount of booze involved (enough to have fun, not enough to adversely react with my meds). It went spendidly! This one was fairly easy to say yes to because there were few logistics involved–all I had to do was show up and answer questions into a microphone. I did those things and had a wonderful time doing them! (That podcast should drop in the Cornell Collective feed soon (if it’s not there already)!

And, of course, I spent lots and lots of time hanging out with friends and fans and catching up with many many people I care about and many people I now care about after meeting them last weekend. I love how my Gally family grows a bit each year.

I feel like this Gally was a huge success. Maybe not in the same flashy-in-the-spotlight way some previous ones have, but in a really fundamental, mental-health-supporting, I-had-a-great-time way.

I hope to take this lesson and build on it in real life. I have a tendency to say yes to everything and over-schedule myself. I’m going to work to do that less, and to be sure that the things I do schedule for myself are the things that will take less prep-work and will leave me feeling good about the time spent doing them. (And with enough mental “gas” in the tank so that I can devote myself to my day job–which I am genuinely passionate about.)

This might mean fewer podcast appearances talking about things that are new-to-me (or that require rewatching/re-reading), but for now, I think that’s for the best. This also might mean more hanging-out-in-person with friends to simply sit and absorb something fun. My friend Annette has taken me under her wing and is teaching me about the joys of regency romance and the world of televised/movieised Jane Austen. (She also has four cats, which provide a lovely stress-relief service when it comes to cuddling and petting.) Oh, and Steven is showing both Annette and me the British classic(?) show Robin of Sherwood. So yeah there are plenty of things I can do to keep myself on an even keel without expending too much effort.

So I apologize for a lack of my usual in-depth convention travelogue, but this is me setting priorities too. It was more important for me to share a bit about where I’m at than to crow about where I was last weekend. But just to give you a bit of a taste of my Gally afterglow, here are a few post-con tweets. (And don’t forget to check out the #gally1 hashtag for more of the shenanigans that happened all weekend long!)

 

Phases

I’m going through a weird phase, podcast-wise. Podcast-listening-wise, to be specific.  It’s one that comes and goes, and is rather annoying while it’s in progress.

I currently don’t want to listen to my own podcasts.

Under normal circumstances, I try to listen to most every podcast I do.* I think it’s a valuable step towards improving–both as a producer/editor and as an on-mic panelist/host. Sometimes it’s a little uncomfortable to hear myself at places where I stumble, but for the most part, I enjoy listening. I even sometimes feel proud of my contributions. And that pride comes more and more often now that I’ve been podcasting for years.

Not so, these last couple weeks. I find myself bumping shows with lots of me down the playlist repeatedly. I still listen to eps of The Incomparable or Game Show when there are large panels, but my desire to listen to an episode has an inverse ratio to how Erika-heavy it is. Lazy Doctor Who is currently excruciating.

I’m honestly not sure why that is. I just get itchy inside when I hear myself talk–nervous and anxious in a way I certainly wasn’t when I recorded the episodes. Luckily, this has happened before, and I’m sure it’ll pass eventually. It’s just a weird thing that I thought I’d observe here.

Please note that I’m emphatically not posting this as a way of fishing for compliments. (Seriously, please don’t.) Cerebrally, I still think I’m good at what I do, so I’m not looking for reassurance. I just figured that if other people feel this way from time to time, it might be nice to know they’re not alone.

 

 

 

 

*This may be changing soon. My time to listen to ‘casts has dwindled dramatically. I’m considering a transition to something more like spot-checking my own appearances so that I can still listen to other people’s podcasts!

Permission to Do Nothing

Today is my first day back at work after more than a week off. I had such grand plans for that week — a whole list of tasks which I’d use all that free time to accomplish.

Oh foolish me.

I got one of those tasks done. One. (And that was rearranging my sock drawer. Possibly the most immediately helpful thing on the list, but certainly not the most important!)

This is just the drawer. There are also four boxes of nicely sorted tights and pantyhose in the closet that used to live in this drawer. Such an improvement!

This is just the drawer. There are also four boxes of nicely sorted tights and pantyhose in the closet that used to live in this drawer. Such an improvement!

It’s amazing how your time can fill up with random bits of nothingness and long chunks of relaxation. I can’t believe how fast the time went by. And I spent all of it with a vague sense of unease because I knew I wasn’t doing all the things I should have been doing. I kinda half-decided that I felt more like lounging around or cooking or going out to eat or … whatever, than I felt like Getting Things Done. (And unfortunate mental health issues didn’t help with that at all.) But I didn’t fully give myself permission to treat those days like a proper vacation.

Oh foolish me.

Sometimes a vacation needs to be a vacation. However, for me to get full rejuvenation from such a break, I need to commit to it. I didn’t do that, so I’m not back at work feeling as refreshed as I should. Not only is there a lot of day-job work ahead of me, but I’ve also decided to work on getting back to my “clean living” lifestyle that seems to have degraded over that last few months. (Note: This is not a New Year’s resolution. It’s simply an attempt to return to what I consider my baseline lifestyle.)

Some of the items I’ll be working toward are exercise (on my elliptical trainer while watching Arrow and The Flash), diet (not a weight-loss diet, but a healthy one with no gluten or dairy and FAR less sugar), and general productivity (using the two hours after I get home from work to Get Things Done before I run out of steam — leaving things until later in the evening never seems to work).

But…

I’m not ready to start that today. (See? It’s not a New Year’s resolution!) One mistake I often make is trying to start too many things at once. This always backfires. So today is simply about getting back into the routine of getting up early and walking to and from work. I was much more sedentary during my time off, and holy buttons, did I sleep in late! (11am or noon wasn’t terribly unusual, so 6:30 felt mighty painful this morning.)

Thus, today, I am officially giving myself permission to Do Nothing.

When I get home, I’ll plop down on the couch with my spouse and some reheated leftovers. We will watch the Oilers game. After that, I will do whatever the heck I feel like, even if that is nothing but play Candy Crush while the TV plays in front of me. In addition, the plan for tomorrow won’t be decided until I see how I feel tonight. If I’m totally wrecked, I’ll give myself another couple of days to ease back into the general grind before I add anything to the routine. (It’ll be two days minimum because there’s another early Oilers game on Thursday. #priorities)

This is me, trying to avoid the pitfalls I’ve dived into before. I’m taking it slowly and hoping that being thoughtful and methodical will result in more success than my sudden headlong rushes have in the past. I’d appreciate it if you’d wish me luck.

It’s Okay to Slow Down

As I said in the editor’s prologue for my last post, I’ve been working on finding balance lately—balance between work-work, play-work, and play…play. What I mean is, balancing the demands of my day job with the demands of all my not-day-job work (mostly podcasting, but also this blog). Then when you factor in the demands of my mental health, which demands a significant amount of brain-down-time, things get tricky. Especially when your calendar looks like mine on most weeks.

full-calendar

This is not unusual though there’s usually more podcasting and less hockey.

(I drafted this post on Sunday, & I admit not everything on the calendar has happened as planned, but *most* of it has, and some things got added that don’t appear in the picture!)

Clearly, I have some work to do to reach that point of balance. One new strategy is that I’ve been adding blocks of time on my calendar that just say “RESERVED FOR SANITY”. Continue reading

Better Days Ahead (Or So I’m Telling Myself)

Yesterday I got turned down for a job I didn’t really want. There were enough drawbacks it would have been a tough job to make work logistically, and it (probably) wouldn’t have paid enough to make it worth it. That said, while waiting to hear back, I’d almost talked myself into taking it anyway if they offered it, simply because I need the paycheck.

So when I got that rejection email, my instant reaction was disappointment. Very very quickly, that changed to acceptance. And at this point, I’m near to relief. While I would have been really good at the job, the hurdles required to get there would have gotten old fast.

Later that same day, I found two promising jobs to apply to, received a call back from a placement agency, and got a lead on a communications job in a good office (a dog-friendly office with at least one very nice office pup!). Now, there’s no guarantee any of these will pan out any better than that last one did, but if I’d taken that not-great position, I’d’ve missed out on all these opportunities, which very well may fit my lifestyle and location perfectly.

So if you’re floundering, I know it’s cheesy to say “brave heart, hang in there”, but seriously, do. There’s no shame in getting discouraged and down on yourself—that’s where I was about a week ago. But I keep reminding myself all those negative feelings don’t help anything. Sure, there’s no guarantee things will turn around. There’s a chance they won’t and things will get worse. BUT. There’s also a chance that something fab will come around the next corner.

Thus, whenever possible, I try to operate emotionally as if something good is on the way. Not because I think there’s some cosmic power that’s going to make it happen if I think happy thoughts (though if there is, all the better), but because feeling happy (or at least calm) won’t get in my way. Feeling worried and scared most certainly does get in the way of getting shit done.

I know I can’t feel good about everything all the time. But I can choose not to wallow on purpose. So here’s me not wallowing. In fact, I’m chillin’ in a coffee shop before an interview at that placement agency I mentioned. Wish me luck!

A Different Kind of Vacation

Sedona sunset

Almost every vacation I’ve ever taken has been to do something. Go to a convention. See the touristy sights. Look at Doctor Who locations. Visit as many friends and family as I can squeeze into a few days. I come home feeling no more rested than when I left (and often far less so).

This last trip to Sedona, Arizona was something different. Finally. Okay, maybe Steven and I did manage to fill it up with going-and-doing-type-stuff more than was entirely necessary, but it was easily the most relaxed vacation I’ve taken in many many years. And it was great.

I didn’t de-stress quite as much as I would have liked, but the somewhat-enforced relaxation did make a difference that I can feel even now. I’m more clear-headed and ready to face the challenges of the day.

A big part of that was largely unplugging from social media. I didn’t even know where my phone was half the time, and I was 100% ok with that. I checked emails and incoming tweets a few times, but I didn’t check my feeds overall. I had next to no idea what was going on in the larger world and it was fantastic.

This was a family vacation, so I spent lots of quality time with my mom and dad, sister and brother, and my aunt (plus, the aforementioned Steven, of course). We played games (Pandemic! Catan! Apples to Apples!) and grilled our own food and soaked in the hot tub a LOT. There was a ton of just sitting around and talking or reading or staring at the views. (The pic above is a sunset as seen from one of our three patios.)

After experiencing something like this, I realize this is the kind of vacation I truly need every once in a while. I can remember only one beach vacation in Florida that left me feeling so recharged, like I’d gotten what I needed out of a vacation (and that one I spent almost entirely on the beach, reading). This is something I’m going to take into account the next time I start planning future trips.

The tricky thing is I’m not in a financial place to take vacations like this often. (Or at all, really. This one was planned so far in advance that it happened despite my current looking-for-work state.) Even when finances are firmly in the black, there are only so many trips I can take in a year. When I’ve got a day-to-day gig again, there’ll be a limited number of vacation days to take into account too. If I skip Doctor Who conventions (very much do-stuff kinds of trips) for a year that means I miss seeing most of my friends for that whole year. That’s no good for my mental health either! And when it comes to non-con trips, I’m married to a “do-er”, who wants to go see things and do things. So there’s that to consider.*

I guess for now I’m just incredibly thankful I got to take this particular trip at this particular time. It might not happen again soon, but it did happen. And I’m overjoyed that it did.

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*I absolutely recognize how lucky I am that this is a “problem” I have. There are many people for whom any kind of trip would be a dream, and I don’t take it for granted.