Tag Archives: Balance

The Words Are Back

Damnit.

They’re back. A blessing and a curse. I’ve learned with practice to get out of bed and write them down. Otherwise, I just lie there for hours as they pulse behind my eyelids.

It’s 2:23 AM. I should be asleep. One hundred and twenty little people wait for me tomorrow, ready to run, jump, and play outside. Anxious to know if I’ve learned all their names. Try as I might, I haven’t. Once a week just isn’t enough. I still have about 30 to go. It’s always the ones I don’t remember who ask. Always.

The four hours of sleep won’t be enough. I must let out the words and close my eyes again. Maybe the two droppers full of Passionflower tincture will help. The Melatonin is too strong. It leaves me grumpy in the morning.

I used to awaken in the middle of the night years before she was born. I went through a period of what I now accept must’ve been depression. I didn’t know how to escape my cubicle. I felt stuck. I worried I would never discover a job I loved. Life seemed long. My stomach ached and the doctor suggested anxiety. I didn’t believe him.

Now I have too many vocations calling my name. Life feels short. My husband is contemplating a tattoo reminding him to focus. Maybe I need one too. I don’t want to give up my time at home with my daughter. I teach games class at a Waldorf elementary school. I’m attempting to run my own business. I write. I lie awake in bed and contemplate signing up for yoga teacher training. Like I really need something else.

I expect her to summon me back to bed any minute now. “Mommy!” shouted into the darkness. A siren song. She knows when I disappear downstairs to let out the words. At best she gives me 45 minutes. A crib is headed to our house as we speak, on some airplane or truck or train or sitting in some warehouse ready to be picked up. 19 months of mostly co-sleeping and it’s finally time to try something else.

Even so, I wouldn’t have done it differently. It helped me bond with a colicky baby, connecting us in a way that only the warmth of bodies and shared dreams can. The relief of no more screaming and no need to crawl out of bed to nurse. In a way, it saved me for a very long time.

But now, my shoulders hurt from lying on my sides and I’m hopeful extra space will buy us all more rest. Or at least me, since everyone else seems to be asleep around here. However, I know the words will still drum in my head, pulling me downstairs much to the confusion of two sleepy dogs on the couch.

Yes, for better or worse, the words are back.

And, right on cue, I hear her stirring. My time is up.

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Deciding to Jump: To Go Back to Work, Or Not?

Still a little rough around the edges, but working on a new blog to separate out some of my more personal writing– I will still be blogging @ oliviaobryon about writing/teaching/travel, but also want to see what it is like to take a more focused approach in the blog world. If you enjoy my mommy posts, I invite you to follow Leap of Mama too!

Leap of Mama

It's the sweet, quiet moments like these I hate to give up. It’s the sweet, quiet moments like these I hate to give up.

I am standing on the edge of one of the biggest jumps of my life. Either I go back to work part-time as an intervention teacher and attempt to juggle my dream of writing into the mix of afterwork motherhood, or I take a deep breath, and jump straight into life as a stay-at-home mom and writer.

For many, the answer seems easy. JUMP. But the decision is much more layered than I expected. I love my school, my students, my coworkers. Some days I feel on the verge of going stir crazy at home. I have a part-time job waiting that may never be there again. The predictability of a work schedule, a paycheck, and good health insurance speaks to my cautious nature. Returning to work is somehow the less frightening choice.

With a face like this, it is hard to leave home. With a face like this…

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Writing While Pregnant

One of my biggest fears about motherhood was I would lose my writing identity. Sure, I follow plenty of women writers who find ways to make it work, but I also heard story after story of how motherhood changes you. No time, little rest, more important priorities.

While true motherhood is at least a few months away, I already feel these shifts I dreaded, as writing has taken a backseat to other activities, such as napping, cleaning, preparing, resting some more. What I did not expect, however, is a calm to come with these changes. Instead of lamenting my lost writing time, I feel more present, still, and content. Time has already gained a sort of elastic quality, where less occurs in more time, as though the minutes are stretched, the actions slowed, hours somehow disappearing with little done.

Other things have fallen by the wayside, too. Yoga now means a few minutes of stretching and breathing at various points in the day, instead of my before-treasured blocks of hours. Again, there is a peace in this. Instead of panicking over a loss in identity, I feel a reassurance that these pieces of myself will return in time, or perhaps just exist in more fragmented but highly-treasured moments.

I realized recently, I write to escape and create a space of contentment. With pregnancy, my urge to escape has diminished, my ability to be content in simple moments has improved. Likewise, my thoughts I used to share so freely suddenly feel much more private, more difficult to share. Even so, I love that feeling of progress, as pages of writing become clean and stronger, blog posts emerge out of thin air, and connections are made across this electronic universe. Today I write to say I am still here, just a little quieter than before.

For those of you haven't hear already, we're excited to welcome a little (human) girl to our family this March.

For those of you haven’t heard, we’re excited to welcome a little (human) girl to our family this March.

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The Importance of Stopping

This week is fall break, the glorious light at the end of the tunnel after nine weeks of school. For those of you with the normal two to three weeks off per year, I realize nine weeks does not sound like such a terrible stretch of work, but as a teacher, it is a solid chunk of energy investment, particularly given the first weeks of school are among the most tiring.

Before I became a teacher, I thought the breaks alone would make up for any amount of exhaustion in the classroom. Instead, I discovered that while time off definitely helps, the exertion required to keep 30 children learning, entertained, and emotionally supported surpasses anything I expected.

The upside, of course, is the reward in knowing I am doing something good for others, and the enjoyment I derive from building relationships with my students. So, none of this is to complain, but the truth is, I’m tired. Fall break could not have come at a better time, and I did not realize how tired I was until I finally allowed myself to sink into my couch this afternoon and shut my eyes.

Here is the thing, though, I know I am not alone. Teachers are not the only people pushing themselves to their limits. Most jobs are stressful and we also have family and other obligations that require our time and focus. We commit ourselves to a lot because we care about a lot. I get it. However, there has to be the balance, the time to stop and regroup, and sometimes, we have to let a few things go.

Balance is a big reason I have stepped back from my blog in recent months. Between school and family, writing has taken a back seat. Not because I stopped caring about writing, but because I realized other priorities had to come first. My health and my family are of paramount importance, then my job, then my writing. With less time to write, I have focused on my fiction over my blog. It is all a series of trade-offs. When I have more time, I enjoy blogging, when I don’t have time, I have to just let it go.

I know I am fortunate I get to stop, I get time to breathe and fall asleep on the couch as the leaves outside my window change color and the air is a bit more crisp. But, what about everyone else who is not a teacher? What do you do for yourself to allow for a little break, the time to stop and recharge and take care of just you?

Hopefully you have an answer!

One of the

For the past few weeks, my 17 year-old sister stayed with us, which added to my shifting perspective on life and my priorities. Family has always come first, but I feel myself transitioning to a new level of awareness in how important family is to me and what this means in my quest for balance in other areas.

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What I learned on the 26th day of my yoga challenge…

I set out this month eager to become the most physically active I have ever been in my life. While I have gone through stints of running a few times a week or doing yoga daily for a couple weeks straight, I have never been someone who exercises every day. Then, my work started this challenge where we had to log our exercise for 2013 and I found myself exercising almost daily, including the two mile walk we take with our dogs.

Suddenly, I felt ready to tackle daily exercise and yoga seemed like the best option. I imagined myself ready to embrace summer vacation with an exercise routine in the books, no longer waiting for summer to get fit but already fit when summer started. Not only that, but I imagined the relaxing high of post-yoga meditation bliss as the trials of teaching faded from my brain each evening. While these expectations were definitely met, I also discovered something I never expected.

Daily yoga is too much for me, even when I listen to my body with seemingly gentle days of slow movement and meditation mixed in. By days 24 and 25, my body had gradually become a mess. I had a low-level migraine, my neck ached, the top of my right thigh muscle felt like it was going to abandon me. Disappointed, I shared the wall I hit with an instructor whose class I love and her advice helped to shift my perspective. She reminded me that yoga is not a competition or about ego. It’s alright to listen to your body instead of listening to your goals. She also made me realize that sometimes even meditation is an exertion of energy that may be too much.

So, last night, I took the night off. Unlike the Friday before where I shunned social interaction to practice yoga and keep with my routine, I came home, did nothing, then went to dinner with friends. Oh. How. Glorious. Today I woke up ready to go to one of my favorite yin classes. My body no longer feels like it’s falling apart. I’m excited to practice again. The 26th day of yoga taught me that yoga isn’t about every day, it’s about listening to your body and accepting the days where practice means doing something else.

I'm grateful for the reminder that the purpose of life is to live, not to keep up with our arbitrary must-do list in our brain. Everyday Guru put the same idea nicely in his post today too.

I’m grateful for the reminder that the purpose of life is to live, not to keep up with our arbitrary must-do lists. Everyday Gurus put the same idea nicely in his post today too.

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Week 25: If I could just surrender…

This week I surrendered to teaching. With my big observation next week, report cards almost due, and the talent show around the corner, this week was packed. Then there was that two hour non-profit interview about my residency experience, a few more parent phone calls, and all my regular responsibilities, like actually planning, teaching, organizing, making copies.

Thursday morning I awoke from a dream where I was presenting my lesson for my observation to an auditorium full of 500 squirmy children, including a rowdy bunch of high-schoolers who entered and exited in the middle of everything. Oddly, I made it through the entire lesson, step by step, and opened my eyes with the feeling that if I could teach under those conditions, then I’d be fine in real life with the dreaded rubric.

As if it weren’t enough that I couldn’t escape my job while sleeping, Thursday turned out to be all around intense. Good old Maniac Magee had one of his most challenging days yet, (which always means ten other children also have urgent needs arise simultaneously). To make everything more fun, at the very peek of all the excitement, a herd of observers, possible donors as I later found out, headed straight for my door. Fortunately I was able to mouth the words, “We’re kind of in the middle of an emergency,” to my principal before they descended on my classroom.

Needless to say, I have been thinking a lot about what makes my job stressful and why sometimes I am able to manage it better than others. In the last seven days I have been told by three separate people that I am a saint. I assure all interested parties that I am not. But, I would really like to be. I’d like to always be calm, collected, loving no matter what is happening around me. Sometimes I am closer to this than others.

This week I accepted teaching as my entire life. I surrendered. I admit, I put up a fight on Tuesday, and felt miserable for it, but by Wednesday afternoon I accepted that things like afterwork yoga in an actual studio just weren’t going to happen. And, once I stopped fighting it, everything felt a lot better, minus a few minutes yesterday when I thought my head might explode because everyone needed my attention and I just wanted to curse.

See, definitely not a saint.

Which brings me to now, Friday night. I left work later than usual, went to a meeting, still have work to do this weekend, but I feel at peace. I’ve surrendered. If only I could always surrender. I almost wish I did not have such a deep-rooted desire to write books. If I could just teach, or at least just teach during the year and ignore book writing until my breaks, I think I could be a more relaxed human being… Half the reason I fight 11 hour days at school is because I am so anxious to get home and work on my writing. My nagging need to produce words won’t go away.

This all leads me to you, kind reader. I must know. Do you surrender to one passion at a time or chase everything at once?

Today, a student gave me the most sincere letter of my teaching career, which will now live proudly on my home desk with the school bus, a humorous gift from a friend with me at the wheel. My heart is in it. So, why do I still need to do five things at once.

Today, a student gave me the most sincere letter of my teaching career, which will now live proudly on my home desk with the school bus, a humorous gift with me at the wheel. My heart is in it. So, why do I also need to be a published writer?

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Heigh Ho, Heigh Ho, It’s Back to Work I Go!

I know as a teacher I should be the last person to complain to go back to work. I get breaks and I mostly like my job. Not such a bad life. Still, each time a break comes to a close, I go through a brief funk. It’s hard to let go of the time to write, to do yoga, to sleep, to see friends and family… It requires a shift in my brain to my other self.

Today I went back to work, the kids follow tomorrow. This evening I continued my longest consecutive string of yoga ever. I have been doing yoga everyday for a couple weeks and I am finally beginning to see why instructors encourage this– I feel amazing and am able to do more than I ever have been in the past, (even when I was doing 3-4 days of yoga/week). I share this now in hopes it helps to keep me dedicated. A little reminder to my future self.

I could never bring myself to invest the time or money to go to a yoga studio daily, (especially since most classes are 90 minutes and just getting there/home adds another 30 minutes to my day). However, I recently discovered that watching yoga on Hulu Plus is actually pretty productive, (even if the ads and cheese factor can be annoying). It is the missing piece I needed to break up my studio visits and a nice change of pace from the routines in books.

Coming home to yoga this evening, I realized there really are ways to make life feel more balanced and better after work. Now it’s time for a little tech-free quiet as the last ingredient to my evening… Tomorrow, kiddos, day one of my peace project, and some more yoga!

Student #8 has a happy note waiting on her desk for her day as my secret student.

Student #8 has a happy note waiting on her desk for her day as my secret student.

My room is ready for a new year and 30 happy kiddos.

My room is ready for a new year and 30 energetic kiddos.

And, you get to see my cat play with a toy whale because she's cute...

And, you get to see my cat play with a toy whale because she’s cute and we know she loves yoga too… yes, still.

Happy balanced Monday!

Happy balanced Monday!

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A New Year, A New Home Office

Finishing our home office has been a three year process. Much of my writing used to take place with my laptop on the couch because it was a more pleasant place to sit. However, with some minor design changes and some new wall art, we now type at our own desks, back to back. Best of all, the division of space means the living room is no longer a computing zone, restoring a bit of balance to our household.

And, this huge picture of Paris reminded me that even if you don’t like your view out the window, you can always buy one that does the trick. Not a bad place to stare as I fix my chapters that take place in Paris…

Do you have an inviting space set aside for just writing?

IKEA $49 huge wall art = amazing.

IKEA $49 huge wall art = an awesome new window.

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Shrinking Words & Other Writing Quandaries

Amazing how a couple months away can give new perspective. Allowing myself to move back through Expecting Happiness, stopping at each spot that bugs me, feels really good. The only thing that doesn’t feel so good is watching my word count drop a bit.

I blame NaNoWriMo for two things: 1. My obsession with word count, 2. A lot of extra words that don’t belong. I get that you go back and get rid of them later, or now, but I do think it results in writing that may be more repetitive than if you just go slowly and don’t worry about how many words you hit a day. Either way, it’s a year later and here I am working on the same book.

This leaves me wondering whether I need to add more words for the sake of having a full-length book… Right now I’m at 68,500, but I know it will drop a bit further as I continue. For any of you who have e-published, how many words were your projects?

My current plan is this:

1. Revisit each chapter with the same care I’ve given the prologue/Chapter 1 this week

2. Reread the whole thing to make sure it still makes sense/check for errors

3. Finish my queries/recontact appropriate contacts

4. If nothing comes of the second round of querying/contacts, I will e-publish and/or share on my blog. I’m not sure which approach to take yet. I just know I need to put it out there in order to move on…

More than anything, I am finding it much more sustainable to slow down and get the work done a little at a time instead of feeling like I need to use every moment of my spare time to write. That was burning me out in every aspect of my life, especially my day job. Slowing down these past two months has made a huge difference. Now it’s time to get serious and get this book done, even if it is just an hour or so at a time.

Happy balanced Sunday.

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Seeking Balance: Teaching, Writing, Life

Inspired by two other bloggers this week, I want to share two days in the life of me, a fifth grade teacher, writer, human being. I know some teachers work far more hours than I do, but this does not mean the 9-10 hours I spend each day are not intensely full, (or that some days/weekends do not include more work). However, I have found that cutting myself off is important to maintaining the energy necessary to teach each day. Likewise, I think we need to move away from a culture where everything is a contest of who worked the most. Life is about balance. Here is my attempt:

Writing Tuesdays:

6:00 AM Wake-up

6:50 AM Leave for work

7:00 AM Arrive in my classroom, set-up for the day, get through as much on my to-do list as possible

7:55 AM Report to duty outside as the students arrive

8:15 AM Students in the classroom, day begins, all my energy goes to teaching lessons, answering questions, meeting small groups.

3:15 PM Students leave, Tuesday I have no prep and I usually spend my lunches multi-tasking by making copies, working out problems with students, and building relationships, so 3:15 is my first “break.” However, I don’t really take a break because my goal is to get home. I use this time to prep for the next day, make parent phone calls, etc.

4:00 PM My teaching coach arrives, we figure out what still needs to be done to clear my credential and talk through any challenges I’m having in the classroom.

5:00 PM Arrive home, walk the dog, clean-up a bit, eat a snack, relax.

5:30 PM Start writing. Tuesdays Alex and I do our own thing, this is my time to focus.

8:00 PM Make dinner/eat (We eat late…), get prepared for the next day, read, unwind.

10:00 PM Sleep

Unwired Wednesdays:

6AM-12:45 PM Same as Tuesday

12:45 PM Students go home, Wednesdays are our prep and professional development days

1:00 PM Meet my team to plan instructional overview for the following two weeks

2:00 PM Professional development with school staff on anything from data analysis to teaching reading more effectively in small groups

3:00 PM Personal planning time to get ready for Thursday/following week

4:00 PM I leave a little earlier than the rest of the week. This gives me something to anticipate, (even if I have to leave items on my to-do list). I get home, check my personal email, clean-up a bit, then head off to hot yoga.

5:45 PM Hot yoga

7:00 PM Get home, shower, prepare for Thursday, make dinner

8:00 PM Eat dinner, hang out with Alex, watch TV (Daily Show, Downton Abbey, New Girl)… We aren’t big TV watchers, but I do find it relaxing on Wednesday nights.

10:00 PM Sleep!

Unwired Wednesdays means no computer usage after 5PM. I find this break amazingly rejuvenating, especially midweek. Wasting time on the computer was a drain on my happiness, even though blogging and writing were beneficial to my overall well-being. Accordingly, I had to consciously create balance in the middle of each week.

I hope you’ll consider using this as inspiration for a post yourself. I won’t lie, I really like peeking into the lives of others as it gives me ideas on how I can better use my own time. And, if nothing else, it is a great opportunity to look at your life and evaluate how your time is spent– how do you seek balance between health, work, family/friends and your other interests?

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Balancing Priorities: Looking for Secrets

I’m now officially back into the world where I spend zero personal time on the computer during the workday.  Accordingly, I have to fit all my blogging and other social media needs into my personal prime time, when exercise, family, dog walking, house cleaning, writing, reading, and that pesky schoolwork are also competing for my attention.

As such, I’ve decided that I need to cut down on all behaviors that are a waste of time.  In other words, my internet usage has to be get in and get out so that I still have time for all those wonderful things that matter more, particularly writing.  I have to admit, it’s a little depressing to walk away from my writing after getting to focus so many hours a day on it, but this is the reality for most writers, so I need to make the best of it.

What are your secrets?  How do you balance your writing life with your personal and work lives?  Do you have specific hours that you set aside during the week for writing? Do you have any tricks for helping to minimize the amount of time spent wasted on endeavors that aren’t as important on your priority list?  Plenty of people seem to write and still have rich personal and work lives… Right?!

I want my focus on work evenings to be exercise/health, dog walking, time with my husband, and writing (be it blog or novel), so I get really frustrated when I realize I’ve spent thirty minutes looking for a lost receipt or surfing through a bunch of inane chatter on Facebook.  Accordingly, my goal is as little wasted time as possible.  Relaxation does not count as wasted time, but too much internet usage does.

I think that’s my cue.  Closing laptop now.  Look forward to reading your secrets soon.

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