Back in September, my husband had a very sudden and potentially life-threatening illness. The last one he had happened in the early 1990’s and it resulted in two brain surgeries. Luckily, both times he came out fine, but that doesn’t mean I didn’t have myself a major freak-out back in September as images from his previous illness came hurtling back into my psyche.
It was the first day of the Emerald City Writer’s Conference in Seattle, or ECWC as we call it here in Puget Sound. It was my first time attending, as I had only joined RWA in the spring. I was very excited and ready to plunge right in, until I saw my husband literally covered top to toe in welts and rashes. That’s when “medical professional me” kicked into high gear. I am quite certain that I scored a land speed record of some sort during the drive to the emergency room that morning. Thank God we weren’t stopped. Long story short, he was well-taken care of and given what he needed to recuperate. Unfortunately, I forgot to ask the ER folks for some valium for myself!
Thankfully, I was able to attend a few sessions, hear all the wonderful speakers during the luncheons and chat with some lovely folks in between checking on my husband during the three-day conference. At the end of the event, I even accepted Cherry Adair’s “Write The Damn Book Challenge”. Then came November, and the big NaNoWriMo challenge - also a first for me. Whew - a writer’s job is never done!
During the ECWC and NaNoWriMo events I heard several similar remarks such as, “It doesn’t matter if you don’t sleep, eat or exercise, just get those words written!”, “So what if you didn’t get anything else done today except for those 5000 words?”, “It’s only about the book!” and every imaginable combination thereof. Now, back in September we had a major health scare, and although I understand the context of those “writerly” statements, hearing them made me feel uneasy. As an aspiring author I am all for putting your best effort forward to get that first novel out there, but jeopardizing your health to reach that goal is too much of a sacrifice for me. Factor into that quotient the fact that I suffer from a chronic autoimmune illness which has recently worsened, and I'll tell you that a lack of sleep, exercise and good nutrition is definitely not an option for me. Although at times I do eat poorly, forgo exercise, and often do not get enough rest, it’s always to my personal detriment. In addition, as a medical professional I have an obligation to all the patients that I serve to be in top form when I hit that laboratory door in the morning.
Queue the holiday season. This time more than any other throughout the year, is the time to keep your life in balance. Things can become pretty intense, and rest, nutrition and exercise - you name it - can fly right out the window early on. This is no time for quitters, we all need to fight harder than ever to keep our balance in all areas of our life during the holidays. Why? Because you’re worth it, and heck I’m worth it too! This season has real meaning, and if we blow through it like a stressed-out typhoon we will miss it. This is a time for savoring the good in life, and no good can possibly come from rushing through it.
My wish for you is to stop at intervals throughout this season and reprioritize. Take stock of your day, your moment. Are things in balance? Do you really need to be doing what you are busy with at the moment or can you do something better-something more valuable? Have you taken care of yourself yet? If you say “later”, then you are probably setting yourself up for failure because “later” often never comes. Putting your needs first - and notice that I said “needs” instead of “wants”- is not a crime, it’s responsible behavior. It’s also very effective preventive medicine. I’m not talking about deprivation here, but balance, always balance.
Please enjoy this wonderful season of celebration, and for goodness’ sake, take good care of yourselves because a healthy happy you is a fabulous gift to those who love and cherish you!