Finding Joyful Calm in Happy Storms (or How NOT to End Up in a Wrist Brace)

“You are the sky. Everything else – it’s just the weather.”  ― Pema Chödrön

A few years ago, I ended up sleeping with a brace on my wrist after my doc diagnosed me with carpal tunnel. No! I thought in the exam room. Take my legs, my feet, my butt. But please don’t take my wrists! If I couldn’t write as much as I desired, I wasn’t sure how I would manage. Good thing I resisted fleeing and stayed to hear him out.

Stress and exhaustion, he said, usually cause carpal tunnel. Had I been experiencing any? Well sure, I told him, but it was GOOD stress. I was too excited to sleep well. “Stress is stress,” he replied. Obsessive typing hadn’t caused my write pain! It had merely exacerbated inflammation from hyper alertness and sleep loss. Talk about an a-ha! moment. When life gets happily hectic, I could probably stay awake 23/7—but at a cost. Lately I’ve had opportunities to make better choices.

Next week, after years of renting, my husband and I are moving into our own home. The following week, I’ll fly to New York City to host World Sexual Health Day, N. America’s 2nd annual celebration, and the day after, I’ll participate in an orgasm MRI. That’s right! My sex-geek dream of climaxing while my brain is hooked up to analytical machinery is, quite literally, coming true! A couple of weeks later I’ll dress up as a human cake with a dear friend in the name of a brilliant artist. Weeks after that, I’ll be in the same room as OPRAH. The following week I’ll be in Puerto Rico, presenting at the National Women’s Studies Association conference. (More on all of this later!) The list goes on…

Amid all of this happy hectic-ness, I’m doing all the work you writers and busy do-it-yourself-ers do. I can feel some of you nodding your heads; a creative’s life is seldom an automatically calm, well-balanced act. Many of you have kids, pets and additional jobs to allot time and energy to, or wear so many hats you often like Bartholomew Cubbins.

I’m a strong believer in prioritizing self-care and celebrating, so as life grows busier, I’m making asserted efforts to not explode maintain positivity, to eat well, rest well and play well, soaking in all the wonder without letting stress or sleep loss from holding me, or my beloved wrists, back. What good is excitement and hard work, after all, if we don’t enjoy it?

I’m also a fan of sharing our goals, which seems to cement them and invite takeaways from others. I hope you’ll join the conversation!

Some of my work-in-progress toward these ends:

– Breathing and meditating – on purpose

Rather than rely solely on my respiratory system’s cues, I’m taking time daily to breathe fully in and out with intention, particularly on intense days. And rather than simply daydream and listen to the occasion meditation podcast (okay, I’ve only listened to three), I signed up for a transcendental meditation class and plan to incorporate the practice into my daily life. Oprah does it, Ellen does it, Hugh Jackman does it, and so should I!

– Avoiding working and web-surfing at night

I’ve never been a night owl. My brain turns into sludge after a day of work, and nighttime efforts to work harder and longer end up working consistently against me—so no more. So I work hardest during my brain’s golden hours and try to chill out and tend to less rigorous tasks as it dims. I’m also limiting internet use at night. Like I need any help not sleeping well!

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– Pondering life’s blessings

When an anxious thought crops up, such as, “What if self-stimulating in a tube whole others listening gives my G-spot stage fright and she runs up and hides behind my kidneys?” — you know, normal concerns — I remind myself what in incredible opportunity the experience is (and, in the MRI case, how important, and still lacking, female sexuality research is). I’m also keeping a list of the perks of investing in a house, which really helps nuke any moving-related stress, and doing my best to act on and express my gratitude. (Have I mentioned how awesome you all are, by the way???)

– Saying “no” and taking breaks

Overwork and overextending ourselves doesn’t help anyone. It certainly won’t help our work quality, sleep abilities or relationships. While it’s important to help others and hang out with our pals when we can, if shouldn’t say “yes” to obligations if it means saying “no” to our dreams or self-care. I’d also like my husband to come home to a happy, healthy human, not the exhausted, eyes-glued-open robot he’s seen more than once. If you’ve ever spent too much time writing, you know exactly what I mean. It looks something like this:

"What do you mean 'what's wrong?' I'm perfectly FINE!"

“What do you mean ‘what’s wrong?’ I’m perfectly FINE!”

– Focusing on fun

My mom is the BOMB at this. When she last visited LA, our place was essentially a doggy hospice—full of love, but also concern. And while I was making efforts to make Zoe’s life as lovely as possible, which truly benefited mine, without negating self-care, “fun” wasn’t exactly a priority. Mom turned everything we did into a party. We laughed while grocery shopping and cooking, dined on the patio as though it was the French Riviera, spent lots of time with super Z and even broke away to dance our butts off in Ellen’s audience. For a few days, I virtually stopped worrying. I’ve been set on keeping that going since.

– Making like a dog

Speaking of Zoe, she taught me so much about being mindful and present—to spend time in nature, simply absorbing my surroundings rather than stress over whatever work I’m not doing then. Dogs give love without condition, savor the heck out of every meal, belly rub, walk and car ride, and, in our new pup Via’s case, seem to think Christmas comes around every couple of hours. I see her giddy face each morning and can’t help but feel eager, too. Pets also make us who work from home take rejuvenating breaks and never, ever delay a meal.

Life's too precious not to smile.

Life’s too precious not to smile.

My thoughts keep trailing back to Ariana Huffington’s talk at BlogHer, ’14. For women to succeed, she said, we must sleep our way to the top! In other words, rest paves the way for success—not needless stress, excessive work or insomnia. Words to live and dream by, don’t you think? I also continually remind myself of the motto which I shared at BlogHer:

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Butterflies are awesome, as long as they don’t overtake our entire bodies. 😉 With these steps in tow, my wrist brace won’t likely see the dark of night. Hey, that’s one less thing to pack! See that? Endless blessings.

I’ve shown you mine. Show me yours! 😉 How do you stay calm and present in happy or challenging storms? Do you agree that it’s important?