An author’s life is supposed to be a creative one filled with muses, epiphanies and accolades. From toiling away in solitude staring at a blank page (or screen) to receiving awards in front of huge audiences, there are many things a writer fantasizes about in the days leading up to the publication of her book. The months that follow are supposed to be a time to celebrate success and inspire others with behind the scene life stories.
A year ago when my book Rewriting My Happily Ever After – a memoir of divorce and discovery, was published, I was hoping to fly high after the busy months spent writing a memoir about a difficult time of my life. However, I was unable to enjoy the excitement of my book launch because I was in extreme pain. While I continued to do whatever I needed to do to the extent possible given my limited mobility, it was weeks before I found relief. In the months following the release of the book, I resolved to understand my body better.
Although the exact physiological cause of my condition was identified, the most likely explanation was that I was suffering from burnout. Having spent most the preceding months getting everything ready to put my book into the hands of readers, I had neglected my body’s need for rest.
Given the speed at which things happen and the pressure to be bigger, faster, better, it is easy to get pulled into prevailing trends and well-meaning advice without considering whether that is what you want to do. The harder I tried, the more exhausted and distant I felt from the coherent life that I craved.
Taking stock of goals and resolutions
In the beginning of 2022, I made a reminder list for myself to help me maintain a comfortable balance.
- Be gentle with my body
- Be kind to others
- Be thoughtful in my writing
- Be generous with compliments
- Be aware of the precious days
Like goals that are more likely to be attained when written down, my little list was a helpful tool. I didn’t rush into many things simultaneously but tried to read and write and engage with the world with greater purpose and clarity.
Now as the end of the year approaches, it seems like a good time to see how I spent my days this year and whether I followed through with my own plan to choose a gentler pace. The good news is that I haven’t had a relapse of that painful episode. While the handy list from January 2022 was useful, there were other things I did that helped me incorporate gentleness into my everyday life.
Here are five things I did to understand myself better and incorporate gentleness into my life in 2022:
- Learned more about burnout: I read books like “Burnout: The Secret to Solving the Stress Cycle” by Emily and Amelia Nagoski to understand this phenomenon wherein you experience emotional exhaustion, depersonalization and decreased sense of accomplishment. I learned that burnout is more common in women and there are tools that can be used to keep burnout at bay. This book is a great resource for the science behind burnout and for practical strategies to help deal with the fallout.
- Chose an appropriate word for the year: For 2022, I chose ‘savor’ as my word for the year to help me be more present to everything that happens around me. Instead of pursuing efficiency and maximizing every waking minute, I paused often. Whether that involved reading a book slowly or meeting people one on one for tea and deep conversations, I deliberately selected the things I wanted to include in my life instead of blindly following trends or expectations of others.
- Took detours and deliberately slowed down: Whenever my to-do list began to threaten my sanity, I took off my shoes and practiced mindfully walking barefoot on grass. This slow, deliberate walking meditation was like a magic antidote to anxiety induced by self-inflicted stressful situations and deadlines. Another habit that I intentionally developed was to indulge my inclination to take photographs as I went about my day. I took photos of cups of coffee or pretty scenery but also of ordinary objects. It helped me capture the beauty of my ordinary days and value them.
- Picked quality over quantity: Instead of focusing on gaining more followers or selling more copies of my book, I spent time interacting with those readers who took the time to connect with me after reading it. Whether I participated on Facebook group interviews or Instagram lives, I tried to ensure that my time was directed towards high quality interactions. Quality matters because individuals matter.
- Took every step with care: At the time of the book launch, I had no idea what else would come out of it. But within six months I launched the Rewriting YOUR happily ever after podcast. The main goal of this podcast is to create a safe space where women who have been through divorce can share their stories. By breaking the silence, I was hoping to slowly chip away at the stigma around divorce, one conversation at a time.
Each time I complete a milestone (or at the end of each year), I wonder about ‘what next’. I have some ideas for the things I want to pursue next year. But the lessons of last year as well as the fun I had taking the gentle path this year will keep me grounded as I make resolutions for the new year.
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