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I’m Afraid of What is in My Freezer

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I’m afraid.

I’m afraid I have addiction problems.

I know I have addiction problems.

Often associated with work, accomplishment, and success.

That high that I achieve when I just work a little bit harder.

When I do just a little bit more.

Over the past two years, I’ve made great strides in overcoming my workaholic tendencies.

I don’t let the tasks control me.

I don’t lose sight of my priorities.

I don’t over multitask.

I clean up in between projects.

I strive to start everyday as a new day.

But yet, I am still afraid.

It is autumn in North Dakota.

The instinct to squirrel food away for the winter is strong in this part of the world.

Harvesting, hunting, freezing, drying, canning, preserving.

If you took a look at my Facebook feed everyday, you’d be amazed to see what friends are preserving.

At times they look like super heroes.

At times I feel a bit like a super hero myself.

When I know that we have chicken stock, tomato juice, pickled beans, apple sauce, and even ketchup in the basement.

We have been busy filling the larder.

But along the way,

Amid the finished gleaming jars,

Among the produce waiting to be canned,

Somewhere between the pressure canner and the stove,

There is a bit of disappointment…

A bit of sadness…

A bit of feeling that comes when an recovering addict realizes they are living a “sober” life.

While we’ve been busy,

I haven’t caught the buzz.

The drive to make one more recipe,

The high that comes when you are so deep in the process that you forget about everything else.

The only thing that matters is the finished product.

Forget dinner, forget dishes.

This is awesome!

THAT- I haven’t felt that this year.

Yet.

I’m about to tap into the goods in the freezer.

I’m about to embark on my favorite process of preserving.

Making jam and jellies.

I have a freezer full of fruits.

Hand picked luscious fruits.

Chokecherries.

Blackberries.

Blueberries.

Juneberries.

Black Currants.

Wild Plums.

Buffalo Berries.

Amazing goodness waiting to be unlocked.

And yet, I am afraid.

I’m afraid this is where I will “fall off” the road to recovery.

I’m afraid that after 7 jars of juneberry jam and 10 jars of blueberry jelly,

And 14 jars of blackberry jam,

And 21 jars of chokecherry jelly,

That I will not know how to say no.

I’ll dig into the Black Currants,

“Just a small batch.”

And the wild plums.

“I’ll have to prepare to more cases of jars…”

And more blueberries.

“We have so many! Let’s do pancake syrup.”

And more blackberries.

“Maybe I’ll make a pie for after dinner…

Wait, dinner? Did I eat lunch? What did the kids eat for lunch?

What day is it anyway?”

So wish me well,

As I venture into the basement.

As I open the freezer.

And I try to say,

“That’ll be enough for now.”

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Learning to Let Go: Excitment and Motivation

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I’ve been taking sometime to look back at how far I’ve come in a year as an entrepreneur.

I left my full-time academic job in July of 2012, but it wasn’t until November of that year that I began marketing myself and my talents. I didn’t have a network or a whole lot of support. I knew very few people in my town. Most of the folks I knew within the state of North Dakota, I knew because of my career, in some way. It was scary and I was lonely.

But things have changed.

Today, my young philosopher overheard me calling a friend. “Mom, you know I can’t even keep up with all the people you know!”

I thought to myself, Wow. I really do know a lot of people! Things have changed in a year’s passing.

I was quiet pleased with myself. I took time to give myself the praise, “You have done well finding good people to connect with. It certainly does make life quite a bit richer.”

But that’s only the beginning.

After today’s Farm Beginnings Session, I was extremely motivated.

We talked about mission statements and marketing. I didn’t realize I love this kind of stuff so much, but I do!

I left energized, wanting to share EVERYTHING I learned with my husband, who had to work today.

I left wanting to revisit my visual business plan.

I wanted to get home and beg my chickens to PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE start laying eggs again.

I was ready to dive into next my proposal.

I wanted to go set up for the art class I teach on Monday.

I couldn’t wait to start thinking,

and reading,

and researching.

I wanted to start compiling information for my presentation at Farm Beginnings in December, in which I will be talking about how to tell YOUR story.

So much excitement!

But this was familiar…

My mind was reeling with ideas, but I was tired.

I had a quick thought to leave myself a voice message, telling myself about ALL this excitement.

Wait, I’ve done that before. And it wasn’t good.

(Remember, I struggle with issues such as overworking and undervaluing myself.)

It is easy for me to believe that I need to prove my worth through what I do.

In my final 3 months as Vice President of Land Grant programs, I would call my office phone on my drive home. I would leave myself messages about all the things I needed to do the next day.

This my friends, is not a good habit.

I thought it was brilliant at first, but it certainly led to some earlier morning cursing when I checked my voicemail each day.

*Light-bulb moment* Maybe that has something to do with my own disdain for to-do lists. To-do lists are made with our own self-talk imbedded in them. They can be painful if that self-talk used in writing them is overly critical, judgmental, or down right mean.

Hmmm….

The point is I had been down this road before. So I backed up.

I did a U-turn before I got to the point of giving myself a to-do list on a Saturday night.

I retraced my steps.

I slowed down and took a look around when I got back to the excitement.

Was it impractical to think I could manage to do all the things that I wanted to do tonight? Or even this weekend?

Absolutely!

I suddenly remembered that I had been here too, and that there was a bit more worth exploring.

I remembered the first time I shared my business plan with the folks at the New Rockford Area Betterment Corporation.

I remember the amazing amount of things I wanted to do when I came home.

And I remember not doing anything!

Instead, I was still.

I enjoyed the moment. I felt the excitement.

I didn’t force it into a product or accomplishment.

I let it be part of me.

And I wrote about it! It was my second blog post ever!

I was on the road I wanted to be on. And, I even took it on a little further.

I mentally broke these tasks up by priority and complexity and I scheduled them into my calendar when I got home!

This is truly a first.

I came home, motivated and yet tired, and said to my husband, “Michael, next weekend, I would like to schedule a time to sit down to go over my business plan with you.”

And then, I let everything else “to-do” settle in my calendar and in my brain.

I let the excitement reside in my body as joy.

And then, I played the piano that magically found its way into our house this afternoon.

Thank you so much, Michael. Thank you!

The Creative Balance of Work and Play

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The Creative Balance of Work and Play

In the middle of difficulty lies opportunity.  ~ Albert Einstein

16mar07 058

For several months now, I’ve been working through a wonderful book, The Artist’s Way. It was written more than 10 years ago with the intention to help aspiring creatives work through their blocks. I can’t help but wonder what it would have been like if I had gotten my hands on this book when I was 20 years old. I suppose I wouldn’t have been really ready for it. I suppose the universe works out as it should. Because here I am now, continually engaged with this read and so honored to be able to share some of it with my readers.

The book is broken up into weeks, with varying themes, tasks, and reflections each week. Some weeks I start out strong and move right through with ease. Others, I find myself working through bit by bit. This week’s topic is “Recovering a Sense of Self-Protection” and I have been chewing on it for quite some time.

In this chapter, Julia Cameron helps us explore the toxic habits we have that disrupt the flow of creative energy.  My toxic habit? It’s workaholism. And Cameron exposes every little bit about my habit (the one I am trying to break) in this chapter.

In a way, it was a breath of fresh air. A year ago, when I began trying to restore balance to my life, I sought out books to help me realize that I had an unhealthy relationship with work. I was addicted. But the resources I found tended to be written for men in business suits who should take more time for their golf swing rather than their office. No thank you. I needed something that could fit for women, who felt the need to prove themselves, who didn’t want to fail in the face of patriarchal society. Women who were struggling to balance, who had a list of should-do-for-others that was must longer than the list of needs-to-for-myself. I knew I wasn’t alone in feeling this way. I knew there must be many others, men or women, who wanted to redefine their relationship with work to better their lives.

In time, those ideas lead to the beginning of this blog. I’m so glad to have made the connections with others and gained a supportive readership. Thank YOU!

The challenge with redefining one’s relationship with work is that a work addiction is not the same as a drug addiction. It’s not socially acceptable to avoid work. Even when I took a few months off, I was surrounded by work at home. I certainly didn’t feel like I was getting sober. I wasn’t really having fun. I wasn’t sure I knew how.  Cameron highlights the paradox of workaholism so well,

Only recently recognized as an addiction, workaholism still receives a great deal of support in our society. The phrase I’m working has a certain unassailable air of goodness and duty to it. The truth is, we are very often working to avoid ourselves, our spouses, our real feelings. In creative recovery, it is far easier to get people to do the extra work of the morning pages than it is to get them to do the assigned play of an artist date. Play can make a workaholic very nervous. Fun is scary. “If I had more time, I’d have more fun,” we like to tell ourselves, but this is seldom the truth. To test the validity of this assertion, ask yourself how much time you allot each week to fun: pure, unadulterated, nonproductive fun?

Fun? What am I supposed to do with that? How? With who?

rachel, in her natural habitat

I am getting better with this. Seriously, I am. Sharing experiences with others has been the key to learning how to have fun. Building friendships. Exploring opportunities. Laughing. And to the displeasure of my children, singing. In fact, just yesterday, I galloped down the road with my 3 year old. I don’t know if anyone was watching. I don’t really care. Because we had fun. He laughed and so did I. And the best part– I didn’t even get hurt.

For a long time, I had a deep fear of fun. I was terrified that if I let go, just a little too much, that something bad would happen. As if I had that much power in the universe! Ha! But, still the feeling was real. A feeling that if I let responsibility slip just a little bit, that bad, terrible things would happen as a result. The feeling is still there, I realize as I write this. But it is negotiable now. Not all-encompassing or consuming.

 winter woods

The mind is capable of so many things. Our perspective can lead to our ruin or our triumph. It all depends on what we believe. For so long, my work determined my worth and my schedule. It was a viscous cycle. I didn’t do the things that I needed to do for myself when I needed to. I would say, “Just let me finish this up.” or “When I get through this deadline.” or “I just don’t have time.” I believed those statements. I saw my work as a building block to get to the next point in which I could be happier.

Cameron is very clear about this, she says, “Workaholism is a block, not a building block.”

It is amazing for me to share all these bits, to see just how far I have come. Because truly, each step has been a challenge. The path doesn’t always feel easy. In fact, most often I feel like I am not doing anything at all. That’s where this book has been really great. Cameron encourages us to take time each morning to take time to clear our mind and write in what she calls morning pages. Even if it feels useless and silly, those morning pages are the way in which we draw a map for ourselves that includes both where we have been and where we want to go. I love her reminder,

“To write is to right things. Sooner or later— always later than we like— our pages will bring things right. A path will emerge.at the waterfall

Somehow, I find that a path has emerged.

The pieces are starting to come together.

I admit though, it is still scary. It feels unknown. I have several projects lined up in the next couple months. This is a good thing financially. But its a scary thing psychologically.

It will be up to me to find that balance.

To do my work, without overworking.

To make my needs a priority,

Like eating nourishing meals.

Taking time to meditate, write, read, and create.

Spending time outside, with my family, animals, and plants.

Being spontaneous enough to have fun. Pure, unadulterated, nonproductive fun.

Being content with who I am, where I am, at that moment.

Only when he no longer knows what he is doing does the painter do good things. ~Edgar Degas

 

learning to work again

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learning to work again

It occurred to me today, “Wow, I’m busy again.” Why yes, I am.

Last week, I wrote about the confusion that had overcome me when I started getting busy.

A reminder of what a slippery slope addiction and recovery can be. I found myself disappointed in myself. “I want to prove that I can be successful in breaking through my addiction.” Then I have to laugh at how ridiculous that it. I have to draw boundaries. I have to turn off my email. I have to know that I have a choice in what I do and how I choose to be. I have to remember that I am recoveringI have to focus on breathing. I have to remember the value of balance.

That was last week! That was my last post. I have been busy!

I’ve missed writing. I’ve been needing to write. I’ve been wanting to share about the intense artist breakthrough I had on Saturday. But now is not the time. Maybe tomorrow. Today, I found I had that feeling of determination pushing me along. As I left my part time job at the local coffee shop, I felt that feeling pushing me, in my car, down the road, to pick up child #1, then back the other way to pick up child #2. That feeling has to go for now, I am at home. That feeling cannot take over me.

Its not a surprise that feeling creeped up on me now. As I reflected on how busy I was, it dawned on me, “I have three jobs!” Time to update the resume!

~~~~

2013- Present         

Upstage Gallery Manager

Dakota Prairie Regional Center for the Arts—New Rockford, ND

Assist with the integration of visual arts into current DPRCA programing.  Organize and oversee the opening of a visual arts gallery, including the development of appropriate space, marketing for the gallery, recruitment and cooperation with consigning artists, and management of sales.

2012-Present         

Independent Artist and Writer

Pages of Paradigm—New Rockford, North Dakota

Produce and sell various drawings, paintings, jewelry and creative non-fiction. Manage a blog site at pagesofparadigm.com.

2012- Present         

Grant Writer

Rachel Brazil Professional Services— New Rockford, North Dakota

Provide professional services such as writing, consulting, planning, and project management to a variety of organizations. Expertise in projects related to rural community development, sustainable agriculture, and environmental education.

~~~

The hard part of stepping away from the determination that strikes with these projects, is that they are fueled by excitement. They are part of the life I created. This dynamic, wonderful life! They are parts of other people’s lives as well. I share the excitement. I gain from others. It is contagious! Its so much fun!

So whats the problem!? The problem is that feeling can be addicting. I have a problem with it. I hit bottom with it. I took a long time working my way back up. I’ve been working hard to overcome this addiction. Now its time to put these lessons I’ve learned into practice. Its time to balance.  It’s time to keep the feeling of excitement from dementing itself in compulsion. Several months ago I finally recognized the terrifying power compulsive behaviors have on me. 

However, when it comes to setting goals, to-do lists feel like time-bombs ticking in my brain. Several of my former students witnessed the after-effects of these explosions as a sat on my office floor, surrounded by piles of papers, trying to find some orientation in the surrounding crowd of priorities. Since I no longer have an office floor for my thoughts to explode out on, I have come to find that to-do lists simply instigate my compulsive tendencies. My jaws tighten and tunnel-vision sets in. I begin to ignore my body’s need to eat, drink, rest, or contemplate. The compulsive actions seem to happen without awareness—only going forward with a bold confidence that thrives on escalating stresses created through excitement and achievement. It is not joy or happiness. It is not complete or compassionate. Any pleasure of success does not belong to me, but to the compulsion.  Sadly, such behaviors can be easily mistaken for motivation, determination, or excitement—which is why its existence is so strong. It has been nurtured greatly and for too long.

The weekend is near and luckily, my work week is over, so to speak. My writing and art will continue. Or at least I should hope. But looking back on the past few days, I am surprised to add up all my hours.

Sunday-  

4 hours- preparing a grant document for a contract

2 hours- preparing artwork and jewelry

Monday –        

6 hours- painting items for the Upstage Gallery

2 hours- preparing a grant document for a contract

Tuesday-  

3 hours- working at the coffee shop, preparing for the official press-release for the Upstage Gallery

(now featured on the New Rockford City Website, will be in the paper on Monday)

2 hours- preparing a grant document for a contract

Wednesday-    

6 hours- completing and submitting grant document

Thursday-  

6 hours- working at the coffee shop, attending a production meeting, developing space and contacting artists

If I can do math, that’s 31 hours, on top of my home management duties, on top of training a puppy, on top of grieving the loss of our pet duck, on top of recovery. I’ve done pretty well, I feel pretty good. But, it would be all too easy to jump into tomorrow and the next day, following this pace. Which might not be all bad, depending on what it is I choose to do. Whether or not the chosen activities restore the energies I have expended during the week, or if they continue to use the energy I have stored up. If its the latter, I’ll become compulsive for sure.

It feels like an experiment of mindfulness. A process that might be well initiated with some reading, maybe catching up on The Artist’s Way, revisiting The Mindful Path through Shyness, or spending sometime with one of my favorite blogs Zen Habits.

Wish me luck through this experiment and trust I have the tools I need for success… or perhaps I have more lessons to learn.

rachel, in her natural habitat