Treating Myself to a Step Back

The only thing that annoys me more than some long, drawn-out explanation about why a blogger is taking a break or ceasing to blog is when a blogger just leaves his or her space to linger in web infinity, no new posts but not taking the site down, either. How long do you give a blogger before you stop reading altogether? Which is why I am here to tell you that I am taking a blogging break.  I’m not sure how long it will be but the longest it will be is October, which will be my five year blogging anniversary. By that point I imagine I will either resume all of the projects and thoughts I have here ( the Pittsburgh project, the reading through the stacks project, etc), start a new blog, or quit the form. I’ve definitely felt a lack of inspiration every time I come to this space, even though I have dozens of ideas at any given time. I feel it’s lost some of its passion, its spark – there are a bunch of reasons for this. Partly I think it’s because I’ve significantly lost my anonymity over the years…friends, family read this blog and I feel I can’t be as honest or (sometimes) snarky as I want to be.  Partly I feel a need to return to journal-writing – pen-to-paper. Partly, I’m just tired.

And, actually, it’s not just blogging that I’m ceasing to do. I’ve decided to cease all personal writing for awhile, as well as any other commitments I’ve made to myself beyond working and exercise. After discussing this at length with S. (and, actually, a bit with my neighbors last night), I’ve decided to treat myself to a big ol’ step back from my own self.

See, this is what I’ve realized: when I started the job I hold now, I never gave myself any time to adjust to my new life. Even though I was coming in at a manager level, even though the work I did stretched across a very large and demanding hospital system, what I felt in an overwhelming fashion was “this can’t be all I do – I must still write – I must still finish/sell that novel so one day I can live the freelance dream” – and so, despite the newness of the job I continued my five a.m. wake up calls to write and regardless of end-of-day fatigue I continued to work out and I found (still find) myself not giving my all to anything in my day because my mind is constantly distracted by what’s next.

Two years later, and nearly six years in the field, and I’ve been nominated as one of six people to a national committee on cancer policy. And once I found out about the nomination I realized how badly I wanted it, and I demonstrated to my boss that serving on this committee despite using work time for it would benefit the organization, and she said okay, yes, of course and then I accepted and then I thought well, shit. How is this going to effect my writing?

It was a terrible thing to feel – that guilt – that writerly guilt. Despite my job, despite this recent nomination – I so often feel like a failure because I can’t prioritize the act of writing every single day and then I feel like a failure because I’m not acting anymore either and God gave me gifts and I’m simply wasting them to be just another douche bag with a blackberry and I can’t even find time to go to yoga regularly or clean my house because I have to write and I have to go to work and I have to make it to the gym because, I mean, there is diabetes in my family and I do not want THAT and what in the world are we going to have for dinner? I should make something nice for dinner because I only see S. fifteen days out of every month.

This is what I realized: all of this guilt and stress is my own making. I can take a time out. So much of what I do is what I think I should be doing rather than what really interests me, and I don’t know why I’m like that! I obsess about making beautiful, local, seasonal meals in my house because that is what seems to be important to everyone when really, I’m so good with half a can of soup and two glasses of chardonnay. I feel terrible if I watch an hour of television instead of read a book for the same amount of time. I feel flickers of resentment if a seven a.m. meeting is scheduled because that is my writing time. And you know what? This has all got to stop. I don’t want to be like this anymore and what’s more, I don’t want to raise children who are influenced by this kind of attitude. I believe I can strike a balance…I’ve met many women who work and engage in the arts and raise children and maintain homes, and I see myself as one of them…a working woman with a family who acts and writes and hosts dinner parties but on my way to becoming one I’ve decided I need a bit of a break – a contemplative time, so to speak. I want to hang out with S., walk my dog, actually commit to my yoga practice several nights a week – all without feeling like something else is suffering from my choices.

A-hem. So. That’s the scoop. Taking a break. Will be back, and will certainly be reading your blogs throughout the time – I can’t imagine ceasing to read blogs!  Like the rest of the world I’m also on facebook so you can catch me there, too, if you like.  After I post this my break from myself begins – I’ll evaluate every couple of months and see what I am restless for…my neighbor wants me to audition for a play…I don’t know how long I will go without writing…I’ve always needed a variety of artistic outlets but what I need more, right now, is to do what I didn’t do when I first came to Pittsburgh, cut myself some slack, and simply work, and exercise, and rest. Talk to you sometime between now and October!

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18 Responses to Treating Myself to a Step Back

  1. inthemainstream says:

    Congrats on that committee! How cool is that?

  2. appellationmountain says:

    Congratulations on the committee! God gives us gifts, but sometimes he pushes us to use them in surprising ways. You’re doing the right thing.

    Your novel will always be there, but the chance to make an impact on cancer policy? That can’t wait.

    Best wishes, and I’ll still be subscribed should you ever return. 🙂

  3. Elaine says:

    I feel you, Sweetie. Enjoy your time off, however long you decide to make it. And hot damn. Congrats on this awesome new opportunity!

  4. Stefanie says:

    Congratualtions on the committee Courtney! How exciting! Have a good break. It is always so much harder to be nicer to ourselves than it is to other people and I think it is great that you are giving yourself room to be for awhile.

  5. lilalia says:

    Feel as if I could write a sentence in response to every one of the thoughts you conveyed. Instead of doing that, I just want to say you are one mighty writer and your poems and blog posts and your creative spirit has meant a lot to me over the years and I hope you will be back soon. October seems a long time away, but my patience is mighty as well.

    A few weeks ago, two fellow bloggers and I got together to redefine and relaunch our blogs. It was a very creative work process. This might be an idea for you to do with some of your best friend bloggers somewhere down the line. Finding your mojo in a collaborative process is better than just on your own. Otherwise, if you want to know more about the questions we asked and the dialog that ensued, please drop a line.

    Take dear care.

  6. gumbomum says:

    I so, so hear what you are saying and wholly identify. I am one of the bloggers Lia mentions — have been working through this issue myself lately.

    I have always loved your blog and hope you’re back soon. I will keep you on my feed reader!

  7. Litlove says:

    I’ll miss you, but I really understand what you’re saying here. The job opportunity is a big one, and focus is what makes work good. Spreading yourself too thin is the way to feel frustrated and tired. Take VERY good care of yourself and do visit me at the Reading Room sometimes so I can hear your news!

  8. Dorothy W. says:

    Congrats on the nomination! Your post really speaks to me, as I’ve considered taking a blog break myself, although I’m not sure yet what I’ll do. In a way, my life is not busy or demanding at all (easy job, no kids, no local family, no major time commitments of any sort), but still I start to feel as though there are too many demands on me and I want more time to myself. I’m trying very hard to keep some perspective on what absolutely needs to be done and what doesn’t (and most things don’t absolutely need to be done, including blogging). We’ll see. I’ll miss your blog posts, but will look for you on Facebook!

  9. m says:

    I’ll Toast to that! CHEERS to taking time. Cheers to taking control of it all. CHEERS to the committee- they’re very luck to have you. CHEERS to long lovely dinners with S and walking your dog with no guilt. Sounds amazing. Enjoy!

  10. Cam says:

    I will miss your writings here, but understand your reasons. It’s where I’ve been with my blog for about the last year. If it doesn’t feel like a positive thing to be doing, don’t do it! Congrats on that committee — sounds awesome.

  11. Lizzy says:

    I’ll miss you for sure. I’m not on Facebook so I hope you’ll pop in once in a while…and I’m one of those whose blog is gathering dust, it’s definitely time to get back to it!

    Enjoy your step back Courtney.

  12. Emily Barton says:

    La. La. La. I can’t hear you. La. La. La. What will the blogosphere be like without Courtney?! However, I completely understand (and am probably envious that you’ve actually made the decision to take a break). I’ve been thinking about taking a blogging break for some time now (am definitely blogging much less than I used to), but I don’t seem to be able to stop writing posts in my head, and once they are there, they might as well be here. Hope you’ll let us know what it’s like to let it go for a while.

  13. Pingback: My « Ten Years Ago » Project « Smithereens

  14. Amanda says:

    Congratulations. I think the committee sounds likes a wonderful opportunity to make an important contribution to the greater good. Time and energy are limited resources and as circumstances change priorities have to shift. I think it’s healthy to acknowledge this and to focus on what is most important to you at a given time and not to crucify yourself trying to attain perfection at everything all the time.

  15. shoreacres says:

    Hmmmm… Awfully trite, but “been there, done that”.

    One of the best bits of advice isn’t original either, but it’s true.

    “You can have it all. You just can’t have it all at the same time.”

    Happy Time Out!

  16. Melanie says:

    We’ll miss you. Thanks for your contributions to the virtual and physical world. And if you feel the draw to share a self-centered update, I’m sure the many of us who are your readers would be grateful.

    In the mean time,

  17. shoreacres says:

    Just a note to say you’re not forgotten! Hope all is as you hoped – have a great holiday weekend!

  18. scribbler50 says:

    Enjoy your time away, and congratulations on making the decision to do so. Not easy. But, hey, you obviously have a loyal following who will be there when you return so not to worry. Just like with a TV series (Mad Men to name one) fans can endure a hiatus when the show is good.

    Cheers from Bar-land!

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