Stressed. Focused. Swirling. Focused.

Wednesday, September 1st, 2010 7
Posted in: Refocus, SOOC, Swirling

It’s the first of September and the second week of the fall semester…already. I know that sounds early for those of you living in places where school hasn’t started yet and who are still in the midst of feeling the loss of summer. But for me, I’m in it. Like full on, 0 to 60 in 2.4 seconds, kind of in it. While prepping my two graduate level courses, updating syllabi, and teaching my first classes of the semester, I made my list of papers and book chapters I need (and want) to write for the semester. I prioritized them, moving them around on my list according to which months I would focus on each of them. I scheduled time-frames and set deadlines for myself. Check, check, check. After talking it all through with my writing buddy, proudly showing her my orderly list, I convinced my brain that, “Yes, that sounds do-able. Ambitious, but do-able.” And then, on the fourth day of the semester, I left town.

Suffice it to say, not the best timing to get outta Dodge, especially since my trip would also cut into the beginning of the second week of classes. But, birthdays aren’t the type of event that one can schedule or have control over (but wow, would that make a control freak like me happy). And it was, after all, an important birthday. A milestone birthday. A birthday being celebrated with a big surprise party and lots of family and old friends in attendance. And… it was for my Dad. The man who raised me, read to me every night before bedtime, got up with me when I was sick in the middle of the night, took me to amusement parks and the beach in the summers, and taught me that arriving 5 minutes early is being “on time.” I needed and wanted to be there. And so, I left town, even when it was totally not a good time.

The trip was lovely. One of my best visits, actually. And that is saying something as many treks back “home” are tricky, a bit stressful, emotionally hard, and disappointing. But this trip, this one was really pretty great. My father was truly surprised, grateful, and touched that I was there, that I came just for him. He was shocked by the party, too, and he’s a tough guy to pull off a surprise for. I also got to spend more time than usual with my favorite family members, and the foodie in me was thrilled to have some of the food I grew up with that I just can’t get out here in the land of beef and corn.

Maryland Blue Crabs, steamed and seasoned with Old Bay

And then something happened. The stress, the anxiety, the looming to-do list all came flooding back. The plane hadn’t even touched down in the Midwest. Who am I kidding? It hadn’t even taken off from the east coast, and I was already swirling with work pressures, thoughts of the semester getting away from me, and fears of running out of time to “get it all done.” This is nothing new, I’m ashamed to admit. My gratitude and ease from a vacation or trip is so sadly fleeting, it diminishes long before I even arrive back home. And as much as I’ve been practicing refocusing, trying to center on what really matters, I realize I have a long way to go.

I’ve been back for two days. And I’ve ridden an intense, stress-full roller coaster these past 48 hours. But, I’m revisiting my last post for reminders. I’m sitting down with my journal each morning. Breathing. Re-centering. Refocusing. And it’s helping. I wouldn’t change the past week for anything. I’m grateful for the time I had with my Dad. I’m thankful for the time I had with my family. And isn’t that the stuff that matters most?

Important morning ritual

7 Responses

  1. Lindsey says:

    Yes! That’s the stuff that matters! But it’s also human to have the transition be rocky as the stresses of Real Life leak into the end of whatever the respite from that RL is … at least I know that’s just how it happens for me. I’m the queen of leaving on Sunday at noon rather than having the whole day, etc, which drives my husband mad but is just so much better for me … so I know just what you mean.
    (PS “syllabi” is one of my favorite words ever)

  2. Yes, I believe that’s the stuff that matters most. When you look back, the work and stress will be a blur and the stuff you’re going to cherish and want to remember most of all are the times with family and friends, those few and oh so fleeting moments of calm and peace in the mornings (which, ironically, I am trying DESPERATELY to fit into my schedule! ha ha), probably those crabs, and the look on your dad’s face. The rest of the stuff is important, too, but it’s not what we’re going to remember in 30 years. Or, at least, I hope it isn’t!
    I hope we get to see each other when I come home!

  3. Gorgeous photography — I’m so impressed with your skills in such a short amount of time. You give me hope. More importantly, though, I’m really glad you had such a good visit home. I know it was met with some trepidation, so I’m glad it exceeded your expectations. Get done what you can get done, and let the rest go: my unsolicited advice.

  4. Erika says:

    This reflects my own (most often daily) roller coaster of balance, ease, tension, panic, awareness, calmness, balance….It’s nice to hear my own words in someone else’s experience. I ABSOLUTELY LOVE the photo of your journal as I feel like I could just walk over and sit down myself. Bringing a sense of ease into each moment is that lifelong practice we all talk about and it really sounds like you are bringing awareness to the process in a deeper way—what else can we do?

  5. Tanya says:

    Meghan, you wrote well on something I think we all experience, trying to balance work with family and outside passions. I know I felt like I was not accomplishing a balance at all after I went back to work full time after having Samantha. It was the reason I asked my former company to work part time. Of course, I did not feel like my work was my calling/dream job, so it was a simpler decision for me to make.
    While I wish I was a better list maker, I have a thought for you. What if you looked at your work/to do list as a “rough draft” of your plans? And your life/outcomes are then the final print. Just a thought.
    The fact that you flew out and surprised your dad means that you are intentionally striking a balance, and realize the importance of family in your life. I know it’s easier said than done, but the work will wait.

  6. Tiffany Hogan says:

    Your pictures are gorgeous – do you realize how talented you are???

    So happy your trip was good!
    Can’t wait to see you soon,

  7. Roger Hille says:

    What really matters? Such a profound question. Many are the voices in each life so willing to advise what “should” matter. In the end the only voice that matters is your own. From my perspective you’re doing quite well in observing all these thoughts on what really matters and working diligently to remain focused in the present moment. Your voice is eloquent and candid, if perhaps a bit too self-critical at times. In my experience living a life in balance is an illusion I ceased trying to maintain. Rather, I found that embracing the rhythm of one’s life, its flow, ever-changing, allows one to live more easily and to just be.

    I find your photographs not only beautiful, but wonderful in how your eye captures meaning within simplicity. It is a gift.

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