Miss Murder Asks For Help…And It’s AWESOME.

It’s perfectly fine to ask for help…unless you’re me, that is. Or, I suspect, you. If your mother, spouse, friend, or sibling needed help, wouldn’t you leap to give it? Wouldn’t you stretch out your hand instantly? And sometimes you don’t know they need help unless they ask. Why don’t they just ASK?

Because it’s hard. Because we live in this crazy society where we feel like we have to do everything, and do it perfectly, and do it alone.

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On the front porch with Marsh at 3 AM

This isn’t how societies work. This isn’t how the human animal works. Once we lived in villages and helping each other meant surviving. We didn’t hunt, gather, or parent alone. What suddenly makes us think that we have somehow evolved to do that now, especially when things are more complicated than ever?

We’re weary. We’re taught that busy is better. I know very few people who actually enjoy their lives, and many simply try to survive it.

This is me on a typical day: Get three kiddos to school. Arrange/attend appointments. Keep up with friends, “maintain a presence,” volunteer for my church and community. I try to write/read/blurb/clean/feed the pets/feed the family/feed my soul. And it isn’t working.

The house has fallen. Six hours of volunteering for church a week leaves me exhausted. My writing is stalling and I feel like an imposter who can’t do anything very well.

Help.

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Baking Banana Bread at 4:00 AM

I tried to ask it. If only people would do more around the house, or follow through their commitments at work, or listen to me when I say no the first time instead of trying to wear me down to a yes. But I’m not good at asking for help. It means I’m not pulling my weight. It means I’m not doing my best, and that means I need to try harder.

Then I ran across an awesome deal on housecleaning. You heard me. Housecleaning.

How many times have you thought, “If I were rich, I’d pay someone to clean my house!” I thought that, too. It would be a glorious thing.  But it’s something only rich, busy people do. Not people with stay-at-home careers, like me.

Except it is. My husband thought it was a great idea and encouraged me to try it. We hired them to come, and they came today.

It. Was. Awesome.

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My super shiny kitchen! I just made banana bread there a few hours ago!

Picture this: I had just gotten over either the flu or a diabetic thing, I can’t be sure. But I was weak. Thanks to anxiety about life, I had only slept an hour and a half the night before, from 5:30 am until 7:00 am. (Note exhibit A and B, with the cat and banana bread, all at weird hours of the night.) All three kids had been home for spring break, satelliting around me like drunk fireflies. I’m on a tight writing deadline. I’m pretty rachet.

So I open the door and there are three smiling women. They ask me to prioritize what I’d like them to work on. They are impossibly kind to my children. They are very patient with my son.

They are my backup. They’ve got me, boo.

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The microwave is so shiny that I’m not even ashamed when the door falls off!

These women have my back. They start on the bathrooms and I tackle the kids’ rooms. They move to the kitchen while I knock out the laundry. Four people working in tandem is a beautiful thing. And when the dust (quite literally) clears, I have my home back. I’m happy, they’re happy, and I feel a huge sense of relief.

It felt good. I feel like I gained some emotional balance. I think I’ll have them back every six months or so for a good deep clean that feels like it touched my soul as well as my walls. It took two hours for this, and that was all. Two hours. I spent more time than that on the front porch last night, petting cats and looking at Pinterest like a goon.

It was worth it.

“Help” isn’t a long word, but it’s certainly a difficult one to say. But, oh, am I glad I said it. My husband didn’t laugh. My friends didn’t laugh. My mother didn’t point at the dirty laundry and tsk. They were supportive, and it turns out the only one judging me harshly was myself.

Have a lovely day, my friends!

Miss Murder Takes a Holiday

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My husband gifted me with a night’s stay at the hotel a mile from our house. So I was close enough I could be accessible if the house burned down or the kiddo’s heads exploded, but I was otherwise off limits.

I wrote on the balcony. I laughed at 20 minutes of vintage South Park (Drugs are bad, m’kay) until I realized with horror that I was wasting time. I took a long, hot bubble bath, and then crawled into nice, clean sheets that I didn’t have to wash. It was such a wonderful, wonderful night.

Chasing After Joy

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Mornings are a terror. Getting the kiddos dressed, finding lost shoes, doing a five-year-old’s hair, getting Oldest onto the bus, and dropping the girls off at school usually wears me out. I was on my way home to do some work when I saw this gorgeous rainbow.

It was bright. Really bright. It was probably the most defined, colorful rainbow that I have ever seen in my life. Breathtaking.

In that moment, I made a conscious decision to shove deadlines, laundry, and the To-Do List to the back of my mind. I flipped my car around and drove off after the rainbow. There was a light rain and I was listening to Christmas music in the car. Trans-Siberian Orchestra’s Christmas Canon, to be exact.

 

Many of you know that I struggle with anxiety and depression. It’s a major force, if not THE major force in my life, and I’m constantly building my day around it. But I make an effort to choose joy as much as I can. I take pictures of things that catch my eye. I remind myself of the good in the world, and while it’s an active fight, day after day, it helps me to recognize moments of peace when I can find them.

This was such a moment. Music and rainbows. I was so enraptured that I was actually surprised by an expected phone call that I had forgotten. I was to be interviewed for a city magazine.

“I’m sorry,” I said. “I saw a rainbow and started to chase it. May I call you back from home?”

He quite graciously agreed and said he understood. Even that was a joy. I drove home and my terrible, stressed-out day felt more like something magical.

 

Things of Peace and Beauty

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Most of you know that my anxiety is through the roof. I make a conscious effort to bring peace and beauty into my home, so I have things to calm me. Like my indoor jungle.

 

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Sitting next to a warm bunny.

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A sweet bowl for my kitty ring.

img_5336-1Marsh the Mystery Cat snoozing outside. Small things, all, but things of joy. They’re tiny islands of beauty in a stormy sea, and every time I see these things I smile.

What are some of your favorite things? Would you share them with me? I’d love to hear.

Writing When You Don’t Wanna

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We all have those days when we’re charged with creative energy.  We’re atomic bombs of energy, split nuclear atoms of joy!  These are the days that we call off dinner with friends because we’re writing. We stay up in the middle of the night. We blow through three chapters, call ourselves geniuses, and then drop into bed.

Then there are the other days.  I’m not talking about days where we’re merely distracted or disinterested.  I’m talking about the darker, deeper days when we’re ill.  Or nail-bitingly anxious.  Or depressed.  Taking a day off or two is no big problem, but those days could easily turn into weeks or even months.  And if you’re trying to forge ahead with your dreams, two months of no writing is going to catch up with you.  You’ll see your momentum backslide.  Worse than that, you’ll hear that nasty, negative little voice that says you aren’t good enough. You don’t take your craft seriously enough, you don’t work hard enough.  Your hair isn’t shiny enough (or is that just my negative little voice?) and your commitments are building up on you, becoming more than you can manage.  If you’re sick/depressed/stressed/otherwise incapacitated, this buildup is the last thing that you need.  The more stress, the more negativity. The more negativity, the less get-up-and-go you’ll find in yourself.  And a writer without get-up-and-go is a stalled, unhappy writer.

Yeah, I’m there.  I’m frustrated that I don’t have the energy to work as hard and as efficiently as I used to.  But throwing my arms helplessly in the air only made things worse.  Instead, I have devised a plan using my trusty timer.

15 minutes a day on a project.  That’s all.

If I want to do more than that, great.  If I get inspired, even better! If I do 15 minutes on a few different projects, I’ll laud myself as a goddess.  But 15 minutes is my minimum.  It’s short enough that I’m not overwhelmed by it, but long enough that I can get to work on something.  Getting started is the hardest part for me, and once I’m going, I’m usually going for longer than my 15.   But if I plan for 15 minutes, and give myself a mental high-five when I complete it, then life goes a lot smoother.

Do you have any motivational tricks techniques that you use to keep yourself working even when you don’t feel like it?