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Writing life and behind the scenes 2: Constant Self-reflection

Now She Writes, Ruth Alflat, Self-reflection blog, Career, Mindfulness, Intuition, Writer, WritersLife

It was all going so well until it wasn’t.

Since my last “behind the scenes” post a lot has happened, too much in fact and certainly enough to stop me from writing and blogging...which has probably been part of what lead to my fall-off-horse moments of late. And oh how I fell.

As I wasn’t taking the time to reflect on what was going on or give myself a chance to listen to my intuition I ended up missing out on some really important signs. The kind of signs that scream at you “WOAH, WOAH GIRL WHAT THE HECK THIS IS TOO MUCH.” or the ones that gently nudge you “This way child, come to the safe place.”

In the last three weeks I felt like I’ve lived in airports, got stranded in Sweden overnight (you know the weather is bad when the Scandinavians are freaking the fuck out about it), lost my purse, got behind on my finances (hello unexpected terrifying credit card bill, 10/10 fun), was asked by my old employer to return my laptop (que panic of transferring book draft across), somehow broke my invoicing software, planned a bunch of wedding stuff in a frantic “the spreadsheets are on fire” manor, forgotten best friends birthdays, occasionally forgotten to feed and water myself and got so caught up in my day job that I was starting to dream about campaign plans and project management software.

I got lost. I lost myself.

This is also not the first time. I’m a do-er, a perfectionist, a working class Yorkshire lass with a heavily ingrained work ethic that focuses all my attention around “providing” and “proving myself”. Not all together awful qualities but they can take over and burn you out.

The job spiral

I had the privilege of spending the weekend at the HQ of the company I work for, which happens to be based in Tampere, Finland. It was nothing less than a winter wonderland full of fabulous people. Aside from the good Finnish vibes I had the chance to properly engross myself in the year strategy and help map out where we want the company to be.

I love what they do and I love the people, truly. So it was no surprise my “Provide and prove yourself” gear got knocked in to hyperdrive. I returned to Oslo with a self-imposed to-do list the size of my dining table, full of dizzying energy as I told myself THIS was the most important thing. THIS is my career, THIS is EVERYTHING. THERE IS SO MUCH TO DO OMG WHAT AM I DOING EVERYTHING IS ON FIRE.

Yup, there was the spiral. Rather than taking the time to properly reflect on what needs to be done, how I can best do it and how I actually feel about it, I dove right into the deep end and became obsessed, stressed and quickly exhausted.

As the other aspects of the manic last couple of weeks kicked in my guilt about not writing crept up on me and sat heavy in my stomach.

I’m starting to truly appreciate that writing isn’t just a passion project that I’m driven to do but a genuine outlet that keeps me grounded.

I had distracted myself from my intuition but the signs were still clearly there. A disregard for self-care, clenched jaw, insomnia, feeling randomly close to tears and then one night my boyfriend tentatively but firmly pointing out to me that “This is how you used to be last year.”

Last year before I quit my awful soul-sucking corporate job, before I allowed myself time for my writing, before I put my happiness (and our happiness) first.

It all came to a head last night when, after collapsing in bed exhausted, I found myself in that place we all hate, staring at the ceiling at 3am full of heart pounding adrenaline and mind racing with every stressor it can cling at. I tried mindfulness, breathing techniques...all the things the books tell you to do but it wasn’t enough. This was a thread I had to tackle.

So I got up, grabbed a notepad and pen, and sat in the living room scribbling every thought that came to my mind.

I wrote down what my goals are (REAL goals, not the day to day grind), what my actual adult life responsibilities are and then the perceived ones of which many can go neatly in to the Fuck-It Bucket. I broke my day job down in to themes, priorities and actual realistic deadlines rather than my go-to “Must do everything ASAP” mindframe.

I wrote and rewrote wise words that have come to me from friends and books such as “What would you do if you weren’t afraid?”, “Enough is enough is enough” and “What is your intuition telling you?”.

I thought about how wise mentors in the past have guided me and tried to imagine what they would say to me now, in doing so becoming my own trusted internal mentor.

It was easy to fall asleep after that.

Now to put it in action

Today I woke full of energy but a different kind. I knew what I wanted to achieve and I knew to take time today to listen to myself. Instead of rushing in to “career woman” mode I started the day by calling my mum (who is a never-ending beacon of wisdom) and asked her for help on something I’ve been putting off for a while.

I also remembered a fabulous woman I met recently who had inspired me to I reached out to her simply for a catchup and within minutes we had a coffee meetup planned for next week.

I put on makeup, perfume (just because), got the laundry in and had a cup of tea while planning this blog post and my next book writing session.

Now She Writes, Ruth Alflat, Self-reflection blog, Career, Mindfulness, Intuition, Writer, WritersLife

I set very clear goals on how much time I would spend on work today knowing that afterwards I would write (YAASSSS), wedding plan (in a more fun-and-over-wine rather than everything-on-fire way) and spend evening time with my boyfriend just how we needed.

Once my mind cleared my actual work fell in to place as well. Tasks flowed and spreadsheet formulas aligned themselves as if by magic. I also ended up talking to my colleague about how best to prioritise my responsibilities going forward and she was all ears and full of support.

I started to feel good about things again. I started to find myself again.

Constant self-reflection

Does this mean it’s smooth sailing from now on? Hells no. These blips are reminders that self-reflection is a constant exercise.

Whether it’s monthly, weekly, daily or more. Taking those moments to reflect on how you really feel, what your intuition is telling you and ask yourself how your actions are really serving you and your values.

It’s a constant juggling act I guess, learning to trust your balance and inner compass rather than focusing too much on one ball at a time.

..Now, where’s that gin...