Getting into the Christmas spirits

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You read that right.

If you are someone who loves the holidays, you’re probably enjoying these last few days in the run up to Christmas. If you are someone who just worked 30 hours over a weekend you’re thinking they are incredibly poorly timed.

The Christmas theme at my house this year is: The Who’s house after the Grinch ransacked it, only the Grinch never came back. There is no tree. No wreath. No wrapped gifts. A few sad holiday cards, sent by dear souls who haven’t fallen into the black hole of capitalist chaos, sit on a table in my empty living room. (That’s right. The Grinch even took the furniture.)

The reminders are everywhere that I am behind. My email is full of messages screaming “last chance” and “ends today.” Too which I respond, “Delete you.”

As I walk through the beautifully adorned downtown skyways on my way to work, the Muzak reminds me that Santa’s on his way. “You say that like it’s a good thing,” I mutter.

And when I enter the post office and see the “We appreciate your business” sign on the door, I think, “No. No, you do not. If you did there wouldn’t be 20 people holding large boxes in this line, and you would not be chatting up the person you’re serving with news of your grandkids.”

Today I’m taking a day off to see if I can actually make this holiday thing work out this year. (Which explains why I’m spending time blogging, right?) I have a list as long as my arm and will burn a tank of gas driving from here to there. As of 8:00 a.m., I had already hit the “who are you kidding” stage of my day, and mentally removed a few items.

It’s beginning to feel a lot like another memorable year where I served spaghetti and meatballs for Christmas dinner. (Tip to readers: if you have to decide at the last minute between going to the liquor store before it closes and going to the grocery store before it closes, choose the liquor store. I guarantee your guests will not notice what you serve them for dinner.)

But I must away. The malls await me. I go armed with 60% off coupons for this and that. (It seems the only people more desperate than me this time of year are the retailers.)

Wish me luck.

Writing humor – when you don’t feel funny

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I took this photo from the deck the other morning – doesn’t it look mournful, this January sky?

It captured my mood that morning. While there is a promise of something beautiful, January days come with a price – cold, dark, discomfort, and hassle. There is something ominous in the beauty.

I’ve always tried to blog (and write) with a humorous intent. It is my firm belief that even in the most stressful times, you can find something to laugh about. But these days, the only posts I seem to be able to write are about why I’m not writing, and why I can’t hit the writing goals I’ve set for myself. How do you write humor when you don’t feel funny?

It’s not exactly writer’s block. I could write, just not the way I want to do it. Is it like exercise where you work through the block, “no pain, no gain”? Or do you rest yourself, until the moment when laughter comes more easily? Or do you change it up, and write something completely different? Or all of the above?

Beats me.

I’d love to hear from other writers, writing humor or not, as to how they shake off the gloom and get back to work. How you use writing to work through the stresses and strains, rather than let them block you.

This post is a start, right? At least I’m writing something.

Warning: Take the Month Off

IMG_0291Yesterday, the Daily Post writing prompt asked us to invent an astrological sign for ourselves. While I was too upside down and backwards to do that piece, I’m pulling myself out of the depths for today’s post: The actual horoscope for October, written in retrospect. Retrospect I can do.

October Horoscope

During this month, the pieces of your carefully constructed reality will fly up in the air and come down again in a different order. You’ll want to move forward, but you won’t know where anything is.

The people closest to you will suddenly seem to have lost their minds. They will make decisions you don’t understand and can’t prevent. People will exit and enter your life at a dizzying rate, leaving an impact far beyond what is reasonable or predictable. Things that felt solid will dissolve under your feet. Things that seemed moveable will remain so solid you cannot budge them.

And although you are entering a period of extreme unrest, all you will want to do is rest. You will find yourself resting as items on your to-do list pile up around you.

Make no mistake – this energy is taking you somewhere, you just don’t know where. Big change is coming. It has to. You’ve felt its approach for a long time now, but you haven’t been ready to face it. Well, get ready. You can’t stop change.

The temptation will be to close your eyes, open them up when it’s all over, and see where you’ve landed, like Dorothy in the tornado, headed off to Oz. If that’s the tack you take, just be ready, when you open your eyes, for your surroundings to look completely different. And to, somehow, find your way back home.

A new anxiety dream. Goody.

I had a bout with the flu last week that caused, among other things, a brand new anxiety dream. Maybe that’s because as I sat in bed moving steadily through an entire box of kleenex I watched my family fall apart at the seams. It appears they have some difficulty navigating everyday life without my constant intervention.

detritusNot only could they not manage their own affairs, they could not care for a sick person. Really, I could have died in bed waiting for someone to bring me something to eat or drink. (On Friday morning, when I asked my husband for a glass of water he said, “You have a glass of water.” I pointed out that it was the one I had gotten myself on Wednesday.)

While this bug made the rounds, I was the only one who got clobbered. My husband managed to avoid it after I doctored him up at the first sign of symptoms, my oldest and youngest missed only a day of school, and my hearty middle kid only threw up once. (Unfortunately, it was on a snowshoe hike on a class trip. He  just vomited and kept on snowshoeing. Didn’t even tell me for two days. Sorry, other parents whose kids were on snowshoe trip.)

Anyway, the flu that keeps on giving has presented me with a whole new anxiety dream:

A client I barely know is picking me up to transport me to a meeting. He arrives just as I am packing my three kids off to school. Disorder reigns. We are at a kitchen table littered with half-done homework and various other detritus. The arrival of the school bus is imminent. In a panic, I begin to stuff items in backpacks while shouting hurried instructions to my kids. Oldest and youngest leave the house and head for the bus. Middle kid, for some reason, is carting a small, heavy black-and-white TV to school as a donation. (A donation for what, you ask? How do I know? It’s a dream.) He and I leave the house in a rush, leaving my client to wait in our entryway. My son’s backpack hangs off his shoulder and he breathlessly lugs the TV as I race alongside him with a grocery bag full of other stuff he apparently needs for his day. We arrive at the bus stop to find four busses, not one, and I have no idea which one he is to get on. Neither does he.

Mercifully, I woke up there so I did not have to try to convince my client that I am actually a competent person. I can believe (at least unless I have the dream again) that I returned to the house composed and headed off to the meeting with my dignity intact.

This episode made me realize that a majority of my anxiety dreams have something in common – I am in a situation for which I am underprepared, frantic, and late, but with just enough time to recover if I put forth a herculean effort. Sort of like real life, only real life squared.

In my next post, I’ll run through some of the recurring themes. (I’ll skip the ones where I was about to be executed, or in a plane about to crash. Those were dark times – we won’t go there. This is a humor blog!) Perhaps you can then tell me if you, too, have experienced similar dreams. Or if I should seek therapy. Or maybe just head back to bed with my kleenex.

Dealing with the dog days

The dog days of summer arrived early this year in Minnesota, thanks to the relentless heat. The last couple of weeks have been challenging on all fronts.  A combination of hot weather, boredom, a nasty summer virus, and a LOT of togetherness has taken a toll on my family. Even the cats are sick. 

When you find yourself in circumstances like these, it’s hard to feel anything but fatigued, stressed and uninspired which doesn’t leave a lot of energy to work on the business. When stress hits you hard, here’s some strategies that can help you cope.

  • Take a time-out. Sometimes the best way to find the energy to deal with the business-at-hand is to get away from it for a while. It gives your mind a rest and can help you gain a new perspective.
  • Talk to someone about it. Keeping stress bottled up is unhealthy for our bodies, our families and our businesses. Talk to a friend, family member, or trusted advisor about what you’re experiencing. You might get more than a kind ear – sometimes you’ll walk away with some practical advice you can use to address your issues.
  • Don’t sweat the small stuff. Stress has a way of magnifying small issues to an almost unreal magnitude. Take a deep breath and really think about the size of the problem. Things are rarely as dire as they seem in the moment.
  • Focus on the positive. Take a few minutes to assess what’s going right – it can be enormously reassuring.
  • Take care of your physical self. Eat good food, sleep, and get some exercise, even if it’s just a walk around the block or swim at the beach with the kids.

Surely these summer dog days will pass. Who knows, by winter I may even remember them fondly!

How do you cope with stress in your business and your family? Send your strategies to sarah@dayonebusinessservices.com – if I us them, I’ll feature your business.