An emergency with my elderly parents sent me flying out of the house with a hastily packed bag, numerous tins of whole leaf tea, and of course… my laptop. What more could a writer need? When two days turned into nine, I had a few more ideas! Fortunately, the most important necessity could be found anywhere at any time.
If you’re anything like me, you have your environment tuned to fit your personal rhythm and nature. This includes when you wake and go to sleep; what (and when) you eat and drink; how (when, and where) you like to work… The list goes on and on.
Since I have the luxury of working for myself, I have arranged almost everything to maximize my productivity, relationships, health, fitness, entertainment, and overall well-being. My ninety-year-old parents have a rather different lifestyle! During short visits, this isn’t a problem: I simply devote my attention to enjoying their way of life. Long visits are a different matter.
When I’m under a writing deadline and cannot afford to fall behind in my work, dramatic lifestyle differences become major obstacles.
Here are some ways I found to circumvent those obstacles and adapt:
#1 – JOIN THE NEW RHYTHM
I am most productive if I begin my work day first thing in the morning and ride the moment through mid- to late-afternoon. This means that I’ve meditated, fixed a pot of tea, and am standing at my computer ready to write by 7am (8am at the latest).
My mother (who is suffering with Alzheimer’s) wakes between 6:30 and 7am. But she also goes to bed between 6:30 and 7:30pm. You see my problem?
My Solution: I woke at 5:30am and wrote for a solid hour, spent the day focused on her, and wrote again in the evening. It wasn’t easy, but it worked.
#2 – CHOOSE THE HEALTHIEST FOODS
I have a pretty healthy diet, loaded with fresh vegetables, some fruits, raw nuts, and lean meats. Oh… and chocolate, slow-churned ice cream, and the occasional scone! Yeah… I’m a moderation over restriction kind of gal. Anyway, Ma keeps a near-bare refrigerator and half-dozen cans of Progresso soup in the cupboard. No joke. And she doesn’t appreciate strange items appearing in either location.
My Solution: I kept it simple. I bought a few bags of raw veggies, hid a can of nuts in my luggage, and stocked up on the chicken, sushi, and cookies I knew she liked to eat.
#3 – USE THE ENVIRONMENT TO STAY FIT
As a former professional dancer and martial artist, I used to get my exercise in training, rehearsals, and performances. Now that I spend my days writing, I power walk in the hills and do strength-agility exercises in front of the TV—things I can do alone and that don’t infringe on my writing time. This made it easy for me to adapt to my nine days with Ma. But even if I had been dependent on classes, equipment, or training partners, I still could have adapted by relying on my limbs for cardio and my body weight for strength training. When you think about it, we carry a full gym with us 24/7.
My Solution: Since I was already spending time away from Ma visiting Dad in the hospital, I kept things close to home. I walked less frequently and compensated by increasing the calisthenics.
#4 – APPRECIATE THE NOW
As two days became nine, I suffered many bouts of home-sickness. I missed my husband. I missed our son. I missed my comfy, Bohemian home overlooking the ocean. And I missed the rituals of my life.
My Solution: Every time I felt the yearning bug start to bite, I brushed it away and focused on appreciating the now. I thought of the quality time I was spending with Ma, the comfort I was providing Dad, and the many things to enjoy in and around their home. I even went to their salon and got a haircut, massage, and pedicure! I treated my stay as part spa vacation, part writers retreat. And you know what? It worked!
The best cure for wanting to be elsewhere is to appreciate where we are.
And that brings me back to my opening paragraph and the “necessity that can be found anywhere at any time.” It’s mindfulness.
Staying mindful of where we are, what we’re doing, and who we’re with, helps us adapt and make the most of any situation.
PS: Both Dad and Ma are doing well. I’m back home with my family and rituals. And I made my writing deadline with days to spare.