Good Things: Fall Addition

The last time I did a ‘good things’ post was back in May, and it turned out to be a real mood-booster for me. This spring was immensely stressful, and taking the time to reflect on the things in my life that were making me happy helped make that stress more bearable. The irony, of course, is that I was too busy or too stressed out or too distracted to make another ‘good things’ list during the summer, when I also could’ve used one.

As we shift into fall, which is my second favorite season and one of the busiest for me personally, I want to make sure I’m taking time to slow down and appreciate the good things that are happening–seasonally and otherwise. Hence, a second list:

1. Colorful leaves crunching underfoot
2. Cardigans and bright, luscious scarves
3. Crisp nights and bright, sunny days
4. Wearing sandals OR leather boots with skinny jeans
5. Moody, gray skies and moaning night winds
6. My awesome autumn Spotify playlists
7. Drinking apple cider straight from the local orchard
8. Apple donuts, apple crisp, applesauce–anything homemade, as long as it’s apple
9. The fact that the students are back in town, because the nostalgic part of me still gets a thrill out of the new beginning that each school year symbolizes
10. Finally being able to put on my trench coat
11. Busting out our (limited) autumn decor
12. The start of NaNoWriMo season, and the increased desire to create
13. Harvest season, and all the fresh veggies that come with it
14. Brainstorming pumpkin carving ideas with my fiancee
15. Wedding dress research, because I get to start shopping soon, and I’m super excited
16. Making LOTS more soup
17. Flying out to CA in less than a month to participate in the wedding of one of my oldest friends
18. Pumpkin pie, pumpkin pancakes, pumpkin cookies, pumpkin everything!
19. Hearing about my friends’ Halloween costume ideas, because they’re all more creative costume designers than I am
20. Write-ins and making new writer friends
21. Actually submitting a couple different writing projects (!!!)
22. Cribbage games and date nights with my fiancee
23. Finally being through the worst of an enormous systems switch at work
24. Approaching my 1 year anniversary with my current employer and still liking my job
25. It’s hot beverage season!

Let me know what good things you’ve got going on in your life right now, or link me to your own list in the comments.

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Today is My Birthday

Today is my birthday, and I am happy. I haven’t spent the days leading up to today angsting about getting older, or whether I’ve done anything meaningful with my life, or whether I’m ever going to do anything meaningful. I haven’t stressed (too much) about whether I’m celebrating the “right” way or celebrating the “right” things.

Instead, I had dinner with my fiancee at one of our favorite restaurants, opened the gifts that my parents shipped me, and talked to my sister on the phone for the first time in ages. I took some time here and there to appreciate how much better things have gotten since my last birthday, and reflect on the changes I’ve made.

This time last year I was unemployed, job hunting frantically and stressing about money. I was working as many side jobs as I could manage, hustling from interview to interview with fingers crossed. I was suffering from a massive crisis of confidence, and because of it, I wasn’t writing. I had a hard time letting go of my worries long enough to enjoy my birthday at all.

This year, I’m working. I found a new job that I like so much more than I would’ve guessed, and even when emergencies come up–like one did today–I get through them. I’m not writing right now, but I’m not stressing about it either. I’m still working away at my stories, and I know I’ll be ready to take the leap and start something new soon. In the meantime, I’m gearing up for an old friend’s wedding, which is taking place in less than a month. I’m beginning to tackle my holiday shopping. I’m looking forward, not backward.

My fiancee is turning thirty this year, which is a much bigger milestone than me turning twenty-eight, and when I asked him how he felt about it, he shrugged. “It’s just a number,” he said, and he’s right. Which is why I’m trying to focus more on the memories I’ve made in the past year and the ways that I’ve grown than I am on my age.

If today is any indication, I’m off to a pretty good start.

Project Post Mortem: Facing the Music

I never thought I’d actually get to say this, but I’ve finally started querying Facing the Music. It took years of my life and more work than I could’ve ever predicted, but I’m so freaking proud of how the manuscript turned out, and I honestly believe that it’s the best thing I’ve written to date.

HOWEVER. The journey from initial idea to finished manuscript was arduous, tedious, and even downright unpleasant at times. Facing the Music took more mental and emotional energy from me than anything I’ve written to date, and it has made me determined to find a more efficient, less agonizing way to create.

Enter Susan Dennard’s newsletter, which has been an absolute godsend for both my mental health and my writing. (Seriously, writer friends, if you haven’t subscribed to it yet, you should.) In one of her winter editions, she discussed the importance of evaluating each of your writing projects after they’re completed. That way, you have an opportunity to assess both the project’s successes and failures in the hopes of doing better, smoother work the next time.

I don’t suppose I need to waste anyone’s time explaining how much that strategy spoke to me. 🙂 In any case, the remainder of this post is my project post-mortem for Facing the Music, and I recognize that it probably won’t appeal to anyone but me. If you’d like to do your own project post-mortem though, feel free to drop me a link in the comments, because I am fascinated by this sort of thing.

What Went Well

1. Off the top of your head, what are you most proud of from the latest project?

FINISHING. Between a mental health crisis and work stress and other life upheaval, it’s kind of a miracle that I ever managed to reach the end.

I’m also proud of myself for sustaining the determination I needed to tackle multiple drafts worth of rewrites on my journey to finding the Right Story, and for sticking to my guns on a number of important creative decisions.

2. What went better than you anticipated? What was easier than expected?

Uhh . . . Was there anything??

Well, whenever I had a major epiphany regarding the story or its structure, the writing and revising process became significantly easier. Cutting Leslie’s POV from that initial first draft for example, as well as axing a major romantic subplot from a later draft, required far less work than I would’ve expected.

3. Were you early or ahead of schedule at any point in the process?

Considering that my initial goal was to revise this story and have it ready to query by the end of 2013? And that almost every attempt at setting and meeting my own deadlines turned out to be a colossal failure?

No. Not really.

4. Name three moments from the project that, while happening, made you feel good–good about the project or good about yourself.

  • Finishing a massive round of revisions and knowing I had a story that was almost ready to submit.
  • Receiving CP feedback on that same draft and being blown away by how overwhelmingly positive it was.
  • Reaching the end on the first draft I finished with just Evan’s POV and realizing how much more I liked the story when he was the only person telling it.

5. List any challenges for yourself/your writing that you also know you met.

  • I finished the goddamn book. Somehow.
  • I managed to portray two separate “recovery from an abusive relationship” narratives without falling back on gratuitous violence to emphasize just how bad those relationships were.
  • I succeeded in depicting a relationship between two major characters that contains plenty of chemistry and plenty of potential for romance, while still keeping said relationship platonic.
  • I wrote an entire novel in first person boy POV that I’m happy with.

What Did Not Go Well

1. Off the top of your head, what was the most frustrating part of this project?

Feeling like I was never going to reach the finish line, no matter how hard I worked, and all the crippling self-doubt and anxiety that accompanied those feelings.

2. Were there any aspects you thought would be easy that were ultimately difficult?

Literally all of them. I thought 1st person POV would be easy to master. I thought that plotting a straight contemporary standalone with no mystery or thriller elements would be easy. I thought the revision process would be easy.

Shows how little I know, huh?

3. Were you behind schedule at any point?

I spent the better part of four years behind. No joke.

4. List any challenges that you set for yourself/your writing that you DID NOT MEET.

The most important challenge that I set for myself was to have Facing the Music ready to query by the end of 2013, and I missed that goal by a mile.

5. What recurring issues did people such as your editor, critique partner(s), agent, trusted reader(s) raise with regards to your story?

Almost everyone who read Facing the Music from start to finish correctly pinpointed the lack of consistent character arcs or consistent character motivation. I’ve always struggled with how much to emphasize character motivation, which means I always err on the side of revealing too little. Because my characters’ motivations are clear to me, I have this tendency to assume that they’re going to be clear to everyone else.

Facing the Music was my first real wake-up call that you can’t write a character-driven novel without taking the time to properly develop your characters on the page. Sounds obvious, I know, but you’d be surprised at how many different people had to point that out to me before I finally got it.

6. Rank in order from what went smoothest to what went worst.

Idea Generation – 2  Once I stopped floundering through false starts and knew what I wanted the story to be, coming up with ideas was a breeze. My biggest issue has always been in knowing which ideas to pursue and which to disregard.
Planning/Outlining – 1  I would never finish anything if it weren’t my outlines, but I struggle with making the choices at the outlining stage that feel right for my story. Part of the reason it took so many drafts to find the Right Story for Facing the Music was because I didn’t quite know where to focus my planning energies.
Drafting New Words – 9  Ugh. I don’t always enjoy the writing stage of writing, and it was especially hard for me this time around due to internal and external factors. I could regularly knock out large word counts, but the number of words I wasted was pretty alarming.
Spotting Problems to Fix – 3 or 7  I might be too good at this, honestly. Spotting problems is easy for me. Figuring out when to lay my inner editor to rest and declare my work finished is really freaking hard.
Fixing Problems/Revising
5  I’ve always considered myself to be good at revising, and it usually isn’t a problem for me. But Facing the Music was the book where I realized that I didn’t know half as much about revising effectively as I thought I had. Going back to the drawing board of revision methods made for a much better manuscript in the long term, but slowed me down a lot day-to-day.
Taking Criticism – 6  I struggled more with this during my revision process than I usually do. I developed a thick skin in college, but the mental health crisis I spent far too long battling also resulted in a massive crisis of confidence. Most of the critique I received was good, and I had no trouble processing it and incorporating it into my manuscript once the initial sting wore off. But there were also a handful of criticisms that missed the mark by a mile, and left me feeling about two feet tall. Those were much harder to bounce back from.
Applying Criticism/Editing – 4  Again, this is something I tend to be super good at that caused me a ton of problems with Facing the Music. Part of that was the mental health stuff and a lack of motivation. Part of it was massive self-confidence issues that left me wondering whether my story was even worth editing. And part of that was the growing realization that I had a lot to learn about effective editing before I could get to the querying stage.
Staying Motivated – 7 or 3   Considering I spent years working on Facing the Music, almost quit the story more times than I can count, and still managed to revise it to the point where I was satisfied? I’d say I did rather well. On the other hand, I spent years working on it because there were days (and weeks and months) where I couldn’t stand the thought of opening the draft, and I almost gave up. So there’s that.
Time Management – 8   Crawling out of a depressive black hole more or less shot my ability to do anything to pieces, which meant that proper time management wasn’t an option for most of the revising process. I was a lot happier and a lot more productive when I stopped trying to set goals for myself and just worked when I wanted to work.

Other Questions

1. Did you end up with a product you are proud of?

Surprisingly, yes.

2. Did you have adequate help to complete the project? (i.e. Did you have critique partners, editorial/publishing support, family support, people to brainstorm with, etc?)

Not to the extent that I needed, which is largely my fault. I’m not a professional, so I don’t have an agent or editor. My family was supportive, but sharing my struggle with them made me feel kind of inadequate. Like I was spinning my wheels on this task that they couldn’t possibly understand the immensity of, instead of building a career or finding a better job or something more worthwhile. (Note that these are thoughts I had, not opinions my parents or anyone else I’m close to forced on me.)

I also didn’t have any CPs when I began Facing the Music, which presented its own set of problems. For one thing, I spent far more of my time trying to find trustworthy, compatible people to work with than I did working with trustworthy, compatible people. And although most of the individuals who critiqued my manuscript were lovely, I also wound up in a few different situations that were downright toxic to both my productivity and my confidence.

I did come away from the whole experience with a wonderful group of writer friends/CPs, so there is that silver lining. And my boyfriend-turned-fiancee was absolutely irreplaceable when it came to helping me brainstorm, listening to me whine, and keeping me sane.

3. Based on the previous questions, were your deadlines realistic for the project?

Ha. Hahahahahaha. No.

4. Why do you think your highest ranked (smoothest) step went well? 

Outlining gave me back a measure of control that I was otherwise lacking throughout the revision process. As long as I had an outline, I could convince myself that the subsequent writing/revising I had to do would go smoothly. Plus, outlining/planning made me feel productive on days when I wasn’t making much progress, and feeling productive was one of the only things keeping me working sometimes.

5. Why do you think your lowest ranked (worst) step was difficult?

Aside from the fact that drafting is inherently harder than revising for me, I was also quite a bit out of practice at writing new words. Combine that with the mental health stuff and the general self-confidence issues, and it’s not a surprise to me that I struggled to put words on the page.

I need to be better at making writing a habit in the future, even when my focus is on revising or brainstorming. I’m also trying to strike a better balance between a “keep calm and write crap” style of drafting, and actually writing words that won’t all need to be cut once I start revising. It’s going to be a process, that’s for sure.

Note: This postmortem also includes a timeline recap, but I feel like this post has grown long enough. I’ve got my own personal timeline for Facing the Music squirreled away on my computer that focuses on how long it took me to complete each draft and each revision. I’m planning to go back and add some personal life stuff to that timeline too, but I won’t foist that on you guys at this point.

If you like the idea of postmortems and want to tackle one yourself, feel free to link me. And if you have a different recapping process for each project you finish, I’d love to hear about it.

The Importance of Making Art

I don’t know about the rest of you creative types, but I’ve had a complicated relationship with my creativity/writing this year. On the one hand, I feel like I’ve regained a lot of my confidence–in my process, as well as in myself. I want to be creating again, and that feels very revolutionary for me.

However, I’ve also struggled to prioritize my writing in an increasingly toxic political climate. At a time when the civil liberties of our country’s minority groups are under constant attack, when climate change deniers hold the offices that allow them to most directly impact our environmental policy, and our media is belittled and ignored for reporting on anything useful, it would be all too easy to put aside the activities I enjoy and focus exclusively on activism.

Never mind that art is often inherently political, or that taking the time to create when every day feels uncertain is a monumental act of resistance in and of itself. I still can’t help thinking that I’m “wasting time” every time I sit down to write, even though I know that’s BS.

The thing is that we need escape more when times are tough than when everything is going well. We need good to triumph and problems to be solved, for monsters to be slain and heroes to rise. We need stories, now more than ever. And we need people who will continue to write them just as much as we need people who will continue to protest and fight and resist.

I’m writing this as much for myself as for anyone reading, but if by chance you’ve struggled to justify the importance of your own art in this strange new world, consider this your reminder. Your voice is important. Your work is important. And both have the power to change things.

Mid-Year Writing Update

I know, I know. We’re already well past the year’s midpoint, which makes the title of this post kind of pointless. But as far as I’m concerned, it’s never too late to check in on my writing goals, celebrate what I’ve accomplished, and decide whether there’s anything I need to re-evaluate.
Between the New Years Resolutions I posted on my blog, and my personal business plan, I wanted to accomplish some big things with my writing this year. Here’s a quick breakdown of how those big things are going so far.
Goal #1: Begin querying Facing the Music
Progress: I’m almost afraid to say this, but . . . I think I’m going to meet this goal this year. The first 18 chapters of the manuscript are FINISHED. I still have to write in the necessary changes for the last six chapters, but I’m not expecting that process to be as agonizing or as time-consuming as I originally thought it would be. I have a solid draft of a solid query letter that needs one more pass each from myself and my CPs. I’ve got a list and ranking system for possible agents, and a whole bunch of research to back that list up. And, for the first time in years, I finally feel like I have the courage to dive into the slush pile without turning into an anxiety-ridden mess.
Goal #2: Finish drafting a new manuscript
Progress: Barring a minor miracle, this just isn’t going to happen. I set this goal for myself back when I thought I was ready to commit to my YA contemporary romance. Although I have no regrets about setting that story aside because I wasn’t passionate enough to stick with it, I also don’t have any other ideas that are close to being ready to draft.
Goal #3: Revise a draft of my mystery and send it to my CPs for feedback
Progress: Considering the last novel I revised was an unmitigated disaster for 90% of the process (here’s looking at you, Facing the Music), I was determined to make a plan for revising my mystery before I changed a single word of the first draft. There are so many great resources out there for approaching revisions, and I culled a bunch of different strategies from authors whose blogs–and books–I read and respect. I reverse-outlined my book for the very first time and wrote out a plan of attack for myself, so that I knew what the steps of my revision process would be. I went back to the drawing board regarding my characters and plot, and did some thinking and free-writing about which aspects of the story I want to focus on and what I need to build into the next draft.
And then I sat down to begin re-working the arc of the actual mystery, which I’ve known has needed work from the very beginning, and . . . I stalled. Not indefinitely. Not even for longer than a couple of weeks. Just long enough to do some serious thinking about how freaking hard it is to write mysteries, and how I might need to fix both the starting point of the mystery AND the starting point of the story in order to make things work.
Once I came to that conclusion, everything started flowing. My absolute favorite thing about revising is watching the fragmented pieces of a story come together and build on each other and grow closer to the initial glorious idea that I had in my head. The story’s new beginning doesn’t fix every problem there was with the mystery’s initial draft, but it fixes a lot of them. And for the first time in ages, I can’t wait to dive back into writing once the mystery is fully fleshed out and the outline is complete.
Goal #4: Have something new ready to draft by November (and National Novel Writing Month)
Progress: Unless that something new winds up being the revised version of my mystery, it isn’t going to happen.
Goal #5: Write and submit 2-3 things that aren’t one of my manuscripts.
Progress: Not terrible. I finished the first draft of a short story back in June and did some research on potential markets not long after, but I also haven’t given it much thought since. I do plan to go back and revise it before the year is out, but it isn’t my top priority right now. Considering the whole purpose of this goal was to keep me writing and submitting, and I have a manuscript that’s close to being submission-ready anyway, I think that’s understandable.
That said, I would still like to draft and submit something else before the year is out too, just because it should be possible and there’s no reason not to.
Goal #6: Blog at least once every month.
Progress: Knocking it out of the park. 🙂
If you’re a writer, how’s your writing coming? If not, what have you accomplished this summer that you’re proud of? Let me know in the comments.

Currently . . .

This has become my go-to format for when life gets busy, apparently. 🙂

        Loving

What can I say – I just love summer. The warm, sunny weather, how much easier it is to spend time outdoors, the way the light lasts and lasts. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve come to realize that I use this time of year to recharge and refresh myself after the long, Midwestern winters. I’m also at my most productive when the days are longer, which feels great.

And speaking of productivity, I’m also loving the food blog Smitten Kitchen, which is the source of most of the new recipes I’ve tried so far this summer. The blogger organizes her recipes both by calendar date and by season, which makes my anal-retentive little heart happy.

Reading

In general, I’ve been gravitating more toward contemporary YA and romance. (i.e. stories with depth and drama but a higher probability of happy endings.) I’m reading The Season of You and Me by Robin Constantine, which is a love story that takes place in a beach town. I’m also working my way through Shades of Milk and Honey by Rupi Kaur, a collection of short, poignant poetry that I’m really enjoying. And despite my preference for lighter, fluffier books right now, I’m also deep in the middle of As I Descended by Robin Talley, a delightfully chilling gay Macbeth retelling that takes place at a Southern boarding school.

Listening To

It has been a long time since I’ve checked out CDs from the library, but I did it this month because I was desperate to find some new music for my iPod. I’m super into Mary Lambert’s “Heart on My Sleeve” album, which I discovered on Spotify months ago. “So Far Away” was my gateway song, but they’re all really great. I’ve also been listening to the Pretty Reckless album “Going to Hell,” which is fueling my twin desires for songs written by women and harder rock music.

Working On

So. Many. Revisions. I’ve almost (cross my fingers, knock on wood) finished re-plotting the mystery arc of my mystery WIP, which is doing wonders for the rest of the story. It’s like I can feel the pieces falling into place. I still have to re-work the rest of my outline to accommodate the new mystery plot, but I’m hopeful I’ll be able to start the actual rewriting required after that.

I’m also continuing to work sporadically on my Facing the Music revisions, because what else is new?

Thinking About

On a more serious note, I’ve spent most of the last few weeks mulling over how fleeting life is, and how impermanent so many of the things we take for granted really are. My fiancee and I spent this past weekend celebrating the life of a close family member who passed away, and it really forced me to consider how little time we all have on this earth, as well as how I’d like to spend that time.

I’ve been working toward weaning myself off social media and developing better habits for managing my time for a while now, but I’ve gotten a lot more serious about it recently. That may be the subject of a future blog post, depending on how it goes.

Anticipating 

Our upcoming trip abroad at the end of the next month! (Which is going to be my default answer until the trip actually happens, let’s be honest.) We’ve got our itinerary finalized, and all our reservations made for lodging. We’re also most of the way to having transportation figured out, because my fiancee’s uncle is a saint and has tackled most of the legwork. Since the planning is more or less finished, all there is left to do is get excited about going. And I’m VERY excited.

On a smaller scale, I’m also looking forward to a visit from my parents sometime this month.

Wishing

That I had more hours in the day to make use of. Because even when the days last this long, it never quite feels like I have enough time to do things.

If you’ve done your own currently update, or you’d like to let me know what you’re up to, drop me a link in the comments.

Spiraling

Because it has been a chaotic few weeks (or months, let’s be real), I thought I’d blog about something a little different. Something that impacts my life as much as it impacts my writing.

Anxiety.

I’ve been pretty open in the past about having Tourette’s Syndrome, but I tend to push my anxiety disorder under the rug. That’s partly because I have GAD–generalized anxiety disorder–which is fairly standard as far as anxiety disorders go. I have no past trauma that’s weighing me down, a good therapist, and a medication regime that works. The ways in which I manage my TS can vary on a day-to-day basis, but I generally feel like I’ve got my anxiety under control. I don’t spend a lot of time dwelling on what it’s like to have anxiety, or how anxiety is impacting my life. And most of the time, that’s a good thing.

Then, there are the times when ignoring my anxiety keeps me from realizing just how anxious I am. When everything in my life feels like it’s spiraling out of control, and it takes me far longer than it should to figure out why. I know that anxiety looks and feels different for everyone, so let me start by explaining what a typical anxiety spiral looks and feels like for me.

Maybe I have a bad couple of days. Or a week that I know is going to be more hectic than usual. Maybe it’s that time of the month, and I’m not watching for the usual mood swings that accompany changes in hormone levels the way I ordinarily would be. Maybe I get busy and take on too much, or maybe I take on too much because I don’t feel busy enough. Whatever the reason, I usually spend my days racing from task to task, never giving myself adequate amounts of time to slow down and catch my breath. I feel like I’m not accomplishing anything, despite the fact that I’ve been productive–or at least busy–from the moment I get out of bed to the moment I finally force myself to sleep. I fail to do the things that bring me peace of mind and make me happy, or I consciously choose not to do them because I convince myself that being happy isn’t as important as Getting Things Done. I’m wound too tight to sleep by the time my bedtime rolls around, so I skip bedtime and stay up too late doing nothing at all. Then I sleep in the next morning because I’m exhausted, panic because I haven’t had time to do things before work, and spend the rest of my day in hyper-drive, trying frantically to get caught up.

As you might imagine, this sort of thing is hell on my writing, on my relationships, on my sleep schedule, and on my sanity. When I’m acting this way, whether I consciously recognize it or not, all I can focus on are the things that I’m NOT doing. It doesn’t matter if I’ve been spending my time on useful, productive stuff, or if I’ve had to squeeze in my responsibilities between enjoyable social events. If I’ve managed to finish planning a trip–like I more or less have this week–I berate myself for not taking enough time to write. If I’ve spent a lot more time with friends than usual, I berate myself for disregarding my SO.

Those anxiety-induced thoughts and behavioral patterns are as unhelpful as they are unpleasant, and they can get out of hand in a hurry if I’m not paying at least SOME attention to where my anxiety levels are at during any given week. Which, if I’m being totally honest with myself, I’ve been terrible at doing for the past month or so now.

So, what does it take to pull myself out of an anxiety spiral?

As cliche as this sounds, the first step to solving any problem is admitting that you have one. I always start by readjusting my own perspective–trying to examine my actions and behavior from a place somewhere outside myself. This has gotten much easier with time, practice, and introspection, but when I’m deep in those spirals I tend to ask myself whether I’d be worried about a friend who was acting like me. If the answer is a big, emphatic yes, then I know I’ve let my anxiety swallow me and I need to start taking the steps to get back on neutral ground.

The next thing I’ll do is take a look at my calendar and designate an upcoming day as a reset day. Reset days tend to be weekend days, when I have no external plans and no one depending on me. Once I’ve chosen my reset day, I’ll make a list of all the things I want to accomplish. Some of them can be productivity oriented, like mopping my floors or revising for a certain number of hours or writing a blog post. But most of them focus on self-care strategies that I’ve been neglecting in favor of productivity–like going to bed by a certain time, locking myself off the internet, or cooking a favorite meal.

My reset days give me the chance to slow down and breathe deep and re-evaluate my own priorities. I try not to make too many life changes at once, just so I don’t overwhelm my brain, but I will make a list of the good habits I want to re-implement and the order in which I want to implement them. Last week, for example, I began setting a second alarm for myself so that I’d have to get out of bed at a reasonable time. Next week, I’m going to try and get back in the habit of shutting my computer off at least half an hour before bed. Both of those things are steps toward rebuilding my schedule, and a schedule goes a long way toward keeping those anxiety spirals at bay.

And with any luck, all of these strategies will leave me feeling better and more stable next month than I have so far this month.