Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Vacations and the Gainfully Unemployed

I've already expressed my views on holidays: paid days off cherished by the Gainfully Employed are to the Gainfully UNemployed days we 1) won't be contacted for new work or 2) should continue with projects in progress, especially if they are billable.

So if taking one day off is a mental challenge, its no surprise I haven't taken multiple days off to go on an actual vacation. Which I define as a period of relaxation and enjoyment in a nice place with no set schedule. As opposed to a trip: an out of town getaway from your day to day routine, usually short, to visit family/friends or attend an event.

I have taken various trips, including family celebrations and writing conferences, but not a true vacation since I left corporate America three years ago. I also traveled to Lithuania to be an extra in Highlander 5: The Source (my set report is still on the Highlander Worldwide site, HERE). While this was an awesome, once in a lifetime experience and I did see several sites, most of the time I had a schedule. And it was FREEZING standing outside all night until past dawn during filming, so not exactly relaxing.

How can I justify spending money and missing out on chances to earn more (by not being available for auditions or fast turnaround VO jobs from returning clients) while I'm gone? But then, what about the need/desire to relax/recharge/have fun?

It's not easy for me to set aside the guilt that I should be working or fork over the cash (particularly in these economic times). But I'm going to. Bask in tropical island sun...swim up to the pool bar...and hear the swish of palm trees overhead with a like minded friend.

Because I'm a freelancer, I can't afford to be completely out of touch with the mainland. I'll bring my laptop, and have the ability to send VO auditions via MP3. A compromise.

Do YOU need a vacation? These sites are among those that say we all do:

Stanley Bronstein


Thursday, October 23, 2008

What are you afraid of?

The roller coaster stock market scares many an investor. Talk of a recession makes employees fear layoffs and financial instability, and retailers fear a dismal holiday shopping season. Throw in any ongoing worries, such as health issues (yes, my foot still hurts!) and dealing with old age (yours or your relatives'), whether or not your relationship will last or if you'll ever be in one, and how your kids are doing in school/ could spend your entire day mired in anxiety and lose sleep at night.

One of my favorite quotes is: "Worrying does not empty tomorrow of its troubles, it empties today of strength." Easy to say, but many of us cannot just let our worries go. We'll need to do something to quash or cope with our fears.

Some, of course, may choose therapy and/or medication. I'm not a therapist, nor have I played one on TV, so I did a bit of research and found recommendations to:

--Focus on the present and live in the moment...because you can't change the past or predict the future.
--Catch your negative thoughts, particularly about things you can't control, and replace them with positive thoughts and/or action steps you can take in areas you can control.
--Try simple exercises to release tension...such as deep breathing from your diaphragm, not your chest.

A couple of sites that might be of use:

Molly Gordon's guide to Dealing with Fear and Anxiety Stress and Anxiety

What are your favorite ways to reduce stress?

Thursday, October 16, 2008

One step forward...two steps back?

The huge step forward: Good news. 1) lots of voiceover work! Did my largest project (in terms of word count) to date--tutorial narrations and some script editing for an Internet site going live next month. And so far at least, they haven't asked for any retakes. Also got a small project for a national warehouse club and a very small project from a returning client. 2) My WIP tied for first in the first contest I entered it in and the final round judge requested a full manuscript.

The two steps back (pun intended): Foot surgery recovery is enervating....having trouble sleeping, elevating foot is a challenge, driving isn't a problem but walking more than a block is harder than I'd expected. Grocery shopping remains a daunting prospect. It's only been two weeks and day, but seems like months. The boot comes off today, though, so my hopes are high for improvement and returning to a normal schedule.

My sympathies go to anyone dealing with a life setback. I Yahoo! searched that and found the following advice:

--Begin now during those routine, ordinary days to practice cultivating an eye for fun and humor. Debbie Mandel, BellaOnline's Stress Management Editor

--...when we criticize ourselves for steps backward, we destroy momentum. Instead, to recognize that backward steps can happen when we run into resistance helps us not be demoralized when it occurs. But we can't wait long before taking the positive steps forward again. When you find you have taken steps back in diet or exercise, for example, assess the situation quickly and continue on. Don't stop. Arden Mahlberg

--Make a plan. Given that negative emotions are the primary driver of major setbacks, you can encourage clients to create “stress response plans” by filling in the blank: “When I feel stressed or upset, I will deal with it productively by _____ .” Help them identify two or three options that work for them. They might exercise, meditate, call a friend for support, distract themselves with immersive experiences like going to a movie, and so on. Productive reactions to stress are a powerful predictor of life change. Dr. Stephen Kraus

And every day, take time to remember all the things you are grateful for.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Clutter Control

So many aspects of life are out of our control...from the economy's meltdown and the tanking of our 401Ks to what will happen in our microcosms. Will the cute guy I just met ask me out? Will I be called for any auditions this week, and, if so, will I book the job(s)? Will your kid make the football team/school play? Will you/your spouse get that promotion or be laid off? Why do bad things happen to good people?

To offset the stressful impact of impending events (like foot surgery) and deal with unpleasant experiences (like rejection), some people overeat or undereat. Some drink too much.

I clean.

Why? Because the state of my condo is something I can control. Years of sincere and persistent effort have not yet resulted in a sale of any of my manuscripts. But with some elbow grease and a time commitment of only a few hours, I vanquish dust bunnies and fingerprints. Mere minutes a day keep my papers, drawers and closets organized...with shoes lined up, clothes on shelves neatly stacked and aligned. Even my junk drawer is tidy.

I feel satisfied each time I open a drawer and see the orderly arrangement of my stuff. My little world is in order.

The day before my foot surgery, I cleaned. Everything, including the refrigerator shelves and underneath the sink. I wanted to come home to a clean house.

Friends and family have prevailed upon me to alleviate their disorganization frustration. If you Yahoo! search "remove clutter," you get 188,000 entries. Some suggest that clutter is a cause of stress. And can lead to wasted time looking for things you can't find.

What's cluttering your life? Try this: Devote five minutes a day to organizing/de-clutterizing for one week. Do you feel better?

Saturday, October 04, 2008


Everyone has rough weeks, and this was one of mine. It started out better than I'd expected, but ended worse.

Monday: foot surgery!! I was nervous, but the procedure was surprisingly painless and the doctor said it went great. No problems with anesthesia, and the block they was worked for hours after so my foot was numb. Thanks to a very supportive friend who brought me there and back and made me lunch, and friends' calls/emails, I was feeling good and bouyed by relief as I put my foot up as instructed and caught up on some TV shows I'd recorded.
Tuesday: Moved around as little as possible. Still numb so not in pain but keeping my leg elevated and hauling the boot around was uncomfortable and harder than I'd thought it would be.
Wednesday early am and most of the day: OUCH. OUCH. Vicodin not helping. Am glad to hear from friends/family but am starting to wish they'd stop being so cheery about my impending recovery and would just commiserate with me.
Thursday: Hmmm. Nauseated with sharp stomach pains. Head does not want to lift off pillow. Probably the vicodin. Same friend helped me to the car (I'm a long way from the elevator) and drove me appx an hour to post-op appointment, longer on the way back. Doctor says everything looks great. As I was standing on a platform and taking my foot out of the boot to have xrays, he introduced me to a perky girl, who, 6 weeks after surgery, wore heels the night before. I was way too cranky and uncomfortable to appreciate her success and envision my own. Ordered dinner in to thank my friend for all of his help, but my stomach was too upset to enjoy it.
Friday: Must go to Walgreens for stomach remedies. I made my way to my car and drove 3 blocks. That is the summation of my daily exertions.
Saturday: Stomach still upset, woke up 3 times overnight and drank some milk, which seemed to help. Really hoping tomorrow will be better.

Lesson learned: Friends don't want their friends to suffer. Most of us have trouble dealing with other people's pain, so we offer good wishes and cheery thoughts.

I know I'll feel better soon, my foot pain will diminish and in a few weeks I'll have greater mobility than I had before. But that doesn't change how awful I feel right now. I really wanted sympathy in these moments of unwellness, not reminders of how great I'll be eventually.

So the next time someone I know is sick/recovering from a medical procedure, I will cut back on the cheery prognostications, recognize how they're feeling right then and sympathize with them.