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Shifting into neutral

I woke up yesterday morning at 3:00 bathed in sweat, a headache playing in minor key at the back of my neck. But worse than the headache or the drenched nightshirt was the sense of obligation that crushed me from the moment I got conscious.

The sweat dried. The headache quickly faded. But the feeling of unmeetable obligations oppressed me for hours and left me tired all day.

I get this way once in a while, even though I realize that by the usual measures my life contains fewer obligations than most — no heavy-duty job, no kids, no doddering parents to care for, no monster schedule of appointments, no nasty commute. But I acutely feel obligations to you guys — to people who’ve given me much. I feel tremendous obligation to meet your expectations, to respond to what you need from me, or live up to what you give me. Add to that things like deadlines and the drive to get the house in order for fall … and yesterday morning it was all too much.

I knew something was coming on earlier this week when a friend invited me to a tiny birthday celebration and I felt as overwhelmed as if I’d been asked to plan the next inaugural ball. I knew it was coming on when my dogs, poking for attention with their noses or dropping tennis balls at my feet, made me want to cry from the weight of their needs.

Ah well. Life gets that way sometimes. I expect we’ve all been there, one way or another. Unlike many, I have the luxury of taking a step back now and then.

And I must, because creativity goes south when I get into this kind of a frazzle.

So taking a step back is what I’m going to do for the next week.

I may or may not be posting for the next seven days. Chances are that once I feel free of the obligation of thinking up something brilliant … I’ll think up something and post it. But if I don’t, I don’t.

I need to disengage briefly.

I need to re-balance.

To remind myself of my priorities.

To re-set some of those priorities.

To slip out of traps I’ve set for myself.

To stop trying to multi-task.

To restore inner silence.

To generate more productive time.

To consider that I’ve got only a finite number of sunsets and moonrises — and dog days — left to cherish.


  1. Bill St. Clair
    Bill St. Clair September 16, 2011 6:07 am


  2. MamaLiberty
    MamaLiberty September 16, 2011 8:21 am

    Namaste, Claire. Great worth should not always generate such sense of obligation, but I know too well that it sometimes does.

    Be good to yourself. Find the balance you need. I care about you.

  3. Scott
    Scott September 16, 2011 9:19 am

    You’re not punching a time clock. Find that balance..Like Bugs Bunny said, “Don’t take life too serious-no one gets out of it alive”.

  4. Ellendra
    Ellendra September 16, 2011 9:28 am

    Breathe in, breathe out.

    Wow. If it helps any Claire, I really don’t expect you to post every day. Most of the blogs I read are updated maybe 2-3 times a month, if that, and that’s ok by me. I’d rather you be you.

  5. Jim B.
    Jim B. September 16, 2011 9:31 am

    We all need a break every now and then. Don’t worry about it. It just sounds like you need a vacation, even someone with the most least responsibilities on earth need a break from the monotony of everything once in a while.

  6. Jackie Juntti
    Jackie Juntti September 16, 2011 9:57 am

    Our greatest duty and responsibility in life is to ourselves. If we don’t take care of our self first, there is nothing to give to anyone else.
    I learned that lesson the hard way many years ago, Claire. Always feeling that I *owed* others so much and ignoring my own needs. Few were there to help me when I needed help so I figured out that my FIRST duty is to self. Without SELF I could do nothing for anyone else.

    Rest – refresh – and kick that idea of bondage to others. You are a FREE WOMAN, Claire – no an indentured servant of others. We will all be here when you have the time and the energy.

  7. LM
    LM September 16, 2011 10:00 am

    Why do you think you owe us anything? Your posts are a gift, for which I am grateful. Don’t put such pressure on yourself!

    Take care of yourself.

  8. Big Wooly
    Big Wooly September 16, 2011 10:35 am

    Think first of yourself, Claire. It’s the most important thing you can do. Thank you for all that you give us, but don’t let it be too much. Save some for yourself. You deserve it.

  9. naturegirl
    naturegirl September 16, 2011 11:52 am

    I don’t want to be thought of as an obligation, rather: one of those online friends thing….and as with any type of friend, sometimes they talk every day and sometimes it’s a while between “talking” to each other….I usually learn alot from this blog, and it’s comments section as well – but if I “miss a few lessons” we all will still be ok…..

    I think you have what I call “Fall-itis” LOL….that weird instinctual thing that happens every year when the weather is about to turn nasty….characterized by the urge to cocoon, the desire to sleep alot or turn squirrel-hyper-crazy and run around stocking up for the winter (or both at once), the brick wall effect…..I think we all have the “impending doom tiredness” as well, sometimes we just have to turn off the medias and go enjoy life right now….

    But I have noticed how many people are here, that have followed you around online for a long time….and we’ll all be here when ya stick your head back in again, too……

    Have fun with your adventures 🙂

  10. WolfSong
    WolfSong September 16, 2011 12:39 pm

    I can only say “ditto” to what everyone else has said. They’ve said it so much better than I could!

  11. Steve Harris
    Steve Harris September 16, 2011 12:47 pm

    You ultimately only have obligations to yourself and family, not to others. Especially not to blog readers! (Unless you’re under rough contracts.)

    I spend all day working with my head and I find working with my hands is as renewing as a vacation. If you’re like that, turn off your computer for awhile. Lay in supplies for winter and get the house ready. Peep at the leaves if they do nice stuff where you are.

    I had some construction done at my place which really tore up the yard and pasture. I spent a few weekends regrading and doing a fall seeding. I used buffalo grass for the yard and high altitude pasture grass and mixed wild flower seed in a few spots. It’s been coming in for a week now and is really satisfying to see. Colorado has cooperated with a cool wet fall.


  12. Karen
    Karen September 16, 2011 5:00 pm

    “LM Says:

    September 16th, 2011 at 10:00 am
    Why do you think you owe us anything? Your posts are a gift, for which I am grateful.”

    That is absolutely the best summation of all! Your posts are like those wonderful gift packages you mentioned recently that you never know what they’ll contain or when they’ll arrive, but they’re certainly not expected or required every single day. If we don’t get the joy of your presence, then we get the anticipation of your next visit and the hope that you’re filling yourself with gifts like rest and fun and freedom in the meantime. We’d all be sending you those things if we could figure how to box them up.

  13. Iwoots
    Iwoots September 16, 2011 6:01 pm

    Enjoy your sabbatical.

  14. Michael Dean
    Michael Dean September 16, 2011 10:25 pm

    Yeah, take it easy! There is no “social contract” to blogging!

    Besides, without taking reality breaks, we have nothing to blog about!

    And didn’t you retire last year? I read that somewhere, and I’ve read one new fine book and a hundred nifty blog posts of yours since that “retirement.” (Fact is, writers are incapable of retiring.)

    Take time to pet the puppies and enjoy. Please!


  15. EN
    EN September 16, 2011 11:56 pm

    Well, Gosh, everyone is so touchingly wonderful. Its like a big sugar high reading all these posts. However, my puter went down yesterday and I’m experiencing temporary cash flow problems and can only read your posts through my iphone, not a lot of fun for my failing eye sight. But u can always swing by here and we’ll have a few bottles of wine and attend my nekkid bible study soul dance. We will drive the demons out, or in, depending on your preferences. Never had a (published) writer to one of my vino drenched nekked bible study soul dances before. I’m here to help.

  16. Ellendra
    Ellendra September 17, 2011 3:20 pm

    I’m not sure if this helps but, I just recently started reading “The Highly Sensitive Person”, and it has some advice for dealing with feeling overwhelmed. Might be worth a read?

    (Note: This is completely optional advice, I don’t want to add to your list of obligations. Feel free to ignore this if you like. In fact, if you don’t say anything about it, I’ll never know! 😉

  17. Will
    Will September 17, 2011 8:51 pm

    …. no worries … see ya when you get back.

  18. naturegirl
    naturegirl September 17, 2011 11:06 pm

    LOL-ing at EN’s “Well, Gosh, everyone is so touchingly wonderful. Its like a big sugar high reading all these posts.”

  19. Mary Lou
    Mary Lou September 18, 2011 8:42 pm

    Have a good week off. Or take two, if you need it! Pet the pooches, watch the sunset, look at the moon, relax!

  20. Adaptive Curmudgeon
    Adaptive Curmudgeon September 21, 2011 7:59 am

    It’s always good to unplug and take a break. That’s the beauty of the Internet; it’s not yet a Telescreen. I regularly turn the damn computer off and go “off grid”. Never yet regretted it.

    Enjoy your break. We’ll be here when ya’ come back.

  21. Gloria Nelson
    Gloria Nelson September 26, 2011 7:35 am

    This is what I tell my kids.Get up,put your boots on ,lace them up and ,keep on going. Get a grip !

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