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Freelance writer & editor. My mission is to help families get fit and stay healthy.

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Independence

My name is Donna and I’m a workaholic.

There, I said it.

My job is highly demanding, and my high standards make it even more so. If I’m going to do something, I’m all in, and it’s going to be awesome. And if it isn’t, I will keep working at it until it is. But at the same time, I appreciate the need for a break. This three-day, 4th of July weekend was a welcome diversion. Most weekends, I find myself rummaging through a stack of editing, sending several emails, minding endless details. My work week never really seems to end. But recently, I realized how much I was running myself into the ground, and I informed our entire staff that from now on, I would be logging out of my work email at a reasonable hour, and I don’t want to get phone calls past a certain hour either. If it’s urgent, fine. If we’re on deadline and about to get a magazine to the printer, I know I’m staying up late. But otherwise, they can expect me to get back to them the next day. And whadda ya know, all those late night/odd hour emails I used to get? Pretty much came to a screeching halt.

That was a nice way to start a holiday weekend. And although I did manage to wake up in a panic a few nights in a row around 3:30 am, worrying about this and that, I didn’t feel the need to do any work. I learned a long time ago that 3:30 am is a good time for sleeping, and a bad time for worrying. Stress is just an invitation to prayer. So now I hear myself out, talk to God about it, and then tell myself it’ll be there in the morning and try to get back to sleep.

So here it is Monday morning after three days of playing hooky. although I know there’s a lot to do, I’m not feeling particularly overwhelmed, at least no more than usual. I relaxed this weekend and allowed myself to get my head straight, for once. The fact is, there is always a lot to do. I will never cross everything off the list and say, “OK, I’m done.” It never ends. As a freelancer, you float from one gig to the next, balancing assignments and your kids’ activities and housekeeping and all that stuff that no one else ever thinks about but that you know has to get done, all the while hoping something will materialize when your current gig comes to an end. But as a freelancer, you do enjoy a certain amount of freedom. “Oh, you need me to do an interview Friday afternoon (which will interfere with my daughter’s band concert)? Sorry, I’m booked that day. Can we do it another time?”

But after 17 years, I’m not technically a freelancer anymore. I’m the managing editor for a group of seven publications, and I work on them all at once. I’m collecting a regular check for the first time in years, and I even got fancy new business cards. Although I still do random freelance assignments for long-term clients, they’re few and far between. A shortage of work is now a luxury, not a concern. And, that extra workload went hand in hand with slow weight gain and a downward spiral of bad habits that I so proud to break myself of long ago.

So I enjoyed the weekend and took a much, much-needed break from work, played games with my family, worked out with my gym partner, and had a good time. I also looked back at some old pictures from when I was most successful losing weight and realized I can really do this, gym membership or not. Because that’s how I did it before. I would get up each morning and walk through my town. I would do yoga or strength training in the evenings. I would make a game out of fitness, because at the time I had two little kids and my husband worked nights and slept during the days, so if I ever tried to schedule a workout, it was pretty much a given that parenting responsibilities would take precedent. So I squeezed it in wherever I could. I might “work out” 18 times a day, doing squats while I cooked dinner, or playing catch with my son in the front yard. (Of course, now he throws so hard I can’t catch him for more than a few minutes before my hand starts to ache.)

It’s funny because the big buzz right now in many blogging circles is #wycwyc. (what you can, when you can) The idea was brought forth by Roni Noone, and my pal Carla was quick to jump on board. It’s the way I did it back in the day, and it’s what I need to must do now. Oddly, a couple years ago when I was just starting (as a freelancer) with these magazines, I told Carla I had many e-book ideas but wasn’t sure how to get started. Another thing I mentioned was 50 ways to stay active during the day, a crude Excel chart of 5 x 10 cells, each with an entry like “Do 10 lunges,” or “Take a walk around the block.” I could pick one thing each hour to get up and do instead of sitting on my butt and working for hours at a time. This was intended as a personal tool, but Carla changed my thinking.

“There’s your book,” she said.

Yep. And although I still don’t have the time to write that as an e-book, or start on the others I want to will write some day, I can still do something. The answer was under my nose all along.

So, that’s the plan. After allowing my brain to rest for a few days, I’m seeing it all more clearly. I can do this. And I can do it without a gym. It’s a matter of re-prioritizing, and it doesn’t have to hurt. It can be done gradually, and worked into my already busy schedule. And, most of all, it can be fun. Oh, believe me, as awful as it sounds, it can be very tempting to sit still and keep working for six hours straight (minus potty breaks), because you know something’s getting done. But it’s not very healthy. And let’s be honest: there’s no fun in that.

This 4th of July weekend, my attitude changed. Ironically, I am working this hard to achieve independence: financially, personally, etc. But I’d become a slave to my job and my health is suffering. I read Jen’s post this morning and all of this stuff that had been sort of floating around in the back of my mind suddenly came together. So I’m kicking off this Monday with a plan – all easy, do-able stuff that will keep me from sitting on my ass all day long. A quick step workout on the Wii this afternoon. A few activity breaks throughout the day. Yoga tonight. All written out and ready to go.

My road to independence is paved with baby steps. But I’ll never get there if I don’t get off my ass. It may be a while before I’m off and running. But I’ll get there.

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