A Year of Chalet Mini-Holidays [en]

[fr] Ça fait une année que je monte régulièrement au chalet pour des mini-vacances (week-ends prolongés). Bon rythme!

A bit over a year ago, I badly needed a break (after Going Solo). One of my friends was deep in her thesis and needed one too, so we went up to my chalet for five days and walked around in the mountains.

I remembered (or rediscovered) how much I loved walking and being in the mountains. Before I headed back to Lausanne, I had booked subsequent “chalet breathers” for the next few months.

Over the last year, I’ve tried to go up to the chalet every 6 weeks or so. Sometimes it’s less, sometimes it’s more — but that’s what I aim for. I figured that as my financial situation does not really allow me take “real” holidays (2-3 weeks off somewhere) I was going to grant myself regular extended week-ends: mini-holidays.

It has worked really well.

I get breaks, and I have noticed how important it is to be able to hit the pause button once in a while, just think about stuff (personal or professional) but without actually having any work to do, read books, or write. Or just spend time talking with people.

It’s like with sports, really. If you exercise regularly, your body needs a break now and again. For exemple, at a time when I was at university, I would do judo 4-5 times a week. At some point, I realised that my body needed a holiday. And when I came back, I realized that I was refreshed and had actually made progress while I wasn’t training!

The brain needs “off” time to process all the activity and things learned during the “on” time — whether it’s physical or intellectual.

After a Day Back at Work [en]

[fr] Journal. Retour au travail, découragement, rythme toujours agréablement ralenti, de la vie seul ou à deux. Et des fumeurs.

Demain, j'écris en français, promis.

A day back at work, or a day back home. It hasn’t been easy, to say the least. I’ve been feeling very discouraged by the state of things and the amount I have to accomplish.

What has changed? I still feel slowed down, in a good way. I’m rushing less. Taking more time to do things. Particularly silly things like make food, brush my teeth, go out on the balcony to look at the storm. Retrospectively, I feel like I used to be rushing around to scrape every minute I possibly could and get back to being “productive”. That’s not exactly what I did, of course (gosh, no), but the fact I remember myself like that pre-holiday is an indicator of my level of stress then.

I’m less stressed. I see a slightly larger picture. You can’t spend days in the mountains and stay stuck to your internal screen. A dear friend of mine showed me that, long ago — with the lake, not the mountains. When anxiety goes up, that life seems too hard, and troubles not manageable anymore, go by the lake and look out. Lots of water, and mountains on the other side. It helps gain some perspective.

A bit like this phrase that hit me, and stuck with me, from Eight Principles: “Think about what’s worrying you the most now. A month from now, will it still be important? What about in a year? In ten years? in 100 years — will anybody care?” It helps me not take everything to heart. Everything in my life tends to be a matter of life and death. Dealing with life and death situations from morning to evening is very, very stressful. It takes some effort to remember that these are not life and death situations. They are small problems.

Problems which will not matter much ten years from now, or even a year from now. I’ll have moved on. I always do.

One thing I’ve realized, now that I’m alone with cat again, is how much easier being with somebody makes certain things. Eating, for example. I ate late today. I managed to conjure myself up a nice lunch, but dinner was… well, there wasn’t much in the fridge or cupboards, so I made do with what I could find. When there are two of you, there are two people to think about / provide the impulse for things like shopping, cooking, taking breaks, going to bed, getting dressed.

Alone, it’s all on my shoulders. I have to make all the effort. I have to lead, always, never follow. If I’m hungry, I have to cook — each time. There is no chance for somebody else to say “I’m hungry, let’s make some food” before I’m starving.

It’s a bit (in a positive way) like the mutual encouragement smokers are subject to when there is more than one of them. Being a non-smoker, I’ve often noticed how my smoking friends smoke reasonably little when they’re alone with me, and often more than double when they’re together. Each time one smoker reaches for her pack, the other lights one too. They are not just following their pattern of need/desire, but adding to it that of the other.

Being a social animal has its advantages — saving energy.

Here We Are Again [en]

[fr] Journal. L'effet des vacances.

So, here we are again. I’m back with my familiar feeling of not wanting to get up in the morning and crumbling under “too much to do”, and some of them unpleasant things at that.

One of the reasons the mountain works (like the beach, I guess), is that it’s a space where I can’t physically do a great number of these things. Hah! I’m finally understanding the point of going on holiday.

Could I decide that I’m on holiday except for (say) 6 hours a day? I have the impression that would not work. It took me a day or so to “switch off” — more mysteries of the brain to delve in, I guess.

In any case, one benefit of this holiday (even if the “effect” doesn’t last long) is that it’s reset my standard for being “relaxed”. I remember what it feels like, now. And that memory is going to help me not get too carried away into stress and frantic activity.

I’ve decided I was going to back-post these “offline entries” to roughly the moment I wrote them. So, don’t be surprised if you see past posts popping up here and there (I’ve posted those that I wrote during my vacation, so now all you should expect is a night late).

Welcome to my series on trying to figure out some kind of balance in life.

I Need to Blog More [en]

It’s been nagging at the back of my mind. Since before Going Solo Lausanne, actually — when I got so absorbed with the conference preparation that CTTS hardly saw 6 posts over the space of 4 weeks.

I need to blog more.

It became clear this morning, as a chat with Suw led to a long blog post in French that I’d been putting off for… weeks, to be generous.

This isn’t the first time (by far) in my blogging career that I’ve been through a “dry” patch, and then one day realised that I had to get into the groove again. Life is cyclic. It’s not a stable line or curve that heads up and up or, God forbid, down and down. It’s ups and downs. Some days are better than others, some weeks are better than others. It’s the low moments in life that also make you enjoy the high ones (though I wouldn’t want you to think I’m advocating heading for “lows” just so you might have post-low “highs” — lows are just part of the colour of life, like the highs).

Some people have higher highs than others, and lower lows. Some people have more highs, some have more lows. We’re not equal — and in the matter of happiness in particular, I remember Alexander Kjerulf saying at Reboot last year that roughly 50% of our “happiness potential” is genetically determined.

So, pardon me the digression on the highs and lows, a topic that’s been on my mind a lot lately due to my own ups and downs. Back to blogging.

With the supposed return of the tired “blogging is dead” meme, which we long-time bloggers have seen poking its silly head up every year or two, oh, “blogging is so yesterday”, I once again sit down and wonder at what’s kept me going for over eight years now.

I know part of the answer: I’ve never been in the arms race — or at least, never very long. Arms race to first post, arms race to breaking news, arms race to most comments, arms race to more visitors, more visitors, yes, ad revenue, monetize, recognize. Oh, I want my share of recognition and limelight — I won’t pretend I’m above all that — and there are times when I feel a bit bitter when I feel I’m not getting as much attention as others who have louder mouths but not necessarily better things to say. What can I say: I’m only human, and I think one constant you’ll find amongst bloggers is that each in our own way, we’re all after some form or other of recognition. Some more badly than others, yes.

So, I need to blog more.

One of the things blogging did for me, many years ago, was put me in touch with other people who shared similar interests to mine. That is one thing blogging does well, and that it always will do.

It also provided a space for me to express myself in writing — forgive me for stating the obvious. I’ve always written, always had things to write, and blogging for me was a chance to really dive into it (actually, before that — this website existed before I signed up for a Blogger.com account many years ago).

Writing helps me think. Even though it may sound a bit lame to say so, it’s something I do that feels meaningful to me. It’s not something that puts money in the bank account (one of my important and ongoing preoccupations these days, to be honest), but it’s something that connects me to myself and to others.

Organising a conference as a one-woman endeavour can feel extremely isolating, even with a large network of advisors and supporters. But more than that, I’ve been a freelancer for two whole years now: working from home most of the time, travelling a lot, getting more and more involved in personal and professional relationships outside my hometown, and often in completely different timezones.

I don’t really have any colleagues I see regularly anymore. My client relationships are usually short-lived, given the nature of my work (lots of speaking engagements). I haven’t really had any clients in the last year that I saw regularly enough to build some kind of meaningful relationship with.

It’s not without a reason that I’ve become increasingly interested in coworking, to the extent that I’m now working at setting up a space in the very building I’m living in (quite a coincidence actually, but a nice one for me, given I like typing away with my cat purring next to me).

What does this have to do with blogging more?

My feeling of isolation isn’t only offline. It’s online too. It feels that I’ve been spending so much time “working” (ie, preparing conferences or worrying about how to earn some money) that I’ve taken a back seat in my online presence. It’s time I started driving again.

I don’t mean that in the sense “agressively fight for a place in front of the scene”. I’ve never been an A-lister and probably never will be. I just want to go back to writing more about stuff I find interesting. Hopefully, not only long rambling soul-searching posts like this one 😉

Twitter, FriendFeed, Tumblr, Feedly, Facebook and Seesmic are changing my life online. I haven’t finished figuring out in what way. But what I know is that my online ecosystem, particularly around my blog, is not what it was three years ago. I am in no way rejecting these “newer” tools in my life, but I do feel at times like I’ve been neglecting my first love.

My blog is also where I give. Over the course of my blogging career, I’ve writen posts which are still helpful or inspiring to those who read them, years after. The more you give, the more you get. Well, maye one reason I feel things are drying up a bit around me is that I’ve stopped giving as much as I used to. Oh, I know it’s not magical. I don’t believe in “balance of the universe” or anything. I do believe in human relationships and psychology, though. If you care about other people, there are more chances that they’ll care about you. That’s what makes us social animals.

Part of it, over the last years, has been the challenge of transitioning from passionate hobbyist to professional. Suddenly my online world/activities are not just where I give freely, but also where I try to earn a living. Such a transition is not easy. And I haven’t found any handbooks lying around.

I’m going to stop here, because I think that this post has already reached the limits of what even a faithful reader of friend can be expected to be subjected to without complaining.

To sum it up: for a variety of reasons I’ve tried to explore in this post, I want to blog more than I have these past months. I think it’ll make me feel better. Blogging is something I enjoy, and if the way I’m doing things doesn’t leave me time for that, then something is wrong with the way I’m doing things. I became a freelancer in this industry because I was passionate about blogging and all the “online stuff” hovering around it — and wanted to do more of it. Not less.