As I took last week off (sort of, in some respects) I thought I would spend a blogpost talking about what I do in a week, what I don’t have time to do, and whether or not (as I often like to say) I do in fact live under a rock.
So, I’m a priest and an author. That’s how I introduce myself. The particular priesting gig I have (a very nice little rural parish in Western New York) employs me at just under half-time. The other just-over half time work that I do isn’t paid (at least, not well) and that is the author piece. Both jobs have the deeply creative and performative work that I enjoy and both jobs have administration which I get through, and both jobs have essential community-building aspects. And for both jobs I have to spend some portion of my daily routine doing deep self-care so that I’m able to do the other three aspects of my work; the creative/performative, the administration, and the community-building. The self-care involves a variety of meditation and prayer, study and reflection, and community, and that’s at least three hours a day to keep me sane, grounded, and moving forward toward even greater peace, joy, and enlightenment.
So in a normal week, that looks like this, and for funzies and a rationale you may understand by the end, let’s start that week on Friday.
Every day I get up at five or six and do some chores and do a majority of my self-care. This currently involves reading from wisdom literature while I eat my breakfast and drink my coffee, do between 30-45 minutes of qigong, about 30 minutes of block therapy (the myo-fascial release of choice), some walking and weight lifting, then some journaling and writing, because no matter what day it is, I have at least 1,000 words to write.
Fridays also are the time I reconnect with my best friend who lives on the other side of the state. We talk at 6am, and I do some of my self-care while we talk. In fine weather we take a walk with each other. (I discovered last winter there is a temperature below which my headphones no longer function, and shortly after I discovered that, I got a treadmill.)
Then by 8am I’ll be writing. By nine I’ll be cooking the main meal of the day for myself and my husband, whose work schedule is not presently 9-5. We eat very little processed food, due to dietary restrictions and things like bread, yogurt, mayo, and nut butter are all things we produce at home. That also means that each meal requires prep and planning, though sometimes I’ll do it in advance. We’ll eat our meal together, possibly play a game or read to each other, or just talk about realizations and reflections from our lives. At 11:30, my husband goes off to work and I go back to work in our library, where I am sitting even now as I type.
Friday is a writing day, so in addition to the 1,000 words I need to log every day, I also need to log an additional 4,000 today, and if I can, catch up on what I may have missed before. Now, to be clear, I write a lot throughout the week. These counted words are words on a story I’m presently writing. It can be a one-shot, it can be on any story I’m working on, but it’s not a blog post, it’s not a sermon, it’s not a letter to a friend.
I’ll take a break in the afternoon to do 30-45 more minutes of qigong and then eat something, which is largely what I try to do every single day. And I’ll break at five or six (or seven) every day and shift gears. I might do something crafty for a few hours, or I might just read. As I’m coming from a place of pervasive illness and regaining health slowly but surely, I can’t predict how much energy I’m actually going to have at the end of the day, but hopefully it’s enough to do some chores.
My husband comes home on his workdays at quarter to nine, or a little later if he’s gone grocery shopping, and we hang out and discuss our day as I do my winding-down routine and he does some of his evening chores, probably to the soundtrack of our local classical music public radio station. My own nightly routine involves more qigong, possibly more blocking or TRE or other somatic release therapies, a bit more journaling, and a shower. And then I’m in bed by 10pm.
Is largely the same as Friday. It’s not a day off for me; Saturday is another writing day, and I need 5,000 words by the end to say, ‘yes, I’ve done my work for the day.’
I had a boss once who pointed out that inspiration (in terms of writing and creative endeavors) is for newbies. People for whom creativity is their job show up prepared and ‘inspiration’ is already waiting for them with an extra coffee to share. And in truth, I’ve had rough patches, times of massive writer’s block, times where I show up and there’s nothing to say, nothing to write, nothing to type. But if I’m being super, ultra honest about it, those are times when I haven’t shown up prepared. And for me, preparation is that self-care. It’s putting health, wellness, positivity, and inspiring and challenging wisdom and reflection into my mind-body-spirit system every darn day without fail, and then being fully prepared to receive the same when it’s time to get creative and be in the flow.
It’s like they say in computer programming: garbage in, garbage out. Well, I suppose it’s the inverse of that, which is also often true: goodness in, goodness out.
I’ll do my morning routine, but at 8:30am I’ll be in the car with my sister, who is the organist of my small rural church. There’s one service at 10:30, but we live an hour away in good weather, and 90 minutes in the winter, and so I’ll get back home between 1:30 and 3pm, depending on meetings, gatherings, etc.
When I get home I’m often tired because at heart I’m an introvert, and Sunday morning and afternoon is a whole lot of extrovert-work. So I’ll tune into a qigong webinar or cue up an old one and multitask the 1-3 hours of administrative work I have to do in the afternoon. This is one of the times that I prepare for next Sunday’s worship, and then also chart out the themes for the next week’s blog posts, patreon posts, and newsletter (that is, the newsletter that will be sent in 8 days, not the one that is sent the next morning).
Monday is Day Off Number One! Hurrah! I’ve made it to the end of my week. The only things I must do on Mondays are my self care, and for preference my 1,000 words of writing. Daily writing is one of the things that keeps me sane and balanced… But honestly, if I don’t manage it on my day off, I let it go and make it up later. Because day off.
Downside of the Monday Day Off: if it’s been a hard week, this is when I crash, hard. If I’ve skimped on self-care, if I haven’t done what I know I need to do… it’s Sunday night, or Monday morning that the migraine hits. And if, like last week, I don’t get my act together and do the things I know will deal with it (which often involves significant introspection, as two of my primary triggers are stress and childhood trauma), it can last all week. And then I do just enough to get by with my church work, and sacrifice the writing entirely.
If I have done the self-care I need to do, then this is when I get to play. I do some chores, I noodle about in the kitchen (that mayo, nut butter, and yogurt doesn’t make itself!), I work on a sewing project, or a building project. Go for a walk, learn some more qigong, read for fun. I might watch a movie, but probably won’t. I might check in on some youtubers I follow, but often won’t. I’ll probably do all of this to the soundtrack of a qigong webinar, or the classical station, but I might put on a record, or a playlist.
I might meet with a Spiritual Directee at 8am, and I have my weekly Sermon Prep meeting at 10. In between I talk with my husband and maybe play a game, and then at 11:30 I’m back to work.
On Tuesdays I create most of my copy for the week. (I am writing this post on a Tuesday.) So that’s two blog posts for sareliz.com, the reflection/action piece for the newsletter I do, and the patreon posts – one is a blog post I need to write copy for, and one is a First Access post for which I’ll upload the next chapter of something that my patrons get to see before I upload it to the archive I use, AO3.org. And on Tuesdays, I’ll go ahead and post one of those patreon posts live, and then schedule the other for Thursday.
And when I’m on my game, I’ve got content going out on some platform every day: Tuesday & Thursdays on patreon, Wednesday & Friday blog posts on sareliz.com, Saturday is last week’s sermon on sareliz.com, Sunday another chapter to something I’ve written over on AO3.org, and Monday my newsletter is delivered to the inboxes of those who have subscribed to it promptly at 6am. (Possibly I should make a sticky post to that effect, with links so people can find the rest of what I do easily… I’ll work on that next week.)
And Tuesday evening, I do a bible study for my parish over Zoom.
Somewhere between 7:50 and 8:30am, I’ve left the house to one of the two offices I keep. Usually I go to a more local church at which I’ve been writer-in-residence for a while. They also produce the weekly worship guide for my small rural parish, and provide me with some community and connection. I’ll write my sermon, do whatever administration is required of me for church that week, create all the meme-like images that are on my website and featured in my newsletter, and then go ahead and create the rest of the blog posts and build the newsletter and schedule every thing for the rest of the week. I’ll also connect with my office mates, help them with whatever project they’re working on that I could be useful in, occasionally offer pastoral care and emergency pastoral counseling for random members of that parish (they’re going through a transition and don’t have a priest right now).
Most Wednesdays, if I have the energy, I might run errands after work, and when I get home, my husband is often home and has sorted out some sort of dinner because Wednesday is his first day off. We’ll play a game, or read to each other, we likely won’t watch a movie but it’s always possible, and we’ll get a chance to reconnect in a big way, which always means personal growth.
And once a month the tidy schedule of my Wednesday which involves getting all my administration done in a timely fashion gets blown to hell because I just have meetings all damn day. And then I have to wedge in all of Wednesday’s work in the cracks and small, stolen moments… but not on my days off.
And now, a word from our sponsor, Sare’s Mental Health, on the sacrosanct nature of my days off:
Being a priest (even working slightly less than half time in a parish) means sometimes your schedule goes to hell in a handbasket, and it means that all your favorite holidays are now work days, and it means you’re actually on call 24-7 because people don’t die on schedule and it’s my job to give comfort, assurance, and blessing when they do die, but it also means I do not do planned administration on my day off. Let me elaborate.
I no longer have a weekend, and as long as I’m an active priest, I’m not going to have a weekend. Some priests take their day off as Friday, and then if they have no parish events on Saturday it is as if they have a weekend, but I need Monday in order to utterly collapse if it’s been a tough week, which for years it was, and so it goes. Could I just take Tuesday as well? Er, no. Tuesdays and Wednesdays are days that all my meetings want to occur because no priest takes off Tuesday or Wednesday.
I have given up Christmas, Easter, and Thanksgiving. I can’t host family celebrations for these three holidays that mean so much to me, and I barely have enough energy and bandwidth to attend them at my sister’s house, if she’s hosting something.
Furthermore, I will cancel all my plans at a moment’s notice to be at the bedside of dying parishioners and to do their funerals when most convenient to the family.
Therefore my days off will be sacrosanct unless someone has died.
Thursday is Day Off Number Two and the day off I share with my husband, and we try very hard not to schedule other things with other people on this day, though we both still do the self-care we need to do. If it’s not winter, we might have actually packed up the night before and gone camping – maybe one overnight, maybe two somewhere reasonably local, somewhere we can get back into town on Friday before his shift and my writing starts midday.
But if we’re not camping then we’re doing something together. Often we read to each other, which I’ve mentioned before. Frequently we’ll be reading what I’ve most recently written, and I’ll be able to get his feedback on it, and his reaction. Sometimes it’ll be something older that I’ve written and we’re rereading it. Occasionally we’ll read something someone else has written that one of us has discovered and knows the other will enjoy. We have, in fact, read all of Loki of Midgard out loud to each other (I do a great English accent), and all of Debts of Honor out loud to each other (I do a passable Bulgarian accent), and all of Venus in Effigy to each other (I’m still working on a Yorkshire accent. I’m almost there, I tell you). And all of the associated stories. We’ve also read all of Martha Wells’ Murderbot Diaries out loud, to each other.
We’ll also, inevitably, work on some of our issues so we can keep growing as people, and we are each other’s chief partners, primary anchors, and head reality checkers in that process.
And because life is life, there might be chores, or errands, but there might also be craft projects and parallel play, and Thursday is usually when he bakes us bread at some point, though it might be after I go to bed.
And then I wake up at midnight to the amazing smell of fresh baked bread.
You may have noticed from this recitation that there are things missing. I don’t watch TV. I don’t play games on my phone. I don’t scroll social media. I cross-post my blog posts to Facebook, but I go on Facebook less than once a year. I watch a movie, or something from YouTube or a streaming service less than once a week.
This is because… well, partly I don’t have time. But mostly, it’s a ‘garbage in, garbage out’ issue. I want to connect with my friends near and far, but Facebook and other social media isn’t actually a good place for me to do that. I want to unwind and let my mind relax, but TV and movies can be dangerous experiences for me, aside from their addictive nature; I absorb stories like a sponge, for better or worse, and it effects what and how I write. So I need to be really quite careful about which stories I care to absorb like said sponge. And if I absorb a story that doesn’t sit right, or has affected me in a really negative way, it takes a lot of time and effort to get that story out of my head again, and it’s never fully gone; at best it will leave only a small amount of scar tissue as I drag it out and kick it to the curb. This also means the movies and shows I like I really like. And whether or not I watch or rewatch them regularly, they have permanent real estate in my brain.
So, I read a lot. I write a lot. I meditate a lot. I listen to a lot of classical music, largely on the radio, and I listen to my extensive playlists designed for mood. I make things. I talk or write to my friends and occasionally have dinner with the ones who are local. I solve logic puzzles and take turns trouncing and being trounced by my husband and anyone else who plays an in-person game with me. I let my kindle read to me.
Really, my entire life could be summed up this way: Sare Liz is working towards Enlightenment by listening deeply, sharing stories, and playing games. Really, I don’t get out much. And I do kind of live under a rock. And you know… I’ve never been happier, or healthier.