Tag Archives: stress

Changes of All Kinds

Well, first thing, I gave my site a bit of a long-overdue upgrade. At some point, WordPress started running ads on free accounts, and it had bothered me for a very long time because it looked so unprofessional. And yesterday they had a nice sale on paid accounts, sooo goodbye, ads! I also finally (FINALLY!) got to get rid of the annoying “Colleen M. Hughes” in bold Times New Roman that had been sitting in the top right corner from day 1, conveniently right *above* the banner that also has my name on it. I have wanted that gone from the very beginning. I think I mentioned it in my first blog post. Then I went and tweaked the font just because I can. So I’m happier with it so far. There are still a lot of things I want to fix, mainly the layout of the Plays page, and I need to go through my links and make sure they’re all updated and such, but YAY to the must-fixes finally being fixed.

A lot has changed in my life since the last blog entry. I lost my sweet, lovable, special cat Marmalade very suddenly to lymphoma at the end of last May. It was really rough emotionally and I hadn’t wanted to write about it publicly. The only bright spot in the summer was that I also met a Dave in July, and he’s been a big part of my life since then. (I also got to make a return trip to Coláiste na Rinne in Co. Waterford to continue studying the Irish language, huge thanks to the Fulbright foundation for offering summer Gaeltacht grants.)

And, of course, a lot has changed in the world since my last blog entry too. As anyone reading this somewhere around the date I publish it will know, we’re in the middle of the worldwide coronavirus pandemic. Boston, like practically everywhere else, is shut down, with only essential businesses remaining open. My mom is a teacher and has been out of school since noon on March 11 and will not be back till May 4 at the very earliest (if at all). Colleges are closed. People are advised not to go out unless it’s for groceries or medication. “Social distancing” has become a commonplace term.

It’s been strange for me, both in day-to-day life and as an artist. I work from home as the norm, so I’m completely used to it and nothing about my daily work routine has changed. But my living situation is a bit weird… I live in my grandmother’s attic in sort of a faux-apartment (it has a bedroom and a big living room, but no kitchen other than the minifridge/keurig/kettle corner and no bathroom). My grandmother lives on the second floor, and my mom lives on the first floor, along with two of my three brothers. And now all of them are home all day. And with my mom home, I feel sort of obligated to work downstairs in her apartment to keep her company rather than my usual workspace in the attic. And weird things start to bother me, like I can’t have the background noise that I want because I go with whatever my mom decides to have on tv, and I can’t have my cat sitting with me while I’m downstairs. I feel like I’m ignoring him and leaving him all alone, and I hate that. But then if I just stay up in my own space as usual, I feel like I’m ignoring my mom. So that change has been hard, but I’m lucky in that working from home is not a change for me and (so far anyway) my workload hasn’t been negatively impacted.

Writing-wise though, things are tougher. I know all the theatre companies have been hurt badly by having to cancel shows. And once again I’m lucky because it’s not like I make any huge amount of money from my writing, so I didn’t lose anything that would really hurt my financial situation (yet anyway). But I’ve had two one-acts I’m writing for a summer theatre camp, and I’ve been worrying that the camp will have to be cancelled. It’s in August, so we’ll see.

But just getting the plays done in and of itself has been a battle too. My anxiety has been sort of in high gear with the combo of constantly worrying whether every migraine or sign of allergies means I’m sick and have therefore infected everyone I’ve been around and at the same time managing my mom’s anxiety. And I still have all the usual barriers to getting writing done, like the fact that I work such long hours freelancing because I don’t make enough money. And my writing group is meeting virtually, with staggered days for each member to send their play to the group and get written responses from everyone. So instead of carving out one work-free night to devote to feedback, I have to fit in reading and responding to five scripts in addition to the time it takes me to write my own. And I love my writing group and love reading their work… it’s just the “having to fit so many hours into the day” thing that’s been rough. I start to feel a tad jealous of the people who are like “I’m so bored and I have no idea what to do with myself” because I’m scrambling even more so than usual.

But it will all be ok. I have to remind myself that it’s GOOD that I’m so busy. It means I’m still working, still receiving a paycheck. It means I have writing projects to work on. I need all of that when everything else is so uncertain and just seems to get worse every day. Hope you’re all hanging in there too. Ní neart go cur le chéile.

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Filed under playwriting, state of the blog, theatre

Remembering what’s important

I was searching through HowlRound’s archives trying to find a particular article I liked (about writing characters of a different race than your own) and in the process came across this piece by Polly Carl that really resonated with me. I haven’t posted very frequently lately–I’ve been struggling with a lot of different things–and sometimes it’s really refreshing to read something that makes you want to get back on your blog and share it everyone:

If we let it, life will drown us in transactions. The life of transactions is not a satisfying way to live. I prefer transcendence over transaction. Which is why I have chosen to work in the theater—for those moments in the rehearsal room that lead to something revelatory, something glorious or more than anything I could accomplish on my own. No money is exchanged, and in the very best moments transcendence feels within reach.

One major struggle I’ve been dealing with, though certainly not the only one, is finances. I feel like I don’t make enough to live. I mean, I do, but then there’s rent, student loans that are almost as high as my rent, utilities and other bills, food, and random crap that comes out of nowhere right when you least expect it. Like my kitty Oskar needing to go to the emergency room on Saturday. I have pet insurance, but it’s the type where you pay it all upfront and then submit a claim. I was worried about having enough funds between what’s left on my credit card and what’s left in my bank account to cover it. Luckily, that all worked out, and he come home earlier (and more affordably) then originally expected.

I would put off things that might help some of my other problems and stress, like seeing a therapist, because I was afraid of the copay being too high. It’s often been a game of “can my bank account hold out until the next paycheck comes through?” “Will I have enough to cover the next bill that comes in?” It’s so stressful and so frustrating. I start feeling guilty and beating myself up if I do something “fun” like buying something I don’t need (like the patio chairs and tiny little grill I bought a few weeks ago) or ordering food on days I’m exhausted. Ordering food is extra guilt-inducing because I feel financially irresponsible AND fat at the same time. Between working in publishing and writing plays, I feel like I have one job that pays poorly and another that doesn’t pay at all.

So it’s really refreshing to see this essay talk about the idea of transcendence over transaction. The times careerwise that I’ve felt most confident and happy were when I had moments like this. One I love looking back on is my first Boston Playwrights’ Theatre holiday party. Jake was making a speech about how wonderful the local theatre community is and how great it is to belong to it. I had this moment of “wow, this is really what I want to be doing with my life” where it all sort of made sense. I also felt a lot of this clarity when I got to go on the Freedom Art Retreat last year. It was a whole week of collaborating, of feeling like I could actually contribute to a group of artists and have something important to offer, and of knowing that the things we created together were better than what would have resulted if I’d attempted it myself.

It’s little moments like this that I have to think back to when things get particularly stressful. It’s good that I was reminded of it at a time when I’m trying to get everything in my life back on track. Knowing that eventually things at work will get better, that that will help the finances fall into place, and that my whole life shouldn’t be spent letting this anxiety get to me because I risk missing out on the moments that make all of this worth it.

AND I just realized we have chicken nuggets in the freezer, so I don’t have to grill the chicken that I’m not entirely convinced is still fresh! Lazy dinner that does not involve spending money on ordering food. yay!

*EDIT: I just want to add that the rest of the article goes on to say pretty much exactly how I feel about the state of theatre in this country and it’s a great read. I was just jumping off one little quote that felt really personally relevant right now.

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