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Operation Get-Smart

A writer friend pointed out that everything sounds better if you turn it into a snazzy non-military maneuver (thanks Sam) and isn’t that the truth? LOL

This particular “operation” refers to my one and only New Year’s resolution, to get smart (and I’m not talking about the goofy spy of the 60s) and take much better care of myself.

The last two years have been crazy pretty much for everyone in this blue planet of ours. I actually was cocky enough (or delusional, not sure which) to believe I was left unscathed by the madness of the last two years. I was so wrong!

I might have thought I was handling it well because of an epically bad year at work when the pandemic hit. At the time, I worked with some very toxic people who made the school year so unbearable I was actually happy when the pandemic closed our schools, and I had to teach from home with improvised tech support and materials. It was a relief not to have to go to work and deal with people who single purpose in life seemed to be to make mine as difficult as humanly possible. I couldn’t understand why my friends and colleagues were so stressed about teaching from home.

I was fine.

In fact, I was better than fine.

In that second half of 2019 I was super productive. Not only did I work even longer hours than before, teaching my students (the few that were able to get online), but my creativity was at its best. You know the old saying, necessity is the mother of invention. I needed to be creative in order to successfully teach my students, and thanks to some fabulous collaborators (thank you Keshia and Karen), I think I succeeded. My lessons were great and creativity begets more creativity, right?

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That year I wrote like a fiend. Stories just poured out of my head and into the keyboard of my laptop almost effortlessly. When there were no masks to be found, I came up with creative ways of making my own with materials I had around the house. I was on fire!

I spent that summer taking classes to master the new platform we were going to use for teaching in the 2019-2021 school year. I was excited about it as I prepared lessons and turned my home office into a virtual classroom. Except I ended up being one of only three teachers (me, my fabulous co-teacher and friend, Jessica and one of the special education teachers) who would be in person with a handful of children while concurrently teaching the rest of the students online. I’m a ESL specialist which means I normally have anywhere between 30 and 45 students.

Photo by Pragyan Bezbaruah on

That year I had an average of about six in-person and close to thirty virtual students. It was crazy but between my co-teacher and me we were able to master enough creativity to make it work as we wrangled different schedules (we had first, second and fourth graders in our in-person group all with different schedules and curriculum), different languages, and different abilities while still coteaching virtually with the classroom teachers (I collaborated with three of them) and teaching small groups throughout the day. All of this while wearing a restrictive N95 mask that made me look like a duck (comedy relief really, lol). I’m getting a headache just remembering it. I don’t know how we did it, but we did! Coffee had a lot to do with it, methinks.

Photo by Sonya Taraban on

I also published five books. Yes, you heard me correctly. Five books. If you’re not an author you might not realize all that goes into publishing, be it by a publishing house or self-publishing. There are never-ending edits, marketing, rewrites, cover art searches, online events, you name it. Hours and hours of brain-exhausting work.

I didn’t even notice it at first but my writing gradually slowed down which eventually made me stress. I had to write, I had to publish books. In the publishing world today it’s extremely hard to be noticed and way too easy to be forgotten. Writers feel the need to publish book after book in order to stay “fresh” in reader’s minds. I wasn’t immune to that fever. Every class I took on the business of writing taught the same, “Write more, publish rapidly, don’t let the readers forget you.”

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My writing slowed to a crawl. The more I stressed about writing, the less my muse spoke to me. Writing had always been my therapy, my escape, the one thing that made me happy. Now, that was as good as gone. I spent most of the day staring blankly at the screen, anxiety growing inside me and threatening to explode.

My other wake-up call was when I noticed I had such large holes in my memory they made the craters in the moon look like potholes. I began misplacing things, forgetting names, forgetting appointments, deadlines… I even forgot to edit one of my upcoming books.

The kicker was when this woman who never naps almost fell asleep while teaching. I mean, while I was talking to the students. That really scared me and made me reevaluate the way I’ve been dealing with life in general. Something has to change.

Photo by Elina Fairytale on

So, back to the beginning of this very long blog (sorry about that. Just be glad I left the part about my son’s mental health crisis and COVID outbreak in my house out). I have made ONE resolution and that is I have to slow down.

A lot.

I want to be able to enjoy my writing again without stressing about whether or not I will publish enough so the very few people who know my books will buy the next one. I have to stop trying so hard to get followers in my social media accounts and then keep up with trends.

I am old. I started my authorship very late in life and I cannot escape the reality that my energy level is not the same that it was when I was thirty years old, that my brain and my body get tired easier now than they did ten years ago, that I’m on the last stretch of my lifespan and that I need to enjoy it and not live these years in a constant state of stress and anxiety.

I need to be good to myself.

So stick around. I’m hoping to post here about my progress in this new year’s operation. Wish me luck and have an amazing, relaxing and satisfying 2022.

Photo by Jill Wellington on


  1. Oh Natalina – take care of yourself! Your initial reaction was no doubt a ‘fight’ response to the traumas of C19, and the ‘up’ part of the change curve, but there’s always the point when your energy runs out. You’re not old at all – this is YOUR time – you just need to pace yourself. Take care this year and it’ll pay you dividends.

    Liked by 1 person

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