Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Basking (and Yawning) in the Afterglow…. Life After VSN

I’m slowly but surely “recovering” from this past weekend’s VSN. What a fabulous event it was! The Cabaret theme was fun, fun, fun, and I enjoyed every single challenge. But I have to admit, it was also a very hard weekend for me. DH was away at a four day conference, in-home help that had been arranged and that I was depending on canceled at the last minute, and I was at my low point post-chemotherapy -- my blood counts "bottomed out" and the fatigue has been oppressive. With no home care assistance, my physical reserves were already taxed when the first challenge was posted on Friday evening. BUT, I wouldn’t have missed it for anything!

This kind of intense weekend, though it may be hard for me, is something I really look forward to. One of my friends asked me, “Why in the world would you do this? Spend all this time holed up in your studio, working like a madwoman, and all by yourself? Ovderdoing, and you know you'll pay for that. Where's the fun in THAT?????”

I’ll tell you!

VSN is like a Virtual Retreat Weekend. Maybe they should rename it! Afterall, it’s MUCH more than JUST a night! I used to love to go to those retreat weekends where you totally immerse yourself in your work from breakfast to bed. Your food is cooked for you, and someone does the dishes, makes your bed, and brings your morning and afternoon coffee. There’s no one barking to be let out or whining for dinner, no one to cook for, no dishes, no one calling “Honey, I need you!” or “Mom, where is my [fill in the blank]???”

Those of us who immerse ourselves in a VSN have to work doubly hard to manage all of the potential distractions around us since we are still at home, still the “Mom,”, still “Honey”, still chief cook and bottle washer, still the “go to” person in our family. It takes a lot of advance planning to be able to organize your family and yourself to be able to “host” a “retreat for one" at home, with “family” going on around you.

By the same token, VSN can be for anyone – anyone who can take the time to do even one of the challenges. You don’t HAVE to do it all. You can make VSN as much or as little as works for you. You don’t need a reservation… all you need to do is log on if and when it works for you. So it’s all inclusive.

VSN challenges don’t just give us an assignment; they create a mood, an ambiance, an atmosphere. That is incredibly hard to do in a “virtual” situation, yet they do an amazing job of it. But more than that, VSN makes you reach beyond your comfort zone and venture into areas you might not visit otherwise. The challenges are like board exams – you know those long exams with multiple parts and time limits – you get a new exam every hour on the hour with barely time to catch your breath in between.

I love the anticipation – you simply have no idea what is coming next. There is no set schedule like with the SCS daily challenges and since it could be anything, and very often it is, there is also a certain degree of anxiety – what is it going to be? Will I be able to come up with an idea? You don’t have a lot of time to think and plan – you have to get an inspiration and you have to get cracking on it because the clock is ticking. It puts me in competition with the clock and with myself. I need to come up with an idea and plan something that I can execute in that limited block of time.

But I think what I like about it most, though, is the camaraderie, the support, the encouragement, the feedback. Each challenge has a thread and even as you are scurrying to finish a project, you can interact, get feedback, laugh, cry, and share. That, to me, is one of the most valuable elements of the experience!

For the past three days I have caught up on much needed rest and recharged my sorely depleted batteries. And now, as I get back to work, I’ll be looking forward to the announcements for the next VSN and I will bring to that VSN the lessons I learned from this one: better planning for myself so that I pace myself better and use my limited physical reserves for card making, not for chasing after four frisky dogs (who need to go out, then in, then eat, then go out again), answering the phone and the door, and dealing with “nuisancy” things not related to VSN on a VSN day! I also learned some valuable lessons this time about uploading cards and plan to do things very differently for the next VSN.

Just as I was better prepared for this VSN than I was for my first, so will I be better prepared going into the next one. I’m looking forward to what the coordinators and hostesses will come up with for the next VSN, and I know I’ll be there, eager once again to “reach” with each and every challenge. Hope you’ll be there too. ;)

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