Maybe it is specifically when the sun doesn’t seem to shine for days that my thoughts go darker. Maybe it is when I am tired or not feeling well. Maybe it is when I am unsure of something in my life or I feel concerned about a situation at hand. Whatever is causing this nagging feeling, it is not fun to deal with.
Just yesterday, a co-worker asked how I was doing. I guess my answer was much the same as it has been recently. ‘Tired’, I answered. She said she was worried because she hadn’t seen me smile lately. It is true. For some reason, it has been more difficult for me to feel joyful lately. It is beginning to get annoying and old.
There is absolutely nothing that I should be complaining about, which would cause me to feel out of sorts. Other than my work schedule, nothing much has really changed in my reality. I have a loving and supportive husband and family, a beautiful daughter, an adorable grandson, meaningful work, nature from every window of our cozy home, a vehicle to drive, clothes on my back and food to eat.
I know that my health has been dragging my energy down, but it is more than that. There is something bugging me, like walking around with a tiny sliver in my toe. It is there, nagging, inconvenient and mildly noticeable, but not enough of a problem to make the effort to do something about it.
When I decided to attempt to figure it out, I sat down and asked myself the same questions: ‘What has my average energy level been, within the last week, on a scale of 1 to 10?’ I would say about a 6. Not great, but not horrible; just kind of mid-range.
Next, I would ask the same 1 to 10 question about a number of other areas: organizational health, physical fitness, water consumption, nutrition, sleep, finances, medical, relationships, career, spirituality, enjoyment activities, purpose, creativity, etc. They average to about the same – 6, but is there one area that is lower than others? What is really going on with me?
I would have to say that in looking at all of those areas, not one area is really an issue. Everything is just okay or fine. Nothing is really jumping out at me, to clearly identify the problem.
The next question I ask myself is: ‘If I could wave a magic wand and change anything about my life right now, what would it be?’ The word that comes to mind is ‘freedom’. Whenever I am tied to a specific schedule, where I have to be at the same time and place several days a week, I begin to lose my spirit.
Even if the activity or work is meaningful, there is something about a ‘routine’ that drives me up the wall. When I can come and go when I need to, I end up working tons of hours and getting a lot accomplished. When I have to be bound to a set schedule, I end up only working the hours I have to, and drag my heels along the way.
I like to be spontaneous, with a pick-up-and-go type of lifestyle. I like to be able to roam freely, explore, adventure, travel and decide, on-a-whim to head for a day trip or a motorcycle ride or a last-minute dinner or walk on the boardwalk. I don’t need to know what I am doing tomorrow or the next day or the next day, in order to feel happy. I like to be free, as a bird.
A couple of weekends ago, my husband had left for an out-of-town work trip and I had one whole day off. Instead of sitting around the house, watching movies, my daughter and her family and I decided, mid-morning, that we were going to head out to Searchmont. On a whim, I rented a chalet for the night and we lugged our food and belongings out there, for less than 24 hours of a mini-vacation.
Considering that I didn’t spend any money on Christmas gifts, this felt like a nice treat. Although it was somewhat exhausting and my energy didn’t quite match my ambition, we had a wonderful time. I just needed to go to bed directly after work, on the day we got home. It was all worth it, though, to break my normal routine and to do something fun.
In the real world, though, this ‘on-a-whim’ attitude can pose a problem for me. In the real world, I have obligations and responsibilities, expectations and schedules. In the real world, I usually need to plan, in advance. In the real world, I need the energy to do these kinds of things.
I guess it depends what I tell myself, since I am creating my ‘real world’ one day at time. Is it true that I am chained to my obligations and responsibilities or am I making choices in my life, which are causing me to be doing things that I am having difficulty with? Did I accept or decide anything that is leading to my frustration? Absolutely!
I actually put myself on the particular schedule I am working. I choose to do this, for a number of reasons. I picked my hours and exactly when I was going to work, on the basis of certain factors. Ultimately, that means that I am responsible for getting myself into this situation. That also means that I am responsible for getting myself out.
Even though I know that some decisions will compromise my health, wellness, energy and mood, I often take on too much because I want to help out, in any way that I can. This is what we do; we tend to overextend our own boundaries, because we want to improve a specific situation or contribute our part.
Helping out is wonderful, if we have the energy or resources. If we don’t have the energy or resources, then we are only digging a hole for ourselves. Sometimes, we just need to stop and do a reality check on how our decisions to do more, are affecting us. If we are depleting or draining our energy, in the meantime, it might be time to make some new decisions.
As hard as this is to do, it will be better for everyone, in the long run. Maybe this shift can result in finding new solutions or a new direction, to address the issues at hand. Maybe putting our heads together will produce some new options or opportunities.
Going through this exercise of figuring out what I need and want, I then identify some possible action steps. All of the work to research what is bothering us is futile unless we are willing to take new action. With my list of things to follow-up on, I now have a multi-step plan to get my groove back. Step number one – get more fresh air. Step number two – come up with a new schedule. Step number three – only do what my body and energy can handle…
‘Our fatigue is often caused not by work, but by worry, frustration and resentment.’ ~ Dale Carnegie