The first 4 days I was on vacation in Accidentally Oriental,
I slept from about 8:30 pm to 10:30 am.
Sleeping fourteen hours a night is a lot of sleep for an adult.
I slept as though I was ill or devastated by a tragedy.
Possibly I was going through a growth spurt
or fighting off a jealous witch's curse.
The path to exhaustion has often felt magical to me
but it's also felt normal.
Yes...it's time for me to accept that exhaustion feels normal for me.
I've been to this place called exhaustion so often that I don't need a map or directions or a reason to get there anymore.
I'm a homing pigeon and exhaustion is my home base.
I can auto-pilot there without any sensory tools or aids.
In fact...I am and have been dangerous to myself for years.
Taking myself right back to 'Normal'.
However, I have changed fundamentally....in a seemingly small way.
I listen to my BODY now.
I hear her speak to me
I can now recognize when I get to exhaustion
and in spite of my many years of residency....
my old 'normal' no longer feels like a good place to be
because you know...BODY is not having it (see Personal Trinity post for a refresher).
|Arrangement done by my friend Sheryl at Peak Church. She radiates love in flowers..|
So what do you do when you realize your go-to normal, is mostly self-destructive?
As far as I can tell, you have to do something different.
You have to change.
Take a different route, that leads to a different destination.
A while back, I made my first steps towards reaching a different destination.
I framed up some daily habits that I believe are necessary in order for me to be healthy.
These habits are meant to be non-negotiable because they are the keys to everything else.
A foundation of sorts.
Sounds like a good step right?
So how come I was exhausted again?
Well...what happened was.....
I didn't really DO these habits.
When I say that I framed them up...what I really mean is that I held them,
half-formed in a list within my mind.
I dreamed them.
I thought about them and I wished them into being.
Like really wished.
In the moments in between....like right before I go to sleep at night...
I ruminated on these items.
I told myself I was going to do them but......
I didn't change anything in my daily life to accommodate these habits.
Are you surprised that this didn't work?
That all that wishing and intention
didn't actually cause me to behave differently on a daily basis?
There are many reasons that change is hard.
One of those reasons is that we don't actually do the work it takes to change.
We only do the first step-the dreaming of the change.
And we stop right there for a good long while.
|Scott Stabile has a new book #biglove I think you have to communicate with YOURSELF honestly first-.and that is pretty damn hard.|
I wouldn't call this first attempt at a daily habit list unsuccessful.
My mind, body and spirit have operated separately for a long time.
Big changes in my life often begin as a series of little changes or adjustments- that gradually turn the trajectory of my life.
I can't handle a complete 180 turn...at least not with grace.
Sometimes a complete 180 turn is necessary......but.....
it always feels terrible, traumatic and grief-laden.
I like to avoid trauma, withdrawal and regret.
I'm lazy like that.
What I ultimately did by creating this first attempt was
to highlight these vague ideas floating in an abyss for myself.
I focused on them for a while-
filling them with intention and preparing myself for work.
My dream (to be healthy) is something I want in reality-not just in dreams.
I tried these habits on for size before I committed to them.
That is an important step as well.
Well done I say.
Well...post exhaustion...I committed myself.
I realized that I needed to move from dreaming
For these habits to become fact,
I would have to shift outside of 'Normal' into a kind of 'Wilderness'.
I decided to think about my life, dissect my schedule in a way that removed ambiguity or my own spin.
Like a project-I took my life down to it's bones.
with the goal of understanding what 'Normal' really was like.
The real 'Normal'.
Not the fantastical life that might be on display in social media.
I asked myself a lot of questions to obtain supporting facts and data
from my actual real life.
What does my schedule look like over an average week?
What time do I get up?
What time do I go to bed?
When do I go to work?
When do I get home from work?
What am I eating for breakfast, lunch, and dinner?
How often am I eating out?
How often am I able to work out?
How am I using my time and resources to support ME first?
What have I committed to doing?
Why have I committed to each of those things?
What is bringing me joy?
If I can only accomplish one thing in a day, what do I want that one thing to be?
Can I stack rank my commitments?
This sounds very earnest and scientific and tidy.
In the movie version of my life,
this period would have a cute little montage with a snappy soundtrack
to show just how clear and straightforward this endeavor was.
Reality looked more like me folding laundry
sitting at the coffee shop, or driving long distances.
I churned and poked and prodded at these questions for several weeks-
silently letting my busy mind chew on these questions until
the data percolated up in a way that I could face and absorb.
Thank goodness for PTO.
After shifting through the answers, I wrote down all the things that I am committed to, interested in, excited about, anguished if I don't do.
No wonder I was tired.
No one is capable of doing the list that I was trying to do.
My 'Normal' expectations and commitments
required a hero of mythic proportions.
How ANY of this was getting done was a mystery.
|Not the actual list of expectations.....but a creative representation.|
What did a daily schedule look like in 'Normal'?
Here's a glimpse.
Get up at 7:25am...in a groggy, semi-panicked state.
Run around slap-dashedly pulling on clothes and saying good morning
and trying to greet each family member.
Ask any family members who are awake a random sampling of questions
to ensure that they are in fact awake and
HAVE WHAT THEY NEED
to meet the day.
No family member actually needs me to do this...
this question barrage is my way of feeling needed.
Forget to grab breakfast...
so double down on coffee to shut up my starving stomach.
Forgot that too...which means going out.
Likely it will be large and
comprised of something fried
because I'm coming off a caffeine crash.
Since I didn't get to work until 8:30
I will feel guilty and behind the eight ball all day.
I will over-commit and stay later than necessary
because I don't feel focused.
I will likely leave for home about 6pm...again feeling guilty
because I know that home needs me too.
I will still need to work out so I will suggest the kids have a snack.
Post workout, I will work on dinner (with my spouse) and it will be ready around 8pm.
Between chopping,I will quiz my daughter because there is a spelling test tomorrow.
Post dinner, we will all clean the kitchen and then try to do a bedtime routine.
It's 9:30 when the kids can possibly get to bed.
Which is too late but connecting with them is important (am I right?).
I will stay up watching a show or talking with my spouse.
I will check work email (again) and social media (again).
I will probably work on several projects (creative and social) without getting them done.
I will pass out around 12:30 am because I won't be able to do one more thing.
I will assume that I'll make up the sleep deficit on Saturday morning
(but I won't because there is fun stuff or committed stuff on Saturday morning always).
No wonder I was exhausted.
I was not adulting.
I was not taking responsibility.
I was simultaneously hoping it would all work out and
making sure that I never had time to see the disaster of my creation.
Things needed to change.
Actually BE DIFFERENT.
Over the rest of my vacation (and through the first few weeks back in real life)
I did several exercises to understand what part of this disaster pile I could shift.
I created a map of what I want my life to look like on a daily, weekly and monthly basis
(in addition to the daily 4 habits).
I want to feel strong, healthy and vibrant (daily 4 habits fit right here).
I want 3 nights a week where I am not committed.
I want to see my high-schooler before he leaves for the bus at 6:30 am.
I want be able to pay attention to my younger one when she talks non-stop about her latest interest (Pokemon go anyone?).
I want to eat dinner with my family around our table while I still have the energy to laugh.
I want to spend time with my spouse having FUN not just dealing with the business of our life.
Simultaneously, I want to deal with the business of our lives directly and without unnecessary angst.
I want to participate in my community in ways that are self affirming and utilize my gifts.
And finally...I need to create so I can connect with my Creator.
More post-it notes came out.
I started sorting and resorting all the things.
I grouped things under some basic headings.
At the end of the exercise, I had several matrices that helped frame up what is intentional and important to me NOW
and what needs to be shelved until some future state.
One looked like this:
Next I mapped out days of the week to see how I could make the daily things that I want in my life a reality.
It turned out to be really simple.
One little change to rule them all.
Here it is...the magic tool that has turned dreams into reality...
I WAKE UP ON TIME.
Yep. It really is this easy.
And actually this hard.
Basically, to turn my dreams into reality, I start my day differently.
Before, I had a later start time and it was definitely negotiable.
I would have alarms going off at 6:30.
And maybe even 7.
I wouldn't actually get out of bed until 7:30 ish.
That started my day off without focus or intention.
I had lots of room for guilt and anxiety to creep in.
It was actually hard to see when I started heading back towards 'Normal'
because everything was kind of out of focus.
I wasn't clear on what I wanted
or what I was willing to change...
so I didn't have to be clear about whether it was working.
That is not the case anymore.
Now...I get up, physically am out of my bed
with my first alarm at 6:10.
It is not negotiable.
It is a foundation I can launch my day from.
It is a gift I have given myself.
That one change has taken me so far outside of 'Normal'.
I'm starting to see the shape of the 'Wilderness'...here's what it looks like for me right now.
Get up at 6:10.
Go downstairs to see my big kiddo before he goes to school.
Get dressed and grab some breakfast.
There is actually time to make breakfast if I want or actually DRY MY HAIR (small things people)
I might see the younger one but maybe not (she doesn't have to be at school until 9 am)
Take myself and my coffee right to the office....my goal is to be at work by 7:30.
I get at least 2 hours of focus in the office now before everyone starts dropping by to throw wrenches into my planned day.
I can be very focused at work.
I am not just reactive-but I have room to react to crisis moments if I need it.
Lunch may be leftovers or may be out.
But I am no longer starving or scrounging for it.
I leave the office at 4:30 pm.
I am home by 5:15 pm at the latest.
I can either help with dinner or clean up.
I have time to work out or not.
I have energy to laugh and study.
I have time before any weeknight commitments to connect.
I am able to work on my personal projects-but I've also eliminated several from the schedule. They are not a priority.
I go to bed when I am tired (usually by 10) and I wake up without wanting to murder anyone or feeling completely chaotic.
I don't need to sleep in 3 hours late on Saturday because I am not in a sleep deficit.
It's been two months since I've been back from vacation and about 6 weeks since I've started implementing the 'Wilderness' approach.
I've had one night where I was really really tired because I decided to see
May It Last and then stay up talking to my husband for 2 hours.
I felt tired all the next day until I went to bed at 9 pm for the next two nights.
It was worth it-but also had to be acknowledged and paid back.
That early morning wake-up call is not negotiable and is beautiful in the boundary it draws.
|photo from http://www.avettbrothersfilm.com/ Great movie-go see it!|
For me, the 'Wilderness' means I am planning and taking responsibility for my needs.
It's avoiding my 'Normal' chaos and over-commitment which leads to exhaustion.
It requires me to face down the minutiae in my life
and be a ruthless editor.
People have asked me to take on new commitments.
I have said NO because I am not willing to give up any existing ones.
I am at max capacity
(so that I can have a minimum of 3 uncommitted nights in every week).
I love the Wilderness.
I actually have time to deal with life when it happens
and I am getting what I need.
I am NOT EXHAUSTED.
I am walking around in a new place-
probably for the first time ever.
Perfection is not the goal....meeting my needs daily is the goal.
I make it happen-or I don't.