Overdraft Notice

slowing down to the speed of moss
slowing down to the speed of moss

We have lots of accounts that have nothing to do with the banks.  Our Social Capital accounts are filled by all the emotional and care deposits we have made into our various relationships. Our Nutritional accounts, and Sleep accounts keep our bodies working as they should, and our Resiliency account allows us to weather adversity up to a point. Self care routines are like deposit slips.

Truth is that I have been in the midst of a bit of an energetic lull lately- it is more work than per usual to be happy, which is why finding the balloon and the little frog last week were such gifts. Reminders to shift my mind set.

This weekend as the clouds moved in the veil fell. I realized that my grey outlook was not about lack of mental discipline, but a symptom of overextension. While I have a lot of direct experience with changing my mind set, I have noticed that there is a certain tipping point, from which it becomes more and more difficult to do so.

It isn’t that there were not warnings, like a wilting house plant tells the tale of its need for water, our bodies give us clues. I have walked right by several self care opportunities lately, and chosen to overextend myself. It hasn’t happened in any big dramatic way, but in small ones. Going to sleep just a bit later for several nights, letting busy-ness justify poorer eating, and neglecting to take time to process some small emotional hurdles – all were withdrawals from my life accounts. The energetic crash is a overdraft notice.

Historically I was like a climate change denier, only I was in denial of my need for rest. Which by the way was something that was obvious to every other person in my life but me. What I am talking about is not depression, this is exhaustion. I really don’t know much about the intricacies of depression, but I am a world class expert on the intricacies of exhaustion and fatigue. And you can’t will your way out of it.

The fatigue associated with treatments for Cancering was for me nothing compared to what I experienced in the years leading up to my diagnosis.  I think that the lessons I had already started to learn then were of great value when I was in treatment, namely that my body is the boss. Acknowledging that, I was actually managing my energy pretty well by the time I entered treatments. Pretty well, but without fully addressing my puppets around productivity and worthiness. The puppets were sleeping because I had the get out of jail card of a diagnosis, which granted permission to rest.

After I have gone over the tipping point my whole demeanor changes. Basically I become listless and apathetic. I feel weepy. The trick is that I’ve usually been a little fuzzy on what the build up to the tipping point is.  Because obviously it is never the same.

Generally it is a little extra stress here or there combined with deferred Gummy Time.  I am only recently truly recognizing the huge importance of time to putter, and the impact it has on my mental health.  It is perhaps true that my need level for idleness might be higher than the general populous, while my shame response to it is definitely higher.  So I defer it, and defer it, and defer it until Blammo! I am in a vortex of fatigue.

Over twenty years ago one of my art professors at UO went to great lengths to instill in us the essential need for down time for the creative process. Over ten years ago, during the three year business class we took at the beginning of the Scorcher, our instructor implored us to pencil in self care time. Specifically to block out time to do nothing on our calendar. This was during his presentation on business time management.

It is classic how the information is available, but not absorbable due to some inner environment. In my case – and I don’t think I am alone, an environ of  shame around “laziness.” Yep more puppets running the show into the ground.  I’m actually kind of proud of myself that I am finally starting to observe without judgement when I am really tired.  

Self care is like your budget to prevent you from overdrawing your accounts. We need a certain amount of input to keep up with output. This is why self care is not selfish- in fact lack of self care can be selfish. The next step, is to better recognize the build up to overextension, so that I can implement emergency Gummy Time when needed. And the real success will be when I actually pencil in blocks of idleness onto my calendar, and keep my commitment to myself to actually do nothing.

The outcome of ignoring the signs of an impending overdrawn energy account is that I become listless and need to spend a day fatigued in bed.  This is VERY different from Gummy Time, in which I happily putter about, and spend time doing things like petting cats or watching bumble bees suck sector. Gummy Time usually sets off a joyful storm of creative ideas. Fatigue just has me socked in with a fog of hopelessness and self judgement.

But to get back to the point, the tipping point that is. What can be done when the puppets have been driving, and I find myself feeling pathetic? Because feeling pathetic is a self care emergency. So here is what I have figured out so far:

  1. Get Outside. Getting outside is like instant mental health vitamins for me.
  2. Drink some water. yup hydrate -we all know this one, and yet we neglect to do it. Better yet invite another person to sit down with you for a spot of tea.
  3. Reach out for Support. This is a hard one. But if you neglect your self care you have to pay the piper, and that means getting humble, and asking for help.  Cash in some of your social capital currency to hand off an obligation, get fed, or renege on something you said you would do, but don’t have the energy for.
  4. Eat really well. Get some high quality nutrient dense food in ASAP.  You will probably need some help if you are already a listless apathetic zombie. (And no, coffee and chocolate do not count for this.)
  5. Sleep. Take a nap – go to bed early, or sleep in. Sleep deprivation is cumulative, so you need to address any deficit. It doesn’t really go away. Even if you really really want it to. Even if you think that REAL ____________, can get by with less sleep. Your body is the boss. Get some sleep.
  6. Turn off your device. Watching Netflix is not rejuvenating. When you are recovered your verve you can watch what ever you want.  Otherwise your devise is likely just a distraction that is making you procrastinate on taking care of yourself.
  7. Get in some Water. Bath, luxurious shower, or even just wash your hands and face. If you are truly down have someone administer a sponge bath.
The view down to pinecone village, where Martin spends much of his creative energy.
The view down to pinecone village, where Martin spends much of his creative energy.

Once you are down the fatigue hole, there is a strong need to face facts and get help. So if I am really run down, I will definitely need to do #3.  When we are run down it is extremely unlikely that a person can “Pick yourself up by your bootstraps.”  Like a houseplant that has been in the closet for weeks needs to be brought out into light, and given water and time to recover, you need deposits to recover too. And like the plant doing the self care of photosynthesis, you will only be able to create your own momentum and have enough to share, when you have the basics back in balance.

What I am finally coming to realize is that there is a difference between the discipline of tending to mindset, and the tyranny of using the will to overextend oneself.

Once I have gotten out of the hole I walked into, with the help of loved ones, only then is it is time to implement a plan that includes building up my social capital reserves, and all the things that I enjoy doing for myself when I am thinking straight – like eating real food, meditation, artwork, exercise. . . and most of all doing nothing.

So yesterday I napped, and went to bed early. Today my reserves are back up enough that I will spend some time puttering in my studio – which is slowly getting organized. By tomorrow I will hopefully be ready to exert some effort helping others at my work And if I’m really smart I will make time throughout this whole next week to continue to build up my accounts.

May your needs be met this week, so that your cup overflows to benefit both yourself and others.


P.S. I recently made a page, the Pooka Glossary,  to collect the terms I use, which are idiosyncratic to me or to our household. I define Gummy Time and Puppets there.


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