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Getting things done. When being you seems the hardest thing to be

Posted Aug 27 2012 1:30am

Have you ever wondered why sometimes it is so hard to do some good thing you really want to and it continues to be so easy to do the same dumb things that drive you crazy.  Have you ever wondered how you can have the skill to do something and really be motivated to do it and nothing still happen?   Has it ever seemed like you cant get anything that matters done?  If any of this has been even a little true of you I know where you are coming from. It has took me 2 weeks to write this post.

You see I have been really frustrated with me.  In many important ways I dont feel like I have done a good job of living the life I want to live.  It is not that I lack motivation.  I really dont.  For the most part it is not that I lack skill.  In many ways I have that in large supply.  But so many things have seemed so much harder than they really are and so many things that I know are little have seemed so big.  Things that have always been timely are not so.  Things that have been automatic now take concentrated effort.  When you get to the point where everything seems hard so much just seems not to happen.

The last few months have been a time of extraordinary drama and trauma for both Linda and me.  The torture of her back surgery (described elsewhere on this blog) has by itself turned everything on its ear.  But that was months ago and much yet still seems on its ear.  That war is over but the battle  (at least some battle) still seems to rage.

One very brave friend told me I was very depressed and that I needed to consider medication.  And I was so desperate with me that I did.  But that still  never felt to me like it explained much.  “How do you know when you are depressed?  You do depressed things….  Why do you do depressed things?  Because you have depression….”    Giving something a name doesnt seem to be much of an explanation.   Are things being hard a sign of being ill or of simply being human?  For a long time I have felt like being content to explain things by what illness you can call it simply ignores the challenges and problems of being a human being that all of us face.l

I have been reading a book called “Willpower” by a psychologist named Roy Baumeister that has struck home with me like few things have recently.  When he uses the term willpower he is talking about self regulation.  He summarizes the findings of literally thousands of experiments in social psychology on the subject in two points.

  1. You have a finite amount of willpower that becomes depleted as you use it.
  2. You use the same stock of willpower for all manner of events.

How many times have you used the phrase “more than I can handle”  not so much as a measure of any one event, but of the stream of things that seem to be constantly confronting you? In extremely well researched terms he deals with one common sense observation and the ramifications of that observation.  We only have so much fuel in the tank and when we begin to run out of fuel we do worse and worse in things that require energy to cope.  It takes energy to decide.  It takes energy to think.  It takes energy to do basically everything and when the demands on that energy grow high because of life events or circumstances we start to slip somewhere along the way.  If high impact things demand more from you little things tend to  drop and if enough little things drop nothing seems little any more.  Fatigue, especially chronic fatigue really matters.  In our rush to label and diagnose we sometimes forget that the culprit can be life as much as anything else.

It is not just mental health issues.  It is the exhaustion of mental health issues.  It is not just stress.  It is the exhaustion of stress.  It is not just pain.  It is the exhaustion of pain.  Many things are just hard to do because as human beings we only have so much energy, so much strength with which to work.  If your life is defined by what seems like continual emergencies or major problems eventually you just wear out.   It starts with little things perhaps, but little things dropped have a horrible way of becoming one more big thing.

I’m tired.  And I am just beginning to realize how tired and how long.  The things I deal with are no worse or more important than those many people deal with.  But that is not the point.  The point is what they have meant in my life.  For a long time I have been doing a lot.  At one time I was involved in writing 7 blogs.  I am involved with numerous causes and issues and organization that seem important to me.  I no longer try to write 7 blogs but many things seem very important for me to do.

I think a couple of things have tipped it over the edge for me though.  For the first time in 5 years I am working full time hours.  My hours though are from 7 pm to 7 am and simple physical fatigue has hit me like a thunderbolt.  The adjustments to life are still something I am learning about but physical tiredness is affecting far more than I want it to.  I am grateful for the job but it is a total body, total life experience that is demanding far more than the hours I work.

Secondly, my own health is starting to be an issue.  I need surgery.  It is not major surgery and the condition is not life threatening.  Again it is something many, many people deal with.  But since I have no insurance and no money and surgery is not an option for me it means that I have had to learn to live with a degree of constant and chronic pain.  In time they tell me it will get very painful but that is a bridge yet to cross.

Other major stresses like Linda’s health, financial issues, and a whole host of other things still remain.  And then there is still daily life.

Baumeister uses a term in his book.  He calls it ego depletion.  As I read it I am seeing all the people I know who have beat themselves up and assumed they are somehow a failure in life and never realized the simple truth.  They are human beings.  Is being you the hardest thing you do?  Perhaps it is for all of us sometimes.  If not you, perhaps someone you know or love is in that spot.  In a world which we are taught to endlessly measure, compare and count our attributes, where being good enough is everything we sometimes forget it is okay to be tired.  We simply cant escape being human.

Things may be hard right now and difficulty may seem inescapable.  The serenity prayer tells you to change the things you can.  But remember to take care of the “can”.  Rest and choose your battles carefully or the war will seem forever.

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