So, I had an interesting vacation with my family, last week. I took some time and traveled to visit the folks we hadn’t gotten to see over the holidays, when both my spouse and I were sick and could not travel.
It was an interesting mix – a lot of things got screwed up, but a lot of things went really well.
What went wrong:
I was helping my parents with their gardens. My father asked me to connect the hose to the spigot on the side of the house and join together two lengths of hose, so he could water his new lettuce and beets and onions in the back garden. I managed that, no problem. But when it came time to reconfigure the hose, I got completely confused. He asked me to 1) turn off the water at the spigot, and 2) disconnect the two hoses at the center, so he could attach the one nearest him to his rain barrel in the back. Simple, right? I thought so, too… until I turned off the water and then proceeded to try to unscrew the hose from the spigot. The hose was screwed on tight, and I had to go get a rag to get a tighter grip on the coupling. It wasn’t until I got the coupling off — after many minutes of sweating it out — that I realized that I wasn’t supposed to disconnect that – I was supposed to disconnect the other end of the hose from the second length. As so often happened when I was a kid, my father was futzing around with something or other in the back, impatiently waiting for me to figure things out. Eventually I got it right, but only after getting it wrong the first time — and using up a lot of time doing the wrong thing right.
I lost my prescription sunglasses. I have no idea where they are. Last I remembered, they were in the side compartment in the door of my brother-in-law’s SUV. I called to ask if my in-laws had found them, but no dice. My very expensive prescription sunglasses could be gone for good.
I left the gas on in my in-laws’ house. Anybody could have made the mistake, really, but the fact that it was me, really freaks me out. It’s not the sort of thing I generally do. But I was so tired and out of it… Basically, one of the knobs on the gas stove was broken. My in-laws don’t have a teakettle – they use a coffee maker – and I needed to make a cup of coffee. So, I used the stove and a saucepan with water in it. The first knob I tried turned on, and it was fine. But I couldn’t figure out how to turn it off. There was a steady flame, even when I turned the knob to the “off” position. I finally got it to turn out, and I thought everything was okay. I didn’t smell gas, and neither did my in-laws when they got up later. But then later, we went out… and when we came back, the kitchen smelled like gas, and my brother-in-law had to turn off the knob, which was screwy. For the record, I friggin’ hate gas stoves. And I hate coffee makers. And I hate having to heat water on a stove. Luckily, the house did not blow up when we came in and turned on the lights. I think there was enough of a cross-breeze to ventilate. But still, it’s not a great feeling, to leave the gas on in your hosts’ house.
I couldn’t sleep. I got between 4 and 6 hours a night. It was really rough, and I’m still struggling with my sleep.
Now, for the things that went right:
I got to spend some good time with my folks. Not as much as we’d been hoping to, but still it was something. I got to see their gardens, and I got to just be there with them, even though tensions were high with some health issues that family members have been having. I’ve been hearing all about how terrible things are going, from people who were sharing news. But when I got there, it seemed to me that people were actually handling things pretty well, under the circumstances, so it wasn’t all a catastrophe.
I didn’t lose it over misplacing my prescription sunglasses. I went out and got myself some clip-ons that actually fit my regular glasses really well — and also look better than my prescription ones, which I bought with a whole paycheck, about 23 years ago. As familiar as they had been, and as much as everyone always told me they liked them, it was a pain in the ass to have to have two pairs of glasses on me, at any point in time. I need sunglasses way too much and way too often and under too many different circumstances, to enjoy switching between regular specs and shades, every 15 minutes. This way is much easier. And I also like not having to worry about losing or damaging what I’ve got – if these shades break, I can always get new ones, no problem.
I didn’t lose it over leaving the gas on at my in-laws. True, it’s a pretty embarrassing (not to mention dangerous) situation, but unlike before, this time I did not let it take over my life and turn me into a wreck. In the past, I have gotten completely derailed by things not going right, or screwing something up, and I’ve retreated into my shell to “protect” the rest of the world from me and my screw-ups. This time, I felt like crap for about 6 hours, then I let it go. I apologized profusely, and then got on with just living my life. That, my friends, is progress.
I managed my fatigue pretty well. I laid down and took naps when I could. I took it easy and didn’t push myself too hard. I could really tell just how tired I was (and I can tell I still am), and I acted accordingly. I didn’t just push through for the sake of pushing through. I was flexible. I pulled over and slept, instead of keeping on driving through, when I was so damned exhausted. I hate being that tired, and it has a negative impact on me, but at least I didn’t let it wreck my time.
So, things weren’t perfect – far from it. There was the usual family tension and the usual frustrations. There was the expense of traveling and the time I lost from projects at work. But overall it was a good time, and I’m glad we went. It will take me days to catch up with myself, but catch up I will. I’ve got a good open schedule ahead of me in the coming weeks, and I am honing my approach to my job search and skills building, narrowing all the things I am planning to learn and practice, so I don’t overwhelm myself.
One thing about intense fatigue, it forces me to make choices, to rule things out. When I’m energized and feeling “up”, I tend to take on too much, I don’t pay attention, and then things get screwed up. But when I’m tired, I focus more, I take more time to double-check my work, and ironically things tend to turn out better. I still feel like sh*t, but at least I’m the only one who’s suffering.