posted on February 18, 2014 08:15
I was talking with a dear friend the other day after another absurd, “if I wrote this it would seem ludicrous” moment in my crazy life I said I would title my memoirs “How Did We Get Here?”
Turns out, this is a big, bad theme lately.
First, let me back up, so I can explain the “here” that I am at.
I am coming down from two months of one of the most strenuous projects at the day job that I have ever worked on. I worked almost two months of 10 to 12 hour days, and the last day to get this project to post was a whopping 15 hours long.
Yes, I spent 15 hours at the office.
I was barely functional the next day, but we were all waiting to see how it worked out (so far, so good, I’m happy to report!). I took Friday off because I am fried and exhausted beyond all reason. I have never experienced burnout like what I am experiencing right now. I thought taking Friday off from work meant that I would be spending the day in creative pursuits that I need to recharge, and that I’d be writing.
What a laugh. Friday came and went in a blur of pajamas and fighting off the inevitable “coming back to normal” migraine/headache. The headache was also caused by the extremely dry weather – honestly, I expect that one of these times I’ll look outside and see sand dunes and pyramids in place of mountains. I surrounded myself with books and paper, and all I managed to do, besides run a few errands (and celebrate Valentine’s Day with my sweetie), was to read a few pages before absolutely crashing.
So just how did I get here?
Even though it has never been explicitly said that I needed to work all those hours, I did. I take pride in my work but I felt like I had to work long, crazy hours. My teammates worked just as long and hard on the project, pulling just as many crazy hours and days. Unfortunately I let that run away with me, leaving me so drained that I wondered if I was ever going to write again. That would be bad enough – then add the normal life stress, a loved one’s medical emergencies, and the unexpected death of a friend, and you have a recipe for cracking up, and cracking up good.
Another good friend of mine told me that I make people want to be better because even when I feel like I’m falling to pieces I somehow give off the vibe that I totallyhave it together. Because no matter what is going on in my life I have goals, and I focus. Most of all, I have writing, my one standby and fallback when life is raining down around me in a way that would rival Noah’s flood.
Let me assure you, dear reader, that this is not the case.
I felt like I was still processing and coming to terms with 2013, and I feel like 2014, so far, has been mostly about shoveling 2013’s shit. I don’t think that’s a bad thing at all; sometimes you have metric tons of shit to shovel through and that process takes a while. That’s a process I’m not good with, because it goes against everything that makes me the overachieving, Type A person that I am. I want to process and be done, damn it!
Last summer I couldn’t even write through the depression, the despair, and the numbness that seemed to be the only thing tangible in my life. Writing is such an integral part of me that losing it means I lose my footing and most often do so in epic way. When I can’t write my way out of whatever is going on in my life, that’s trouble. These last two months I was desperate to write, and after the grueling, exhausting long days at work I was too worn out to type more than a few words at the keyboard.
I lost my balance, and lost my footing, and I know I have to work extra ridiculously hard to make sure I never ever EVER do that again. All I wanted to do was to escape myself, to escape my internal critic who decided to go on a rampage of gargantuan proportions. I thought about driving into the desert with nothing more than what I had in my car and disappearing. I wanted to dissolve into the dust and the wind because life was a battle I didn’t want to fight anymore. I didn’t want to die but I didn’t want to live, either. I was too damn tired, and too damn tired of the things that have felt beyond my control.
Luckily, I have some amazing people in my life who not only helped me through a very dark moment but stayed with me through my meltdown. I yelled, I slammed doors, and then I cried. I cried for over two solid hours and every time I thought my tears were done there were more to be had. I cried from exhaustion, from frustration, for the person that I want to be and don’t feel like I am. I cried for the creative person inside me who felt bound and gagged. I cried in disappointment that I could not shoulder the burdens placed on me at the moment and most of all I cried in relief that I didn’t have to carry them anymore.
I’ve written some personal things here on this blog, and I wasn’t sure that I was even going to post this. From what I’ve seen this is a common affliction in this day and age, for a variety of reasons. Too often I have heard friends with families lament that they don’t have enough time in the day and how great it must be to be single with seemingly all the time in the world.
In some ways, single people and couples without kids have it harder. It’s easy for expectations with work to be put upon you when you don’t have children because there’s no one who is quite so dependent on you as a child. The economy still isn’t great, so I know that I personally feel extra pressure to give and give and give because deep down I’m afraid that if I don’t that maybe I’ll lose my job. Saying “I’m sorry, I need to spend time with my significant other/cat/couch, PJs, and Netflix” is viewed as selfish. Telling your boss you’re exhausted and need a break seems like you’re admitting you can’t do the job as opposed to addressing the issue of unrealistic expectations.
I am, however, blessed with an amazing boss, who has agreed to help keep me on a normal, 40 hour a week work schedule, as much as possible. I know that this partially my fault for doing it in the first place. My teammates worked equally hard on this project, and I really didn’t want them to shoulder the burden. I’m still not sure how I’ll handle the next project when my coworkers are working crazy hours and I choose to give no more than my 40.
I also know that I’m no good to anyone, especially myself, when I’m in this state.
I’ve been here before: I managed to give myself pneumonia at the ripe old age of 16 because I wore myself out between my part time job, school, and my social life. I burned out working in film, an industry that is notorious for not only requiring long hours but for expecting them without question. The awesome and terrifying thing about being in your 30s is that you realize that you may have only as many years ahead of you as you do behind you. There’s enough in this life we can’t control, and this is one thing I can.
Not only can I not do this to myself anymore, but I’m afraid that if this pattern continues, it will definitely kill me. I’m not able to run at the pace that I was able to when I was 16 or 21 or hell, even 28, and that was just four years ago. Every day I am reminded by my body in new and different ways that I cannot afford to be unkind to myself. I’d like to live to 100 – I promised myself if I make it that far I’m getting a boob job, if for no other reason than to get my breasts off my knees.
I have a pattern of workaholism. I admit that. I also realize that because I am getting older maybe the next time I work myself into pneumonia I won’t recover. Maybe there won’t be a next time to come back from. It’s so cliché, but I don’t want to get to the end of this journey and have only been a dutiful employee.
So I’m writing again. I’m taking time to be creative again. I’m going to the gym so I have a safe place to exercise. I’m taking time for me to heal, to rest, to regroup, and most importantly, to refill my creative well so I can enjoy life again. I saw a movie today, I’m going to beach tomorrow, and tonight, I’m writing and playing the new Castlevania game.
Because at the end of the day, I’m going to remember playing Castlevania snuggled up on the couch next to my awesome boyfriend. I’m going to remember our first Valentine’s Day together. I’m going to remember spending a few hours on the beach with a clear blue sky overhead, with a warm breeze in my hair and seafoam on my toes while the rest of the country is covered in snow.