Balanced is not my middle name. There are many adjectives that could be substituted for the middle name printed on my birth certificate–friendly, loyal, hard-working, honest, funny, impatient, shy–but “balance” isn’t on that list.
I have an all-or-nothing personality. If I have decided to do something, then whatever happens, I’ll do it. I like to think of this as fortitude and steadfastness, but the reality can be something else. Often I find myself questioning why I can’t let go of the trivial things, especially when my exhaustion levels are at an all-time high (which happens to be most of the time lately).
I don’t think I’m alone, though. We applaud people who “do it all,” especially women. We’re now encouraged to have fulfilling careers and a rich family life. And this is a good thing. No one should have to choose one or the other. For that matter, none of us should be forced to give up anything that provides satisfaction or contributes to our quality of life. I believe striving for what we want and what we hope to achieve is the only way we can reach our goals and will leave us happier when we lay our heads on our pillow at night.
The problem is around the time I actually go to bed. When I am pushing too hard, it’s not just confined to late at night. I look at the clock, and I know that the time I have between that moment and when I have to get up again is just not enough. Sometimes I can feel that I am wearing myself too thin with all of my commitments and the things I do. The same thing happens at work: The hours slip by, and I know that the pile of work on my desk will not get done, and I’ll just be adding more to it the next day. There are too many friends to see on the weekends and at night, too many errands to run. There is just simply too much to do.
My colleagues are experiencing the exact same problems: high stress, crushing workloads, demanding lives, and lack of sleep. However, when the candle has been burnt at both ends down to a puddle of wax, they recognize it and stop. I just can’t seem to identify when to say “when.”
Lately, though, I’m seeing signs that the time has come. I recently was turned away from a blood drive because my iron levels were unacceptable. Meanwhile, my big lug of a boss who hadn’t eaten or had a drop to drink that entire day was happily allowed to have a bag strapped to his arm, which was damn annoying I have to say.
People around me have told me I need slow down, scale back at the gym, and get more sleep.
That might be the euphemistic version. Two colleagues have said to me that I must not lose any more weight (I picked up a little over the last year and have dropped the excess over the last couple months). My mother has told me that I exercise too much and seven days a week is just unhealthy. A good friend has said to me that I am heading to complete collapse if I don’t get some more sleep.
I think they worry too much, but the truth, I have to admit, is that I am letting things get out of hand. Recently, I lay sprawled out on the couch, lying on the scatter cushions, wrapped up in a blanket for an hour-and-a-half. I was just too tired to go to my bedroom and change and wash my face and brush my teeth and then go bed. I eventually did, but it took too much effort for something so minor.
In the last two weeks, every time I see someone I haven’t seen in a while, they say without fail, “It’s nice to see you, but, you look…” Tired. Pale. Drawn. Worn out.
I thought the blood donation was a wake up call. Maybe that night that I was on the verge of collapse was it. But no. And now I’m sure that the fact that everyone I know thinks I look like crap will be the revelation that jolts me into change. Then again, this is the second… no, third… no, fourth attempt to write this article, because every start that I make on it I manage to run out of time.
I don’t want to make myself sick or burn out, and I know that I run that risk if I carry on this way. All those that held my job before me either burnt out or are still recovering. My odds don’t seem good.
But, and there is a “but”, I know what I have to do. I have a choice to make, and it’s one that will lead me to a better life. I have to stand up for myself and demand a place on everyone else’s list. I have to give myself a spot on my own to-do list.
It’s difficult to pull back when I have a compulsion to operate at 100 percent all of the time, but I know that no one can do that. I know that I won’t lose my job if I don’t complete my current project today, and my friends won’t abandon me if I don’t go out with them every single night, and my life won’t fall apart around me if that load of washing sits in the basket for another day.
I already know what to do. I just have to muster up the will to to do it.
So, I’m going to take the advice I have been given by my nearest and dearest, I’m going to address my work situation with the powers that be, and I am going to get some sleep tonight. Then I am going to get up early tomorrow to go to gym before work, because I am still me.
It’s all about finding the balance, and figuring out where the equilibrium lies is half the work. At least I’m sure of that part already.