For about 5 years now I’ve been having serious problems getting up in the mornings. They’re not practical problems. Though occasionally it’s taken a while for me to be physically able to go from horizontal to upright (that’ll happen if you injure yourself often enough), that wasn’t it. They’re also not problems with a physical manifestation. I live with dogs and work with animals. Mornings come, I get up. There’s no option not to.
The problem hasn’t been me not getting up. It’s been me not wanting to get up. For a while this extended to me waking up and regretting that fact. I can pinpoint when it all started, and it is linked to real-life events. However, because it’s a recurring problem and because it went on for so long, I hadn’t really bothered to look at the circumstances surrounding its inception. (Maybe my not-bothering was part of the issue – a further symptom, as well as a contributing factor – but that further complicates matters so I’m going to park it for now.)
When the shit originally hit the fan this time, there was a whole bunch of factors that interacted to make mornings difficult:
- Physical exhaustion due to overworking and sleep deprivation.
- Mental exhaustion due to stress and sleep deprivation.
- Emotional exhaustion due to grief and sleep deprivation.
- Sleep deprivation. Yes, it merits another mention.
- Constant physical pain (pain, not ache), feeding into all of the above.
Dealing with the above issue took as long as it took. You can’t force your body to heal faster than it can. Ditto clawing your way out of a financial black hole. Ditto many other things. You can work as hard as you can at something, you can do everything right, and still the process of overcoming that particular obstacle can take time. While it’s reassuring to know that you are working towards a goal, sometimes the length of time it takes to get there is exhausting. Often you just can’t be sure that you’ll ever get there; the best efforts are not enough to guarantee a result. And that’s draining as hell.
It took a few years, but I managed to reduce most of the above to a manageable level now. However, I was still facing my mornings with more stoicism than exuberance. It’d been going on for long enough that I thought it was the new me. I’ve always been a morning person, and I’ve always been enthusiastic about life… unless I wasn’t. I didn’t collect data as I was going along, but it was starting to seem that I’d been spending more time “flat” than “charged.” So maybe “flat” was my new state of being; or it was my natural state of being, and “charged” was the anomaly? All I knew was that, choice of alarm clock music notwithstanding, I could reasonably expect to get up, drag myself out of bed, and spend the rest of the day dragging and pushing myself around until time finally came to lay me down to sleep again. Rinse & repeat. Productive it was; enjoyable it wasn’t.
Then I went on holiday, a couple of weeks ago, and it was great. Not just OK – actually great. It was nice being able to spend time with myself the way I used to be. I’m much better company when I’m not miserable. I’m much better company when I’m not bullying myself into action, too. And then I came back, and looked at the number of yokes I was about to place around my neck, and baulked.
Kasey blogged last year about the importance of tethers and balance. He was talking about a particular context, which isn’t the context here; however, the principles seem similar. When I first read his blog, I’d latched on to the tethers and forgot about balance. Balance in what I do with myself; or, if it gets bad enough, to myself.
Maybe, just maybe, spending 8 hrs every damn day doing a physically painful job and then another 8 hours engaged in a mentally and emotionally draining hobby is giving me a balance between physical activity and rest, but no balance whatsoever between effort and enjoyment. The field of self-defence is important and fascinating, but it’s not cheery. Thinking my way through certain issues, trying to pick the best words to express concepts so people can hear them, means spending extensive amounts of time ruminating unhappy concepts. Being able to help people with emergencies is rewarding, but it doesn’t make me joyful; I do it because it’s “the only thing to do” (belief right there, chiselled into my brain). A lot of the conversations I have with a lot of people leave a load on my back. I don’t forget any of the stories. They all add up to my vision of the world, and if I’m not careful they can skew it.
What if I didn’t want to get up in the morning because there’s nothing I can look forward to? What if a sense of duty and of achievement are enough to get me moving, but not enough to make me enthusiastic about doing so? I mean, it’s not rocket science: why should I feel joyful when I’m not providing myself with the opportunity to feel genuine joy?
I look at past periods of my life when mornings were equally sucky, and it seems fairly obvious now: how I feel about my life is actually linked to how my life is. The fact that I can ignore my feelings and get on and do what must be done doesn’t make situations acceptable; what is “tolerable” or “manageable” isn’t always “wholesome.” And my feelings are not a terrible inconvenience, or a sign of weakness: they’re a clear indication that my life is out of whack, and that’s something I should care about.