Life is relentless. Take regular breaks.

Hello and welcome. Let me catch you up.

Decisions. Decisions. Decisions.

So the last two years have been… different to say the least. I don’t know about you but the constant stopping and re-evaluting of my life has regressed me to a moody teenager. Introspection is ordinarily my weapon in the battle for mental fitness but it’s almost like the well has been poisoned. Ordinarily, I would enjoy thinking deeply on my life’s trajectory a few times a year and arrive at some solid conclusions to propel me forward. But in the latter half of 2021, I was having a complete existential crisis every two weeks. Various life things happened with all the Covid things pressing down on top and I had to make a number of decisions that only disrupted things further.

I realise that sounds rather depressing. The decisions I made were not bad decisions. Your mum would definitely approve of them. It’s just sometimes the right decision is also a very difficult one and my resilience wore down.

In April, I got promoted to my first management position. The promotion led to stability, which led to finally being able to buy property in the city. We even got a cat. I started reading more and writing more. It was almost time to move house so I booked time off in August to relax a little before everything changed. The Life and Career to-do lists were getting some sweet little ticks.

Then everything changed. My Career train, a cute, steam-powered mechanism that bumbled along with contented puffs and choo’s, suddenly got rammed by the Life train, a maglev going 200mph crapping its baggage all over me.

My mother had cancer. I found out during my time off… and went back to work asking for a reduction in my hours so I could be there for her. Good decision. We caught it early and surgery stuff ensued and I have a lot of feelings. My cat also fell ill and the treatment wasn’t cheap. But we love our boy so got him well again. Good decision. I had a major falling out with some relatives who see the world very differently to me. It was a long time coming but I chose to finally defend myself and my parents. Good decision. My grandfather passed away and I had some Covid symptoms on the same day so didn’t attend the burial. Good decision. Turns out I had Covid and was bedridden for 2 weeks. My husband also got it. Despite feeling like crap, we didn’t change our moving date and moved house the week after I was well again. Good decision. This was all within 4 months. Relentless.

I lowered my emotion filter

This isn’t to moan. It’s to illustrate how I frenetically made decisions that I stand by but it all just got to be a lot. And others may well have it worse, but I’m not trying to win a competition here. I’m just dealing with a knot in my stomach each morning I go to work or see the phone ring. I suddenly became caretaker of everyone’s feelings at work and with my family. I became a person of action, a good listener, a counsellor, an avid researcher, an advocate, a strategy developer, a leader. You get the picture.

To connect with people, you have to be vulnerable with them (yes, I read a lot of Brene Brown and you should too). To empathise with others… you lower your own emotional filter to let their feelings in. It’s how you are genuine. To feel what others feel and help them through their feelings requires connection. It’s something I had to learn to practice very quickly. I actually think I might have been a much more selfish person before all this happened.

I would have long phone calls with my mother, I would have meetings at work to help my new staff adapt to the changes I made or to hear their ideas. I would have long heart to hearts with my new manager colleagues. I talked to my relatives for my mother so she didn’t have to deal with that. I also hid things from people that my mother didn’t want known.

It’s almost like constantly leaving the house with the front door wide open… but with your emotions. It’s what I did for months. I got so used to keeping myself open and exposed in order to help others. And it was necessary but also exhausting and there was an emotional fallout that left me numb and needing to be inside a small dark box in a closet somewhere on the moon.

All of the decisions I made to help others messed me up to the point where I walked around day by day feeling like an exposed nerve. Things that ordinarily wouldn’t affect me were suddenly bringing me to tears. I would be so desperate in my desire to connect that it translated to always needing to be able to help people. People don’t always need help. Especially at work. Sometimes people just want to get on with their day. Not every annoyance requires a heart to heart and not every frustration needs to be met with a deeper conversation. That can get so exhausting. Once things settled down on the life front, I had to recondition myself to normal emotions. I was a person inexperienced with using vulnerability to make connections and, frankly, I went too far during a really tumultuous time.

Hence the knot in my stomach every time I go back into work. I am still quite sensitive and having to rebuild my emotion filter day by day. I am having to learn how to do my job a little more normally. And my emotional filter isn’t the only thing I lost in that time.

I became cynical…

The reason this blog is called The Lazy Slinky is because a slinky toy is at its best when it has momentum and I often feel like I don’t. The truth is… I don’t even flinch when bad life things happen now and it’s not because I am a stronger or more resilient person. It’s because I can slowly feel myself resigning… accepting that I need to keep putting my wants and needs on hold. I tell myself that I won’t achieve the things I want because life is relentless and will always get in the way. That I am lesser than those I aspire to be like because I am always so very tired.

I haven’t blogged in a long time. Or written in my novel. Or done any sewing. And these are things that I feel constantly drawn to yet ultimately lose in the crowd of my other responsibilities. Hobbies are so underrated in this age of hustle culture; and I say this as someone who has thought of taking up a number of hobbies with the express purpose of turning them into side hustles. I used to think hobbies needed to be productive in order to be worthwhile. But not having the time to engage in my hobbies just for the sake of enjoying them has led to me becoming a bit of a husk. A cynical husk.

One has to choose optimism. To choose to find joy in things you love and to believe the things that return you to yourself are worth returning to even after a break. And it feels so hard when I have lived week to week over the past 8 months striving to be a better daughter, sister, wife, daughter-in-law, writer and employee whilst feeling like I could cry at any minute. 8 months becomes a routine. And routine misery can snowball into a cynical life.

So to cleanse myself of all that and try to return to my whole self… I am writing this.

This too shall pass.

Often whenever I get like this there’s this stink of regret and self-blame. But this time… all my decisions were the right ones. I had a real sense of clarity that I was doing my absolute best. And I still felt awful.

But that’s where stoicism beats cynicism. My mental bandwidth was just full. There’s something very freeing about just being kind to yourself and saying…”this sucks, I need to put things on hold, but it will pass.” Everytime I tell myself this, I feel my shoulders sag in relief.

I would offer this wisdom: If you too are ping-ponging between a desire for re-evaluation and a lack of bandwidth for engaging in that re-evaluation, I would recommend you stay the course and do what you need to do until your bandwidth has less pressure on it. You are not diminished by doing the right things for yourself or your family and life is not on hold. It’s the thing you’re living right now. Dreams will come.

Happy New Year!

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