Go, go, go

San Francisco, CA

I spent the last two weeks following a frenetic travel schedule that took me to Europe, to Africa, and back to Europe before landing me home in San Francisco. Getting off the plane, I then ran the gauntlet of both a lot of voluntary fun (from Maker Faire to my first Bay to Breakers) as well as an intense schedule of professional commitments (three full days of working sessions and hosting a team dinner at my house).

As I ran about, attending to everything, the to-dos piled up higher-and-higher. I could only clear so many of them on the flights that took me here-and-there and in the wee hours of the morning. So at the end of all this, I had a feeling of relief: “So many commitments, but finally, I can get some work done!” I sat down to my computer with the relish of someone ready to rip through her inbox. But, instead of reaching my productive stride on Day Eighteen, my body gave in. I came down with a familiar, intense migraine that happens when I’ve simply pushed too hard and too long. And it’s lingered an unpleasant two days, sticking around to make sure it’s impact is fully felt.

It was probably some combination of the bodily resilience of youth and my own ignorance of my body’s signals that let me push so hard in my teens and twenties. I never stopped. I rarely slowed. I needed to be told to go home when sick. Four to six hours of sleep a night seemed to be easily enough. And bodily feelings of any type (tired, hungry, grumpy, whatever) seemed irrelevant to the task at hand.

But now it’s different. My body has learned the tricks (like migraines) to simply shut me down when I refuse to listen to the signals. My body has resorted to extreme measures to bring me back into balance. And I have no option but to respond: “All right. I hear you.”

I listen more now. I try to pre-empt the extreme measures, to co-operate with my body more, and to watch for the signs. I hydrate, I sleep, and, loath to my twenty-something self, sometimes I even pass on the glass of wine. I try to give up controlling my physical body with my rational mind and ignoring the feelings because “I’m stronger than that.”

It seems silly, obvious and a bit embarassing to write it all down (after all, what thirty-something hasn’t mastered basic homeostatis?), but it’s tough to reverse twenty-plus years of being rewarded for productivity at the expense of self.

How does your body shut you down?

2 thoughts on “Go, go, go

  1. Hahahaha. I figured I would eventually hear about someone that did some of the same things I did. The “I’m stronger than that” is exactly what I always did. As soon as whatever I was doing became difficult or the todo list turned unwieldy I would consciously tell myself “I’m strong enough to handle this” and push past any anxiety or depression that was about to set in. Most of the time it was my own undoing getting to that point though, while mastering the art of procrastination.

    My last stint of pushing that hard was when I was completing my 2 year MBA program. I had a young family with a newborn and 2 year old and also had just received a promotion at work. Anymore the anxiety and depression just get harder to push through which forces me to be more mindful of what I take on anymore.

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    • The ‘strong enough’ framing is a tough one. We’re programmed to admire the strength to push through, regardless of costs, instead of the mindfulness (your word) and courage (my addition) to moderate. Moderating is set up to look like a cop-out or failure instead of becoming the definition of success in this situation.

      Hope you still find time to sail despite it all, Mike. 🙂

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