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Fatigue, fun, and frustration

Two things happened this year to give me reason to think about the triple-F of the heading up there. Fatigue, fun, and frustration. One: my job and workload shifted dramatically (and, I’m pleased to say, temporarily) so that I had fewer free hours, and fewer well-rested hours within those free hours. Two: my Mumini got frighteningly sick.

My Mumini made a splendid and brave recovery during the time she was off work (some two months) following a staph infection that began in her neck muscle and moved into her neck bones. However, restarting work, just a couple of half days per week, showed significant correlation with the slowing of her recovery. Each increase in her workload was matched by a decrease in her pace of recovery. Which is not to say her recovery stalled: but its pace has slowed observably. She is tired, she is frustrated, and she is still fighting along as best she can.

My workload became a massive time and energy suck that made my weekends a time for quietly resting and inhaling the contents of the fridge. I finished work each day utterly zonked, and spent weekends resenting all the fun I wasn’t having because I was so damn tired all the time. Mumini and I are both relearning some pretty heavy lessons right now.

Lesson one: when you’re tired, everything sucks. This is nature’s way of punishing you for not getting enough sleep. The solution is not to try and push through it. The solution is to get some rest and change whatever’s trying to suck you dry, cerebrally speaking.

Lesson two: when your free time rolls around, make the most of it without exhausting yourself further. This is a balancing act. I think the best approach is to do the fun stuff first and then see if you’re too tired to do the dull stuff. Got just enough energy to either do the washing OR have friends over for lunch? That’s not a hard choice. Got the energy to either go for a walk OR mow the lawn? Get outta here, that’s not even tricky. Don’t spend an already spread-too-thin weekend on stuff that does you no good. Come Monday, all you’ve got is a slightly cleaner house and no improvement in your head.

Lesson three: frustration is a natural result of this. Frustration, I keep telling myself, is the last obstacle to patience. Which sounds twee and self-indulgent, but that’s kind of the point. I get frustrated because I’m fatigued and having trouble finding the fun. Mumini gets frustrated because she’s been fatigued for so long. Frustration is very rarely a useful emotion. It’s the mind telling you that it’s not getting its way for some reason, and if you don’t fix it there will be a mighty mental tantrum. The only solution to frustration is to either conquer the challenge in question or give up (and giving up isn’t actually solving the frustration, it’s just deferring its resolution).

These are such trivial life lessons that I feel a bit dim for having to relearn them, but I suspect that I will have to relearn them repeatedly throughout my life. Your mental well-being, your physical well-being, your time and your energy are constantly up for negotiation. Got a job? Of course you do, we all gotta eat and buy glitter pants. Having a job means selling a big whack of your time, your energy and your well-being. But given half a chance, most jobs will slurp out way more of those things than you initially thought you’d give. Sometimes it’s obvious—you’re expected to check and respond to emails and calls even when out of the office—and sometimes it’s less obvious— you’re given far more work than you can do in your time, or your work continues to grind away in your head during your free time, distracting and worrying you.

So keep up the good fight, people: get some rest, keep your boundaries, and switch it off on the weekends. A tired, frustrated, cranky life is a serious suckfest.

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