I'm tired. Not sleepy, tired. It's different. Sleepy is where you just want to close your eyes, where the brain is fuzzy. I'm tired. Most of the time when I am tired I don't know it. I've trained myself to watch for the signs and circumstances that make me tired.
I know I am tired when my motivation leaves me. Most days in my life it is not a question of what am I going to read, write or do. Instead the question is what do I have time for. My ambitions far exceed my time, but that doesn't quench them. Far from it. I am instead motivated to structure my life in a way that will allow me to learn, process and share as much as I possibly can. If you've ever seen my explaining something in the presence of a whiteboard, then you know what really makes me tick.
This week has been off. I haven't wanted to read. My goal is to read 6 books a month, and I generally make that goal. This week, I haven't read anything. I reread the BIble every 90 days. This week I'm behind. I write every day, but this week the words have been hard to come by. Topics that were a fire in my belly on Friday are mere abstractions today. I love to run, but this week I haven't wanted to. Tonight I wanted to stop running even after I started. At the office, my projects seem massive and insurmountable. I can't envision a plan that gets me from today to completion. There is a sort of frustration in my bones about everything I need to do. There is a voice that says, "why bother?"
Do you know that voice?
Once I hear that voice, I start to get annoyed with myself and I express it by getting annoyed with others. I become less patient, less empathetic. I take offense easily. If left unchecked, these feelings who's roots are in fatigue will grow into something more sinister.
Sadness. Or burnout. Maybe both.
So what to do about it? Neuroscience tells us that we are more than our consciousness. In fact, we know today that our conscious experience is just a fraction of our mental processes. I some experiences, scientists can see the brain come to a decision seconds before the conscious mind is aware of it. Our instincts, our conditioning, and the influence of our environment on our development are a huge part of how we feel, what we think and the actions we take. We humans are unique in our ability to self-condition, but we are just as susceptible to conditioning as any other creature. Perhaps more so. So, while it is possible to use my volition to force myself to act in all the ways I did last week, the persistence of my tiredness tells me a change of strategy is in order.
The Bible tells us about dealing with being tired. In 1 Kings, Elijah has been working hard indeed. His work angered Queen Jezebel to the point she swore to kill him. Elijah fled and prayed for God to take his life. He was ready to give up. He fell asleep. Then, an angel told him to eat and drink. He did and then he slept again. Once again, he was given food and water. Only after he had slept and ate twice did he resume his journey. He had to be renewed before an encounter with God.
I'm not ready to pray for God to take my life. I'm not going to call in sick for two days either–although I would if I was as tired as Elijah is in the scripture. Instead, I will focus on getting enough sleep, eating the right meals and doing the work that must be done, while letting my other reading and writing slide until the fire comes back.
What do you do when you are tired?