Tuesday, September 13, 2016

the three "tireds"

I got to thinking about this yesterday after finishing my annual report.

There are really three kinds of ways you can be tired. Sometimes they overlap, or you're both at the same time.

The easiest one is being physically tired. This is like what you get after a day of hard work or hard play - whether you've gone on a 10 mile hike over rough terrain, or built a deck, or helped a friend move house. It's actually a good kind of tired because it often comes after you've either had good fun or done useful work. (And even physical therapy could be seen as "useful work," and yes, I know it's tiring, even if my only experience with it was in a very mild form 20-odd years ago after I broke my elbow: they wanted to be sure I hadn't lost any range of motion and that I rebuilt the muscles that had been idle in a cast for six weeks).

The other thing about physical tiredness: if you're in reasonable physical condition, a hot shower, a meal, and a good night's sleep will fix it. (And if you're the sort prone to insomnia, often it's one of the rare times you DO get a good night's sleep).

Then there's intellectual tired. I notice this after doing a lot of data crunching/data interpretation. Or when I have to work a lot of math problems. Your brain is tired, it's hard to focus on stuff. Pretty much all you want to do is go home and stare at mindless tv afterwards. This one is a little harder to fix because I find I actually need time off to deal with this one - not just a night's sleep, but maybe a day away from whatever was overtaxing my brain. I think also, just like our capacity for physical work can decrease with age, so can our capacity for intellectual work: I know I don't have the laser-focus ability I had as a grad student (and even then, when I had heavy reading to do, I'd go find a carrel at the library - essentially, sensory deprivation - no people around me, four blank walls, quiet, no proximity to food or other reading material or people I might want to talk to, so the only thing I COULD do was read or stare at the wall.)

Finally, there's emotionally tired. I find this one the hardest. This is the one where I refer to "running out of spoons" - for those unfamiliar, this is an extended metaphor. The person who originated this model of thinking was discussing chronic illness, and how sometimes you just don't have the stamina to do things people without your illness have, and she likened it to running out of spoons: when you're out, you have to stop and wash some, or wait till you have some more. And maybe she doesn't like introverts and the like copping her model to apply to our own stuff, but I admit I do. I run out of spoons at some point in the day (or week) for dealing with more stuff. Or, as one of my long-ago blogfriends put it, running out of cope.

Which is why some days someone coming up to me after class and combatively declaring I have misgraded them and I'm being unfair causes me to calmly say, "Let me look at your paper and I'll see if I did anything wrong; come to my office and we can go over it" and other days makes me have to stuff down a desire to run screaming from the room or burst into tears. (Up to now I have managed to control either of those impulses even as I have had them).

Or it's why some weeks I just need to go....somewhere....somewhere that is not-here, somewhere that is away from my little round of responsibilities at work, at church, and at home (and yes, some weeks, even getting the laundry taken care of feels like I should get one of those little gummed Denison star stickers for it). It's why I spend too much on books I don't have time to read and on craft supplies I likely will never use. Because those things are a promise - probably false - to myself that "some time you will have time to read this/knit this/embroider this/sew this into a dress." It's not a very effective coping mechanism because I am running out of storage space and also I feel bad about having so much of my money tied up in these things, but it's hard for me to come up with something else. I don't like going to movies that much (and going to movies alone stinks), I can't eat restaurant meals other than rarely (and in town we have few good restaurants), and it feels even MORE wasteful just to go for a drive and....not actually have a goal (like grocery shopping) in mind.

Emotional tiredness hits me when I've had to deal with too many people. Or too many upset people. Or some of the things that are specifically big emotional pitfalls for me - when I have a meeting I am dreading coming up, for example. Or when I have a dentist appointment in a week. Or when I just have really long days (like yesterday) when I have no time to myself (After finishing my annual report, I had piano lesson. Then I had CWF. And in isolation none of those things is bad or a problem, but all together they get tiring. Yesterday felt like it was about a week long). And when I have to do something that causes me to do a lot of deep self-examination where I find things I might not like, like in the annual report: where I look at what I did and find myself saying:

a. You didn't do enough. You could have done at least one more research project in the past year and you could have gotten another publication
b. Why can't you get perfect teaching evaluations? You have enough Force of Will for xyz, why can't you be a perfect teacher? (I use this same false logic on myself when I'm examining myself in the mirror and going, "If you're so smart why aren't you a size 6?")
c. You're not good at promoting yourself, your colleagues are tooting their own horns over far littler stuff but then that is coupled with "why are you talking about this Thing? That is not a Thing, that is something any sane person does and if you weren't doing Thing you wouldn't be employable" (there is a line in the annual report where we're supposed to talk about how we meet all our classes. Intellectually I know there are people - not in my department - who cancel a lot of Friday classes and justify it somehow and I never do, but to me it just seems so, I don't know, obvious? to say "Oh, I met all my classes last year except when I was required (forced) to be off campus for meetings (that I didn't want to go to but was made to go to)"

And it's all tied up with my inability to self-assess and I look at it and go Is it enough? and part of me goes, "No, it really isn't. You need to be more better now"

And I get that it's really all a game but I'm too literal-minded for games like this and it just makes me tired, and tired in a way that's really hard to recover from....emotional tiredness is the worst. And the kind I'm dealing with isn't even as bad as what some friends of mine have, where one person is dealing with a loved one in hospice, and another is having to drive their spouse for regular chemo treatments, and another person has a chronically-ill husband and insane in-laws who act like his illness is somehow her fault, when it is clearly not....

I dunno.

I hope my doki doki crate comes today; that would make things a LITTLE better. I'm already telling myself that if I meet a couple of work checkpoints today I can knock off a little early.

No comments: