So from the 17475957274 things to do at work, Trump’s inauguration and the departure of the Obamas (goodbye to the last shred of class, grace, and decency in the White House!), to insufficient rest because of new working hours (those researchers are not kidding when they say interrupting ones circadian rhythm causing them to display the effects of being mentally and physically tortured – more on that in a bit), I think it’s safe to say that the past week has been a little rough.
At work, we’re getting started on all our 2017 sales campaigns and launches now and February and March are when EVERYTHING seems to be happening all at once – school collaborations, our very own style awards, trend campaigns, brand campaigns, birthday anniversary campaign … And on top of that I have a writing residency and writing festival to prepare for. I don’t even know where to BEGIN. Last Thursday, I found myself just slumping back in my seat in shock and resignation and waiting for an answer to hit me on the head.
The end of the week could not come soon enough. Except it did, and it knocked me over in one punch: I fainted on the train home.
I just closed my eyes for a minute there on the commute home and the next thing I knew I had blacked out and was sprawled on the floor, dazed and confused. When I opened my eyes everyone was in my face. This lady helped me up and someone else picked up my stuff, while and guy kept asking if I was okay. I leaned against the train door for a while to shake off the vertigo and we soon reached my stop. The lady kept holding on to me and followed me out of the train. She asked me if I could get back home on my own and I said I’ll take a cab. But I took a bus home and promptly crashed into bed. My body was breaking out in cold sweat when I woke up 15 minutes later (set my alarm clock for that so I wouldn’t oversleep).
This is completely unprecedented – I had never fainted before and it’s a scary feeling to not be in control of your physical and mental faculties. I’m the kind who whizzes around everywhere and works out without fail. You wouldn’t think I’d ever FAINT out of exhaustion or whatever the reason was.
Besides, it’s only JANUARY! Who gets burned out in January?! I haven’t even really gotten started for this year yet.
But I guess our bodies don’t demarcate time into years and think, Oh okay 2016 is over so I’m starting anew in 2017, like our brains do. The stress you pile onto it accumulates over time and your body doesn’t have a yearly quota or automatic Refresh button that it hits on 1 Jan.
It was probably the amalgamation of everything that had been going on in the past week. And that glass of wine I had on an empty stomach while meeting a content partner to talk business probably didn’t help matters much.
But I finally managed to grab 7.5 hours of sleep that night (wasted the whole of last night not writing though) and woke up feeling slightly better rested. But it kind of made me wonder if I’m really, like what everyone around me keeps saying, pushing myself too hard. Maybe I don’t realise it (because it’s my norm, the routine and structure that I’m used to) but everyone else sees it more clearly?
A friend of mine told me that my days are so structured and I’m so disciplined that I don’t allow any excuses for myself. For some reason, I started tearing up.
Why do I keep hanging on so tightly to this kind of routine? Why don’t I dare to step outside and explore things beyond my comfort zone? Maybe I’m more of a perfectionist than I thought, and the fear of slipping up, of being judged, of being seen as incompetent?
Still, though, this incident has put the fear in me. Not the useless kind of fear I usually carry around that hinders how I do (or NOT do) things, but the kind that makes me sit up and pay attention.
Another friend of mine advised, “You may want the world to be a certain way. You may want your life to be a certain way. You may want the people around you to be a certain way. And you are, of course, responsible for working hard to bring all that into reality.
“But there is one primary responsibility that comes before all that. And that is to take good care of ourselves first. Because we have only one piece of sophisticated equipment we need to get the work done – and that is our physical body (and the brain that comes along with it).
“If this critical machinery breaks down, there go all our chances of creating the reality that we want.”
He – and Eat, Pray, Love author Elizabeth Gilbert – also said that self-love and forgiveness are two things that writers badly need but often don’t give themselves enough of.
“That fainting spell was your body telling you to take a hint,” said my friend.”Also, when you find yourself becoming accident-prone … hint, hint. It takes a measure of wisdom to recognise these limits and learn to respect them, before your very self starts to break down.
“It’s possible that your blood sugar may have dropped below a certain threshold, triggering the fainting spell. Digesting wine on an empty stomach burns too many calories and your body probably went into deficit. If you keep it up, the catabolic process will break down the healthy tissues in your body and burn those for energy.”
Which basically means I need to start treating my body right and stop thinking it’s invincible (sure feels like it when I’m working out, though).
So here’s me trying to block out the white noise of everyday life and paying attention instead to what my body is trying to tell me. The accidents – little or big, sustaining at least one injury every other day – the bone-weariness, the fainting … Maybe while being masters of our own body we also need to serve it well.
I might have been doggedly pursuing that one major writing goal, to the extent that I’ve been leading a blinkered one-track life, for too long. And in the meantime, life happened; the day job continued to take its toll. Add alcohol to the mix and you’re probably not surprised things turned out the way they did.
I’ll listen more carefully from now on. And may YOU continue to be kind to yourself as you chase your dreams. You are all you have.
Have a good week ahead! :0)