I know I can do more, should do more, yet I do not. Cannot. Even the slightest odor of one more task or project or short-term dopamine chase makes me nauseous and tired — it sinks into my skin, adds its weight to my lungs. I’m not suffocating, that would require more effort than I care to invest.
I’m tired. Am I tired? Or is this just a passing virus? Is it the virus? No, can’t be that. Vaccination. Yes, I know that statistically speaking it’s somebody’s fate to be the one in twenty, but that would be too simple of an explanation. I’d love a simple solution for any of the overflowing items in my prefrontal cortex, but working memory is overwhelmed. And so, I instead thrash and cycle through the parts of the list I can remember.
Need to do my laundry, my kid’s laundry, the dishes, build that strategy presentation. Clean the stove, it’s filthy. Gotta find a QA contractor. Somebody sent me a Slack message asking for something pointless, how long can I ignore that? Crap, it’s “social hour” this afternoon. Gotta finish the yard work, mow the grass, touch up the paint, find a hobby, breathe. Breathe. Did we run out of milk? Oh, shit, did I brush my teeth last night? Why did I waste time on that pointless conversation?
Writing? Why am I writing instead of any of the dozens of things weighing me down?
Most of the time, life charges forward at a reasonably fast pace: I like to keep myself busy. Sometimes, however, exigent demands collide from multiple angles to push my brain-car to unsustainable speeds. One of two things always happens next: either enough responsibilities are resolved or fall away to slow things down, or the gears lock up.
My gears are locked. Too fast for too long, why did you do that? Now what?
“Make a to-do list!” the experts say. Looks great on paper, but doesn’t really deal with the root of it: the list is too damned long. Can you really afford the time off for that vacation? Can I make it to vacation? Is this what impostor syndrome feels like, or do my executive peers just do a better job managing their lives? They must have their own moments of frailty. Everyone tires.
Is the entire office feeling this moment? I see hints of broader fatigue…sure, we’re all stressed by the circumstances, but maybe there’s something else. Systemic. Systemic stress. We’re so focused on maximizing productivity, closing the deal, passing the baton to the next runner. I wonder to what end?
What was it my son’s elementary teacher said? “Show some grace.” I need to show some grace to those around me, and fewer judgments of myself. We were all thrown into a crucible, and for those of us who survived it, we’ve been changed by the process. It’s like all of society experiencing mid-life crises at the same time, but we’ve also got to keep the lights on. I definitely value time more than before, think about risk in different ways.
I don’t value the items on my to-do list. They offer no truth.
But hasn’t adulthood always been that way, filled with chores and busywork and social obligations that take more from us than we get in return? It’s going to be a fascinating organizational behavior experiment when we return to the office. We need to pay special attention to the softer side of work, or we’re going to tear each other apart like lab rats dosed up on cocaine.
I need to take a couple of days off, right now, and sort this out. Odds are pretty good that you do too.