The last few days haven’t been the greatest. I thought that maybe I was burned out from our long weekend of family togetherness, but Tuesday, the first day that I got to be alone, was a good day. The following days, not so much.
Let me define what I mean by a “good” day. Tuesday, I was very productive. I lined up a good list of tasks and knocked them down. I was on top of things, and I felt good. I felt productive. I cooked dinner, and had a good night. It was a good day.
Wednesday, however, was not a good day. Wednesday I had a lot of trouble getting things done. Now here’s the curious thing: I didn’t let anything slip that couldn’t slip. I didn’t shirk any work that had to be done that day. But I didn’t go beyond that, like I had the day before, and there were a number of things that I put on my plate to work on that day that I ended up kicking to the curb. And then Thursday was more of the same.
Friday, I pulled myself out of the nosedive. I lowered my expectations of what I could get done that day, but then I got things done. I showered. It sounds awful to mention it, but I’m the kind of person who can go for days without showering. I set reminders in my task manager to make sure that I shower every other day at least. I was supposed to shower on Wednesday, but I didn’t. I let that slip. Friday morning, I showered and I felt better.
I folded the laundry. Folding and putting away the laundry is the most time-intensive daily chore I face, and it’s also the most boring, and Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday, I skipped it. Friday, I folded and put away three days worth of laundry. It felt so good to get out from underneath the weight of that unclosed loop.
So even though I was feeling better on Friday, I noticed that things were not all well. I’ve been short and frustrated with my family the past few days. It’s still light-years better than it used to be; I don’t bark or yell at the boys anymore. I talk in measured tones, and use polite words, but the feeling of frustration is still there. And this bothers me because I thought that getting some time alone after the long weekend would help, and it was nice, but it also ended up becoming this vacuum that I fell into.
I’m playing a lot of Borderlands 3. This happens when I’m feeling disconnected, worn out. I call it sinking into the dream, and I love games that can engulf me, give me things to think about even when I’m not playing them. The real world is bothering me, and I can escape into a virtual world and disappear for a while. But then I get frustrated when the real world asserts itself, and I have to leave the dream for a while.
So it bothers me that this is happening now. This year has been going really well. While I finished out my working year in 2019 wrestling with a large project, that’s been completed and 2020 has been very nice, in terms of work. So, no stress there. I’ve been exercising more, thanks to the Apple Watch. I have, using the metrics laid out above, been having good days for most of this month. So, where does the burn out come from?
I’m afraid the answer is simply life itself. The virtual world is comforting because I know the rules and can navigate it easily, even if it is a little opaque. But the real world, even when things are going well, is full of snags and bumps, cuts and scrapes, and no matter how minor they seem at the time, they eventually add up. Maybe I need to factor in some routine downtime for myself, a once a month point where I can just let everything go, and disappear for a while. Part of my journey has been to learn to recognize burnout as it’s coming on. Now I need to learn how to alleviate it.