The Great Brain Mush Conundrum

I hate being tired.

Not physically tired, but mentally tired. I hate being mentally blah.

I’m one of those people who likes to fill my schedule to the brim with fun things to do, projects to work on, and quality time with people I care about. I cannot stand being unproductive. I always need something to look forward to, something that makes all the other things compiled in my day worth it. I love being proactive about being social, or with my career goals, or at my passionate fandoms and hobbies. I’m the ring leader, group emailer, always looking ahead, still-have-a-planner-that-I-write-in-daily kind of gal.

But sometimes, I get exhausted in the brain variety.

Though I do have physical exhaustion from time to time, that type of tired I am totally okay with. Because to me sleep is pretty damn productive, so when I’m physically tired, I simply go to sleep and Voila! Physical exhaustion is remedied! Back to work I go!

But sometimes my brain gets pooped, and that is something I don’t know how to remedy.

Yep, after months of go-go-go, I occasionally run into a big mess of brain poop. Of angry poop. Of hamster-wheely pooped where I panic and feel like all the energy and effort I put into being busy all the time is for nothing, and that is matched by the great fear of “butbutbut what’s going to happen if I hop off the wheel for a second? WILL THE WHEEL CEASE TO BE? WILL IT ALL BE FOR NAUGHT? AM I A FAILURE AT LIFE?”

So, I keep it up: the planning, the working, the socializing, … only I do it tiredly, and poorly, and with a brain that is mush.

You know, that kind of tired.

I have this t-shirt that has a silly logo on it. It’s from my parent’s friend’s consulting firm and it’s of a hamster that has climbed on the top of his little hamster wheel, waving his little hamster hands in his little hamster victory. Whenever I wear it, I’ve become accustomed to saying in a tiny voice: “He made it on top of the wheel!” My parent’s friend’s found out about this and even sent me a matching hat. I am now a walking advertisement for The Schallert Group based in Longmont, Colorado. (Insert slogan here, John. )

But that’s not the point. The point is the hamster and the wheel. See, the hamster isn’t running in the wheel. The hamster is above the wheel. The hamster is better than the wheel. The hamster has conquered the wheel.

I want to be that hamster.

Today I am tired. Today I want nothing more than to hand my planner to someone else so I can still be on the wheel, just not manning it. And that makes me angry. Because deep down I love planning and manning and working. It’s who I am as a person; it’s how I function. I don’t know how to sit still and be lazy. I don’t enjoy relaxing and taking deep breaths and all that. It’s why I’m bad at yoga.

I’m not angry for the things that have made me tired, I am just angry that I am tired.

And that’s what I want to write about today.

Now I know what people want to say to me regarding this sleepy brain malfunction of mine. They’ll want to say things like, “Alison, calm down” and “Alison, it’s okay to take some things off your plate” and “Alison, quit putting so much pressure on yourself.”

And to all those comments I say (in reverse order): “It’s not about the pressure, really.” “What am I supposed to do with my plate then?” and “OKAY. I AM CALM NOW. EUREKA. YOU DID IT.”

The fact is, I like that I am wound up pretty tight. It took me years to accept it, but I’ve learned that this jittery, frenetic, busy-body energy isn’t just a source of stress and anxiety, but it is also what makes me fun and full of life. I’ve learned to harness this “ness” that I have, and to use my power for good. It’s why I make Disneyland Bingo Cards and why I sing in the shower. It’s why I’m pretty good at working in the industry. It’s why the word gumption exists. I like the word gumption.

But I’m not an idiot. I know being turned to an eleven all the time cannot be good for me in the long run. Eventually I’m going to get so tired that I don’t have the energy to find joy in what I do, and with no joy I will thus be miserable, and misery is the opposite of being happy, which is the overall goal so, like, what the fuck am I doing?

And there’s the conundrum. Being still makes me miserable, so I don’t do it. But too much movement will also lead to misery, so I can’t do that either. It’s a double-edged sword that I’m just spinning along with my wheel.

As the great Don Draper said, “What is happiness? It’s the moment before you need more happiness.”

Hence why I am terrified to hop off the wheel.

I have resorted to mind trickery, which is hard to do. The one flaw of tricking yourself is that you know about it.

Yet I try. I’ve been attempting to teach myself that calm can be exciting, that relaxation is worthwhile. I like books and playing cards and massages and binge watching TV shows. Because even then I feel like I’m accomplishing something in doing these “relaxing” things. I’ve learned something or I’ve expanded my mind in some way. Heck, I’ve even had a real world experience to add to my writing. Go me!

But does that count, really? Often times I find myself worried I’m not doing enough different relaxing things. Like I need to hike more. Or I need to know more about wine. Or I need to be able to do a hand stand in yoga. Did I mention I’m terrible at yoga?

I have also been trying to allow my friends and family to take the reigns on things, though I usually fail at that as well. It’s not that I don’t trust others to plan events or to even give me a call, I think I just worry that I’m missing out during the waiting process. Simply put, if I want to call my friend, I’m going to call my friend. I’m not going to dilly-dally to see if they call me, and somehow create a bizarre friendship game that didn’t exist before. So, yeah, that’s a work in progress as well. Giving up the reigns.

Besides that I don’t know what to do to solve this tired brain riddle. And it’s making me sad. And I wish I didn’t have to have a tired brain. I just wish my positive energy was enough. I wish sleeping remedied this like it does when my body is tired and my eyelids can’t stay open.

I know there has to be a new way of doing things.

Because that hamster is not in the wheel, he’s on top of it.

How do I get on top of mine?

– One L



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