2016 sneaked up on me when I was unwell, around the time when I was re-callibrating my lifestyle in response to what I call ‘reduced functional hours’. In the last couple of months, I became tired easily, easily worn out due to chronic fatigue. This meant that for the past couple of months, I had neither energy nor inclination to reflect on 2015 or to think about 2016. And before I know it, the Lunar New Year celebrations have arrived, which gave me a spot of time to reflect and ponder.
As I look back on this new year, I realised that been in poorer health has taught me an important lesson on letting go. And the very first thing I needed to let go was my past. I had to accept that no matter how high-functioning I used to be, that was a matter of the past. I could no longer juggle as many projects as I used to, I could not work as long hours as I used to, I could no longer participate in as many volunteer projects as I used to or would like to. Not because my brain was any less keen than it used to, or maybe it was… I simply did not have the physical energy to keep up, and I did feel the strain of trying to keep up. That was a bitter pill to swallow. But once I recognised that and stopped measuring my present using the scales of my past, I honestly felt much better, even though there remained times where I continued to be assuaged by the guilt of not doing more.
The next thing I had to give up was my expectations about my relationships. I had in the past taken it upon myself to keep in touch, to make an effort to check in on friends, to initiate meet-ups and organise get-togethers; because I valued and appreciated the relationships made over the years, and I somehow always mustered more than sufficient energy to see through the desire to maintain this complicated network of relationships. However, as I looked to simplify my life for more rest, I guessed I became more honest with myself regarding the futility of my efforts at friendship. There were friends who only called when they needed a favour, those who would always be making excuses to cancel meet-ups, or even forget that they had arranged to meet-up, friends who responded to my text messages days or even months later… And when I stopped taking the initiative, the radio silence from some of these folks was deafening. I guessed I might have ‘automatically’ pruned half my social circle as a result. I still cannot decide to laugh or cry over this, but I am thankful to be willing and able to see the true state of my relationship with others.
Because my mental model has changed, my routines also had to change to keep up. I used to sleep at 3 am and still wake up at 6 am to go to work; but I now go to bed at 10 pm. I no longer do hangouts till late or meet three to four different sets of folks on a Saturday. I no longer run from meetings to meetings because I can no longer do so without feeling tired. In short, whether I wanted to or not, I had slowed down, to a very different lifestyle. Initially, I felt displaced and lousy. I felt like I had ‘lost it’, that I have become such a ‘loser’ compared to many of my friends who were overachievers. Then I paused and asked myself, what’s wrong with slowing down? Why did I have to attach such negative connotations to this change? Actually, why did I feel compelled to keep up, and with who? It was a lot of prep talk to self and support from close friends to get over this initially emotional phase of self-doubt.
As I slowly get used to this lifestyle, I am beginning to appreciate a slower pace in life. Among other things, such as preserving my sanity and allowing me to be more people-oriented, I am beginning to appreciate the fullness of each instance in my life, when I am not hurrying towards ‘the next thing’. As I create long stretches of time for me to just be me and be with myself, to rest so that I can ‘perform’ when I need to, I also begin to appreciate rest and my new routines.
The pace of my life is much slower now, and life is certainly a lot less exciting and much quieter. And I am surprised to find that once I overcame my anxiety, I actually like it this way. 🙂
P.S. Lower energy levels also meant I would be blogging even lesser than I used to, but I don’t think I am ready to shut down this blog as yet.