Perpetually Unfinished
Tuesday, November 30, 2004
I'm not happy with myself.  I haven't been for a while, but I just let my life roll along through inertia, without lifting a finger to change anything.

There's always been this duality in the way I treat myself.  I get bitterly critical and angry at myself for my faults, of which there are many.  And then in reaction to how unfair I know I'm being to myself, I'll flip things around and let everything slide and rationalize letting myself do pretty much anything.  I jerk back and forth between those extremes.

Recently it's been especially bad-- really, it's just been especially stupid. Sometimes I'll be in a good groove, and then my self-criticism pushes me to accomplish what I want to, and my self-tolerance jumps in to make sure I relax and appreciate what a good job I'm doing, and everything's fine. But not right now. No, now I just get upset with myself and call myself pathetic and lazy and worthless; and then I think about how lousy that makes me feel and decide I need to baby myself so I can feel better before I get around to actually changing things. In other words, it's long stretches of lethargy punctuated by short and frequent bursts of self-loathing. I don't push myself to exercise.  I don't push myself to socialize.  I don't push myself to do much for Peace Project. I don't push myself to do dishes or laundry. I just sit around.

There was this one night a couple of weeks ago that seems to epitomize everything I'm talking about here. I had a rough draft of my Protest article finished, and for maybe the fifth time in as many days, I sat down to try to get it revised enough to submit for editing. On each of the other attempts, I'd accomplished next to nothing, and this time, I really needed to get it finished because there was a final big Protest editing meeting starting in a couple hours. Even before I started, I was feeliing both tired and guilty-- I'd already decided to skip actually attending the Protest meeting again, even though I knew that my help was needed. I also felt like a failure right off the bat, since I knew how many chances to finish the article at times before the last minute I'd squandered. So, unsurprisingly, I spent almost two hours going through a frenetic little cycle: try to write, think about how much is left to do, conclude that it won't get done, get overcome by feeling horrible about the situation, realize that the barrage of self-criticism distracts from getting any work done, take two deep breaths, return to step one. I swear, that went on for hours, until I finally gave up when it became chronologically impossible to get the article to the folks at the meeting. It was so pathetic; I had to keep reminding myself that I am a 22-year-old woman with a steady job who has in fact managed to accomplish a number of impressive things over the years, because you sure as hell wouldn't think I was capable of tying my own shoes that night.

It's really a great example of me at my worst. Self-loathing alternating with escapist laziness, and both of them making accomplishing anything near-impossible; using up my energy and time but accomplishing nothing, and feeling lousy both while "working" and after I give up.

I know that a big contributor to this ugly little phase-- not an excuse, though I often try to use it as one-- is how exhausted I've been feeling for quite a while now. For a long time I've thought it was anemia, but I finally went to the doctor last week to get it checked out, and he said that he can't find any physical causes, including anemia.  So there's a decent chance that my ongoing fatigue is largely a result of lack of exercise. A cycle, or maybe a downward spiral:  I get home from work tired and drained, respond by spending most of the evening on the couch, and dread even the exertion of walking to campus for SEJ meetings once a week, let alone an actual exercise plan.  That kind of life isn't healthy for me in general, and it may in fact be the reason for the fatigue that's dragging my whole life down. The tiredness really does make my life difficult, because it's hard to focus on writing something, or to convince myself to stand up for twenty minutes to do dishes, or God forbid to go out to a party at night and socialize with people. It feels like all I'm fit for is hours of lying around watching TV and aimlessly browsing the internet(usually at the same time). Hours and hours and hours of my life end up absolutely wasted, so much time that I could be spending on so many wonderful things, and it makes me feel so sad.

So I've got to do something about it. I'm hoping that writing this all out is a good start. To try to explore the problems honestly and commit myself to changing things, but in a fair way that doesn't involve the sort of self-berating that makes me want to whimper and wrap myself up in blankets and drink more hot cocoa and watch more Cheers. (In the spirit of fairness, I should admit that I have actually been very on top of financial stuff; I've been using Quicken to keep track of income and expenses and the balances in various accounts, exhaustively researching mutual funds, learning all about how credit reports and scores work and attempting to get an old unfair account taken off my record... yes, this is mostly done while procrastinating on other things, but I am more than capable of procrastinating in useless ways, so score one for Britt.)

An exercise plan is priority number one, both because my health is a pretty important thing and because hopefully it'll give me the energy I need to tackle other areas. It's a shame that it's getting to be winter and the weather outside is lousy, but I'll just have to borrow some exercise videos from the library or something, or walk in the cold and hope that exertion keeps me warm enough. I know I'm going to be constantly tempted to wimp out of this, but I used to have some damn willpower in me somewhere, and I've got to get back in touch with that. I'm going to do this.

Hopefully this will be a comprehensive New Britt, though. (Or the New Old Britt; I swear, I haven't always been like this! It's just a rut I've fallen into for a little while.) Instead of doing less than half of the dishes, I'll do more, since Alex has classes and homework to worry about, and I don't. I'll start going to parties when I hear about them, and I'll be more proactive about getting together with people instead of exchanging "we should do something sometime"s for months. (And I'll IM people when I see them online, instead of passing up potential conversations day after day after day.) I'll think about what I want to write about for the Protest in advance, and instead of daydreaming about the phrasing in the intro paragraph, I'll think through what research needs to get done ahead of time and then go ahead and do it. I'll actually show up at Protest meetings and do my share of the incredible amount of work that always needs to get done. I'll finally sign up for a steady volunteering position, like I've been meaning to for 9 months now. I'll try to cook new and interesting things, which sounds like so much fun to me in principle yet in reality always seems to get pushed aside by the easy choices.

Or maybe just a little of all that for now, and work my way up. I suppose it's kind of ambitious to look for it all overnight. But I know that I'm perfectly capable of all of that and more. I just need to stop letting myself be less than who I can be... who I should be... who I am.
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Thursday, November 04, 2004
I'm tired.

I feel like I've been tired, drained, for weeks, months, years. Maybe I have.

I've always had kind of fuzzy boundaries between physical tiredness and emotional exhaustion. A situation that can be almost entirely physical usually bleeds over into my emotional state, making me feel wrung out and unmotivated. I am pretty sure that I'm anemic, but even though I bought a whole bunch of high-dose iron pills, I remember to take them only very irregularly. And while I know that more exercise increases your energy, I rarely push myself to do anything more than the 5-minute walk to the el. So as a result, even when I get a good night's sleep, I'm often dragging during the day and exhausted by mid-evening. And there's certainly plenty of times when I'm dealing with actual sleep deprivation as well.

But that tiredness becomes an emotional issue, too, and it seems particularly bad this fall. I feel unmotivated. It's harder to push myself to do things that require effort, whether physical or mental. I put off chores and responsibilities night after night. I feel myself slipping into laziness and bad habits. I skip parties because by the time they really start hopping, I'd rather be in bed with my pajamas on, watching Cheers and All in the Family on TV. I end up spending the vast majority of my free time at home with Alex-- because I love spending time with him, but honestly, also because it's just the easiest thing to do. And my relationships with anyone and everyone else suffer.

I'm not sure what my point is, exactly. But it all blends together, until I can't tell what's sleep deprivation and what's stress and what's my iron-starved red blood cells and what's my aching heart. Yesterday I was up at 6am, on my feet in Wisconsin all day, back at 11pm, not asleep until after 3am. I took today off, slept until noon, and have spent most of the last twelve hours curled up in bed with my computer. I feel exhausted in every way possible. There's a meeting tomorrow night to plan a trip to the School of the Americas demonstration-- something I've really wanted to do for years-- and part of me feels like I just don't have the energy to pull off the meeting, let alone the whole weekend.

I just want to sleep for days and days and days...
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Nature attains perfection, but man never does. There is a perfect ant, a perfect bee, but man is perpetually unfinished. He is both an unfinished animal and an unfinished man. It is this incurable unfinishedness which sets man apart from other living things. For, in the attempt to finish himself, man becomes a creator. Moreover, the incurable unfinishedness keeps man perpetually immature, perpetually capable of learning and growing.
--Eric Hoffer

Malavika (and the rest of The Quitters)

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