Addicted To Exhaustion

The best thing I’ve read lately is a little book by Brené Brown called The Gifts of Imperfection. Brené Brown is a university researcher of shame and purveyor of self awareness when it comes to the seedy underside of our interior lives, primarily in the form of what makes us feel bad and holds us back in life.

In Brené’s view, wanting to be cool is in essence less about standing out, and more about keeping things in, therefore minimizing the risk of being vulnerable. Keeping things in means less of a chance to do or say something that would cause us to be picked on or made fun of, judged, ridiculed by people we know and people we don’t. It’s a safe choice, a socially-acceptable choice. Being cool means even perfect strangers can and will like us, accept us and therefore, it’s ok to me.

I’m cool. I’m safe from ridicule. I’m ok.

Or at least that’s what our trickster-like ego tells us.

So, what does wanting to be cool have to do with exhaustion? Well, think about it this way…what did you do today? One person may say,

“I woke up at dawn, clocked a 5 mile run before sun up before taking the kids to school, rushed to a power breakfast with the community board I chair, met with three clients, talked to another ten, raced to the capital for a meeting with the new Senator, met my best friend for Cosmos, got the kids shuttled from soccer practice to dinner with my husband and then worked until 11pm answering emails.”

Another may say…

“I did my 5am spin class then went to our start-up’s office all day, downed Diet Cokes and Red Bulls and didn’t come out til 9pm. Then I was up til 1am answering emails and catching up on work from the day before so I can prep for my fifth work trip across the country this month. Tired? No, I power through it. It’s pretty much my normal schedule.”

And yet another may say…

“I got up, got the kids to school and then took a nap. I leave room each day for what I need to do and time to create something new.”

So answer honestly, which is cool? Which one represents a status symbol of success? The super people with the power life or the mom who takes a nap? Chances are the napper would be ridiculed, picked apart for her lack of productivity and dreamer thinking. How selfish, how irresponsible, what a crappy mom! Nap? Do you know how many things there are I have to do every day?

We’re being told through nearly every facet of the media and by our own friends and family on social media that the super life requires every minute of time scheduled and devoted to a specific task that will bring about fame, riches, greatness and at the very least appearance of important busy-ness. Every minute is an opportunity to do, achieve and brainwash ourselves into thinking that we ARE cool. Look at everything I can do!

Just ignore the underside of our interior lives that is seeping, gushing through the cracks of the cool, busy facade, tearing about our physical health, mental health, emotional balance and relationships …

Exhaustion is both the end product of our quest to be cool and a key ingredient in the never ending cycle to keep up a contrived image of cool. The only problem is the image is fake. It’s false. And it’s killing us on the inside as well as the outside.

It’s exhausting being someone we’re really not. It’s exhausting maintaining a false image. It’s exhausting not taking time for me. It’s exhausting hearing people all around complaining about how much they have to do … and how exhausted they are from it. It’s exhausting only doing the things I think I have to do instead of time for rest, play and things my spirit wants to do.

Personally, I’m addicted to exhaustion because I actually have it wired in my brain that there is no other way.

Go, go, go…

Do, do, do…

And you are worthy of success…

of life…

of riches…

of being socially acceptable…

of being cool.

I learned it from an early age. Society just reinforced it. But ultimately, I’m the one who chose to remain an addict. And like a good number of addicts in recovery, I’ve finally had enough self awareness to identify that hello! this is a problem. Exhaustion is not a status symbol. Exhaustion sucks.

Buddha once said:

“The fool who knows he is the fool is that much wiser.”

He also said:

“Each morning we are born again. What we do today is what matters most.”

As an exhaustion addict in recovery, I’m going with what Buddha says. And that means creating something my spirit is begging me to create as well as taking time and care for (gasp!) me are key components to my recovery.

There is no neat formula for how to break this addiction. It’s messy, uncomfortable, some days better than others. In the ever-changing laboratory of my life, all I have is an opportunity to be aware and mindful about the seedy underside of my interior life, acknowledge yup it’s there! and surrender to becoming the best me each day. On a good day I gain energy, satisfaction and even joy. On other days, I simply do the best I can. With or without cool.

What about you? Are you addicted to exhaustion? Have you had your nap today?

Cat nap. Photo by Alycia de Mesa
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