Up all night

It’s difficult to get things done after work as an adult.

And I want to do so much. I need to do so much. This isn’t me being overly ambitious. I need to do so much if I want to be able to change the material conditions of my life and those of those around me.

Capitalism is a bloodthirsty vampire. It wants all of me. It sucks. The society we live in is trying to extract as much out of me as a worker and consumer as it can, and in that extraction there is so little room to breathe. It doesn’t have to be this way. But at the moment the self perpetuating system that benefits few at the cost of many wants to keep it that way.

There’s so much I want to learn how to do and so much I want to just experience. But there’s so little time to take care of myself and Jenn outside of work. Let alone rest.

In this current battle and hunt for time I’m reminded of my anxieties as they relate to time, time management and rest, or lack there of, when I was in college.

When I was at Carnegie Mellon University I would stay up all night all too often. I don’t know why that was. Naturally, I wasn’t awake all night, rather I resisted going to bed, going back to my apartment. I spent many of my nights at the University Library or the campus radio station. Its definitely a bad habit I developed around other Carnegie Mellon students, with their sleep deprivation competition. I would stay up until I ebbed in and out of waking. Cloudy half finished sentences on a screen. Cryptic calculations on homework. It was a bad habit.

It was a habit that had me exhausted during the day and essentially drunk off of sleep deprivation. The internet played a big role in this as it would be “open for business” all night. Yet, even that space got quiet and I was left with my own thoughts. It got really lonely.

Part of my fears was that if I genuinely went to sleep, I didn’t know if I could wake up when I needed to. I doubted I could make my morning commitments. In truth I knew that my body and mind were so tired that if I did go to bed properly I wouldn’t wake up in time. I had a track record of it. And that grounded my anxieties. So I found myself “resting” along that razor’s edge of drowsy wakefulness.

Throughout this period there were only 2 moments that I was concerned with: tomorrow, after tomorrow.

I could understand tomorrow. I could understand it’s scope. Short term frantic action planning for the next day. I was young and I could manage it. For the most part. Clearly I was running on empty but I could pull from some strange reserves to keep moving and keep most things in the air. Until I couldn’t. Unfortunately working this way meant that it was always a serious of scurried today’s planning for tomorrow’s that snuck up on me.

I didn’t know how to think past tomorrow: After tomorrow caused me a lot of anxiety. I had no control of it. I couldn’t manage the scope of the work that needed to be done to make things ready for after tomorrow. I couldn’t calculate how much inconvenience it would be to have 2 deadlines and and event to attend on the same day when it was happening after tomorrow. Friends suggested I use google calendar, or keep a daily planner. I tried both but it never worked. I could stick to a single system they documented the future and commitments. Because of these continued failures I kept on focusing on tomorrow and just letting the future become tomorrow and deal with it as it came. Clearly there are things that can’t be overcome with a single days notice: projects, exams, family plans, applying to jobs, etc. I couldn’t overcome these things and I wound up burnt, burnt out once the youthful energy evaporated.

I wonder about the damage that I caused my body during this time. Did I do brain damage moving through the world in that sleep deprived delirium?What’s done is done.

I have a hard time having clear memories of this time. Stitching the timeline of the years 2008-2013 is difficult. Granted, it seems that my memory is not generally nearly as clear or vivid as that of others. Especially those of childhood. It is what it is.

It’s 2019 and things have gotten better. A lot better. In the next post I’ll write about the things that happened between 2013-2019 that brought me back into alignment. Until then though, I want to leave you with a deeply comforting poem by the late Mary Oliver, Wild Geese. This beloved poem touches on several of the ideas that helped me heal psychologically, physically and spiritually. I’ll dig into them next time. Until then, I hope you enjoy it and find some light in it.

Wild Geese 

You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
For a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting —
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.

-Mary Oliver

With love,

Juan

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