There was a point in my climb up the career ladder that I started talking about “the email problem.” At the time, most of my job was spent “in the field” — opening restaurants, traveling from store to store, hiring, training and meeting with employees. As my shifts were mostly on the floor, observing restaurant operations, the email problem grew and grew and I would spend all of my “downtime” trying to catch up. I never sat in front of a TV or ate a meal without my laptop, I stopped reading books. Eventually, I was in an office full-time and I still could not get on top of the computer work, even being at a desk all day. This was before I had a blog and blog comments to answer or Facebook messenger or WhatsApp. This was before I knew that Facebook groups existed, before I had cultivated friendships with 100% online communication. And this was before I got sick and wanted to ingest every bit of information that might help me. I have saved, bookmarked and sent hundreds of articles, educational videos and podcasts to myself, in different places, on different devices. I have 50K+ emails that I want to deal with, but I’ve compartmentalized them into some dark room in my mind so I can function. It’s now an “information problem” or a “communication problem.” It’s unmanageable. But I do it to myself.
I’ve always had a methodical way about how I tackle life. I like to do things in order, finish them and file them away. When I haven’t dealt with something, it becomes a small weight in my mind and, though I may look as if it’s not bothering me, it is. They are. They’re heavy. My husband is the complete opposite. He can’t understand why the ripening tomatillos and our over-burdened plum tree stress me out. He has no problem with piles of disorganised paperwork and chaotic junk drawers all over the house. If he doesn’t answer emails, it doesn’t weigh on him. Come to think of it, that’s another thing that drops little lead pellets in my brain: messages that I’ve sent that don’t get replies. They don’t weigh as much as emails I haven’t answered, but they still take up room at the back of my mind. I like discourse: unfinished conversations nag at me, even if those “conversations” are links I send my husband in a PM. A month later, I’ll say, “Did you see that video? You never mentioned it.” God, my skull is full of thousands of ball bearings. No wonder my neck always hurts.
I often wonder how I would handle this illness if I were more like my husband. He is a content person. That sentence sums up our greatest difference. He is content with our home, with his routine, with his simple diet. He is content with his body, with his habits (good and bad), with his legacy, or lack thereof. The truth is, the only things my husband wants to change are things that I tell him need to be changed for my happiness. I have never been content with anything, ever, never. My need to experience… it’s like a rabid, ravenous hunger. New places, new people, new information. It’s like a constant electric current that makes contentment the least accessible state of being imaginable. When I’m at home, I want to be on the road or on a plane. When I’m traveling, I long for my garden haven. I ruminate on the past and worry about the impact I will have made on the world when I’m gone. I’m critical of my body and chastise myself for my bad habits. I want to watch every movie and TV show, I worry about all of the wonderful music I am missing, I collect hundreds of books that I never read. I WANT ALL THE FOOD.
More and more, I realise that this fundamental trait is the reason I don’t sleep. Every night, I put it off to do/read/watch one more thing. Every morning, I can’t wait to get up and tackle things, even if that “tackling” is lying on my back in a dark room, looking at my phone. It doesn’t matter if I wake at 6am or 11am, as soon as I am conscious, my brain is like a bullet train. A bullet train that can repeatedly dichotomize and travel down dozens of branching tracks with the same enthusiasm… but they all fall off the a cliff after a very short journey. Because that’s the real problem. This year, my worst symptoms by far are from the shoulders up. There’s still a lot going on in my body as a whole, but the truly limiting factor is my brain. I don’t have enough hours of neurological clarity to manage 1/10th… no, 1/50th, maybe less… of what I want to and what I used to. That is now my true disability.
Recently, I’ve had a few people ask how I am because I haven’t written much lately. The short answer is I’m okay. There’s so much I want to write about, I simply stopped writing. Mostly because I know if I hit that cognitive wall while writing, I won’t be able to manage anything else, like preparing food. Also, when I gained some ground, it quickly got filled with doing more chores for myself to alleviate my husband and tackling my to-do list. I read all messages and emails (for the most part), even if I am remiss in replying. I promise you, all contact touches me deeply and adds fuel to my tank. It is never not appreciated on a very conscious level. So, bear with me and, if you can tune into your psychic abilities, you’ll hear me sending my love to each of you and we’ll never feel out of touch.
I love hearing your updates, but I’ve always guessed no news is better news in your case. 💚 For me, when I’m not online, im actually holding it together enough to be doing something other than being stuck at home sick. I’m with you… We share similar personalities. A life of discontent. Not unhappiness, just a constant concern that what I do/am doing is never enough in any area of my life.
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It’s nice to see a blog post from you today 🙂 Even though I knew you were fine from Facebook so wasn’t worried I always love seeing an email notification that you’ve blogged and I look forward to having a proper catch-up of how you’re doing.
Funnily enough I’ve spent the entire weekend catching up on paperwork – 6 months worth that I was drowning under the weight of! I have 150 emails in my inbox waiting for me to do something with which is stressing me out no end – but 50,000 (are you INSANE?!) would have me in a coma 😉 I can’t imagine the constant pressure of living with an inbox that full.
You’re a hard working girl with a passion for life – that doesn’t go away when you get sick and it’s soooo hard to rein in that level of drive. You know you’d feel better though if you achieved some kind of balance, no-one has to tell you that. Maybe your goal shouldn’t be wading through 50,000 emails. Maybe your goal should be the massive challenge of NOT wading through 50,000 emails and hitting the delete button instead! I’m just putting it out there that email no 49,999 which is 3 years old probably doesn’t need a reply now in any event 😉 And bookmark no.799 probably now points to a defunct page.
Instead of lying in bed at night worrying about all the emails you haven’t answered and all the web pages you haven’t browsed, imagine lying in bed at night looking forward to playing with your fur babies for 20 minutes tomorrow in the garden. Or imagine driving the car for 20 minutes with the mental energy you have free from not spending 4 hours on t’internet wading through irrelevant shite. That’s a day worth having and those are the things you’ve missed doing all this time you’ve been sick xxx
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^ That. 😉
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I totally agree with all of the above!
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Hey! Are you in Seattle? Will you be at the MillionsMissing protest? I have friends going.