Last week I was supposed to write some articles for Improvised Life and couldn’t do it. I am a few weeks post-op from a serious surgery. Healing at am unexpectedly glacial place is wearing away at my normally very high optimism, physical energy and focus. I’ve talked openly on Improvised Life before about “being myself in a wheelchair”. It is something I have learned to do well in the company of others, but am still struggling to master when alone.
Several attempts at “here I am sitting down to write” yielded nothing but unusable jumbled sentences that were not worth sending over to my editor. I considered sending out an SOS.
The stand-up comedian and actor Patton Oswalt talks about stage health: The idea that no matter how ill a performer is, while in front of their audience they give a seemingly normal performance, while basically wilting the moment they get off stage. I am not a performer. But put me in a social situation, like tattooing a client or a friend, and I am able to pull it together and be my smiley, joyful, expressive self. The same was true for a skype meeting with Sally about Improvised Life. The work we talked about my doing proved impossible in the days to come.
Frustrated with myself for being so unproductive, I began to ask some really dark questions: Am I faking it? Is my discomfort/lack of energy all in my head? I decided to trust myself and go with No it isn’t all in my head: I am recuperating; my energy is intermittent; I need more time to heal. But there ARE some things I can do to work with my current situation:
—work in the morning. Waiting until the night left me feeling both lonely and tired, whereas if I woke up early I could get a bit done when I had a good amount of energy and focus and could power through. On especially good days, I was able to do some creative work that gave me great joy. I painted in five or ten minute intervals, taking breaks often and stretching a couple hours work over the course of a day (at bottom).
—create small doable routines that relieve the feeling of out-of-control chaos and give the day some consistency. These include……upping my skin care regimen at night; it forced me to look into a mirror (something I had been avoiding due to subtle shame in seeing my sunken eyes and gained weight) while caring for myself ……reading a poem or two before bed from the same book……listening to the same album in the mornings and evenings…taking a timed nap at the same time every day…caring for small plants
—reward myself with social interaction: get this done, call a friend, get that done, send a friendly email. Reaching out made me available to the people who care about me, and occasionally talking a friend through a problem —no matter how small —gave me confidence.
—write a list of what was accomplished at the end of the day. And especially, BE KIND. There are days that getting a few dishes washed can really suck energy from me, so if I accomplish that I put it on the list. Looking at the list helps me not go to bed every night feeling the day wasted.
These are my solutions to an unexpected setback, which we all face at some point. Find what works for you.
9 replies on “What You Can Do When You Are Too Challenged To Do Anything”
Thanks for the encouragement. Though my struggle is nothing compared to yours, the crushing depression is hard to get around. I am taking steps to see what I can, Day 8 no sugar, grains/legumes, dairy, alcohol. I am eating healthy veggies, meat and fats. The detox is at times defeating, One day all I got done was one load of laundry! Thanks for reminding me that even our heroes have tough times.
Sending healing prayers, Namaste
Thank you for sharing your current and hopefully temporary struggle. I think the most important of your self care steps is BE KIND. We are often better at being encouraging to family & friends with health problems but giving that same attention to our selves is not so easy.
Poet Sam Hamill once told me,”you are always working Lisa. It does not mater what is on the page or painted you are always working”. I can spend the day in my head or walking down the streets of Asheville and empty handed I often think I have squandered another day. Then while driving down the highway a poem starts to speak and in that poem I find all the days that I thought I had wasted. I turn on my recorder and keep driving …I hear Sam say YOU ARE ALWAYS WORKING.
Hello Mira ,
i hear you (and hear you on those dishes !) . Though differently challenged i have similar experiences . and actually if i do not write down what still got done i ‘forget’ about it . So i look at what worked and sometimes indeed it is pinning down a few thoughts and ideas , sparks , sentences that brings some feeling of completion (as a writer, too ) .
I do feel however that while all have their challenges, and some are disabled , we often get disabled more than we actually are. In our surroundings, also with prejudices , with jobs and salary etc.
To compare what energy it takes one person who can do the same task at ease is just not helpful, because their challenge will be something else.
So improvisation is needed and that is something we are often quite good at accomplishing without realizing it (my experience).
Hope you feel better ,
and ps:yes. always working
Mira, for what it is worth I find you to be mind-blowingly essential…self aware in that gritty, no bullshit, heart pumping, intuitive, creative, kind, really kind. Your inspire me. Regardless, I always feel less alone…more okay and more alive when you post. What a team…you and Sally. Thank you. Namaste. Wow! XO
The list thing: I put everything, even wash my hair, on the list. Then I find the easiest item on the list to accomplish, and then I cross off that, and think “what is the next easiest thing?” and then do that….Then I look and marvel that I got two real things done. Wow, Congratulations. Energy to get to the next one happens, and so forth.
Thank you for your post. Thank you for reminding me that *everyone* has difficult times and that we learn how to push through. What’s the quote? When you are going through hell, keep going to the other side. Something like that.
great suggestions and great, needed, topic for all–disabled or not-
This is a beautiful article. Thank you for writing it. I hope your healing accelerates and you feel better soon. I love reading your work and I’m sending you many good wishes.