[as yet untitled]
A blog type thing
Hypothetical time: You’re planning a long and arduous journey. You’re packed, ready to go, you’ve mentally steeled yourself for the road ahead. You’re dead set on reaching the end. Climbing the mountain. Fording the river. Even maybe just sitting in traffic for hours on end if you’re familiar with the mental grind that is Los Angeles driving (all the psychological taxation of a physical workout with none of the exercise!). However, you notice that, say, your car is falling apart. Or your climbing picks are dull. Or your hiking boots are worn well past the point of being able to grip a damn thing. Or you forgot to pack food and water. “Doesn’t matter,” you say to yourself. “It’s gotta get done. People are counting on me.” And so begins what, in the movies, might be an inspiring tale of overcoming impossible odds and doing it anyway. You know, a fiction that glorifies a mentality and accompanying set of actions, namely grievous self-inflicted bodily abuse that we mistake for grit that in real life are, to put it in clinical terms, really goddamn stupid. Because the person slogging through a five-minute montage of staged badassery is an actor with a craft services table five minutes from their shooting location, access to a team of people ensuring their safety, a stunt double if things get too dangerous, and the ability to take five whenever they need to (assuming humane on set working conditions of course). In reality, so begins a tale in which you are, in nearly 100% of cases, f***ed.
Sure, my scenario refers to external equipment, but if we subscribe to the belief that you’re just a squishy computer operating a very breakable meat suit (which I do), then there’s, in my opinion, an ironclad case to be made that your single most important piece of equipment is your body. And if it’s not cooperating, no amount of determination, even that bordering on the obsessive and edging into the territory of mental abuse is going to drive it to do so. Case in point: I often work six-day weeks. I’m actually fine with that if I take of myself. I find building a business exciting and interesting. When I take care of myself. However, I was coming off a wrapping up a spate of projects I was already beating myself up for running behind on due to a rapid fire-sequence of personal circumstances and technical difficulties that were beyond my control. I could neither have predicted nor avoided these things. After I finished the last in a set I had to complete that week, my body decided it needed rest. It did not submit an application for time off to my brain. It just clocked out and said “nope.” Bodies do that. They often find themselves at odds with the brain, because ultimately, no matter how much intention and how many demands for action your brain is generating, or how furiously it is generating them, your body is the thing doing the work. If it decides it can’t, your brain is helpless to stop it, and any dick move you can think to pull to undermine your body’s demands for recovery is just going to make it demand them harder.
Which is exactly what happened. I decided that, right after finishing a project, I immediately had to get a bunch of other stuff done. My body wasn’t having it. It needed sleep. So I granted it. Begrudgingly. In sporadic pittances. On the condition that the tasks at hand would be slain with prejudice upon waking. And each time one of said pittances expired, I awoke still too tired to do anything. Because when has a 20 minute nap in the face of a mighty need for a full day of rest ever worked? For me at least, never. And no amount of coffee would compensate. The end result was that I spent all day fighting with my body and maybe getting half of one thing I wanted to get done done, if that. And then I spent the next day every bit as tired and unproductive until I finally relented. So instead of losing one day recovering, I lost two. Sure, the brain is in charge. But the body owns the means of production. And if it isn’t respected, it’s not inclined to share.
So if it’s saying “I’m burned out?” Listen. And fix it. Because it doesn’t care how badly we want to be a montage-slaying badass. We aren’t. We’re people. With bodies. That need to be maintained. Ignore their demands at your peril. And when they come to collect on your sleep debt, don’t say they didn’t warn you. And remember: whatever you think you’re going to lose by listening to your body, you’re going to lose multiple times over if you ignore it.