For the last few months, I’ve been miserable. At the beginning of this school term, I was handed a shit schedule that involved losing much of my free time, sleep and sanity. And I really, really resented it.
At first, I tried to get the barest minimal change made to my schedule because I was afraid of not getting anything at all. Then I got it. Mistake number one.
Next, I battled with a couple of different solutions to try to get my body and my sleep in some sort of rhythm. I tried to embrace the fact that I was losing lots of my free time and instead thought, why not just work more? It didn’t work. I was just grinding myself down. But it wasn’t the fact that I tried, it was my attitude, my deep frustration which probably led to further exhaustion that killed me. Mistake number two.
So, I spent about half of the term, waking up angry. When my alarm went off at 4.40am, I’d curse the person who was responsible for my schedule. Maybe not in so many words, but I’d be pissed. It seemed to give me energy to get ready and then I’d pedal to work half-asleep, but mostly angry. Mistake, mistake, mistake.
I was also angry about having to stop work on my book, which during the break, I was getting excited about and working on. Now, yes, I did try to focus on it when I had free time, but turning on my computer and trying to make the most of an hour does not bring out the best in me. Sometimes, I’d have to choose between sleep and all those other things that life demands, you know?
Eventually, I gave up on writing. At least for the time being. I had to let go of the blog, too, and accept what was. It was causing too much of a strain to try to keep up with everything that I wanted to. And it further fueled my anger.
Everything started to snowball, if I can use this very bad analogy for my life in Cambodia. I started to lose sleep because I knew that I needed it. I was getting angrier on the road and surely making my bf feel like he was living with Dragon Lady #1. I felt like I was living this dual life of holding it together at work, for the sake of my students and then crashing, exploding and venting at home.
After a particularly bad night where I was crying my head off, I woke up realizing I needed to make a change. I questioned whether NOT adapting to this schedule was my petty way of proving I was right, that I couldn’t do it. After all, if I could make it work, then all my complaints were invalid, right? No, not really, but you get the idea.
There have been times when I’ve wanted to stop my #365grateful posts on Instagram because, well, it’s hard. I have to check in once a day and find something to be grateful for which can be quite a feat when you are exhausted. But now that I’m about halfway through the journey, I feel like I can reflect a little. And I’ve noticed it’s been beneficial for a few reasons.
When I was squeezing the most out of those free moments, it was often the only social media that I kept up with. You might argue, so what, who cares, maybe it would have been better to drop out of social media altogether. I’d say, nahhhh. It was good to be ‘forced’ to stay connected. I think it can be very tempting to hide away from the world when life is grueling. I know this is certainly my tendency.
In a small way, it allowed me to be creative and think about what WAS I grateful for? I started to realize that “thank god it’s the end of the day” wasn’t going to cut it after a couple of posts. I needed to make more of an effort, consistently and I think that’s part of the point.
Lastly, I think #365grateful has kept me tethered to a world that I very much enjoy: self-improvement and self-development. I used to be a negative person until I clawed my way out of it. And I obviously still have dark moments. But overall I think this blight will prove to do a number of things that will help me. It already has. Here’s how:
When it came to filling out our next term’s schedule request, I said, no more 6ams. One of the hardest parts about living in SE Asia is the noise. Street noise often does not die down until well after I have to hit the pillow. A coworker gave me sleeping pills and I’m contemplating taking one tonight. So, as a result of this challenging term, I reevaluated what I want and need. Time will tell if my request is honored.
Secondly, I brought back the practice of mindfulness and meditation. Like most good habits, this one got neglected and forgotten over time. But don’t congratulate me, I kind of had to start meditating, or my head was going to explode into a million pieces. I’m trying to be much more Zen during my bike rides through traffic, and take a step back when I feel that chatterbox in my mind take off. When I can’t sleep, I try to concentrate on my breathing and not stress out.
I’m on the homestretch, the term is almost ending and the finish line is on the horizon. The jumble of unfinished blog posts that I’ve attempted to write during this time can finally be archived. And even though, my days are still tiring, I’ve accepted that part of my life has been shelved for now. But I haven’t accepted that getting angry at the world, accepting less than what I want/need is okay.
These past few months have been hell, but I hope to avoid a repeat performance. I hope to remember how much a kind word means to someone, as those moments have stood out like bright shining lighthouses in the middle of a dark storm. I also hope to look back at this time and use it as a reflection to refocus my goals, intentions and energies.
How do you navigate through choppy waters? And what are you grateful for? Finally, Happy Thanksgiving! xxoo