Sunday, 13 July 2014

That dangerous moment when everything's going well

Life is great.

Yay! Things are great! Don't screw it up
No, really, right now things are going exceptionally well.  I've got a meaningful job with enough hours a week to earn a living, but not so many that I don't have any energy or mental resources for a life outside it.  I'm writing and arting and have a tiny but slowly growing bit of community involvement going on.  I'm fat and I spend too much time online, but I'm active and I have some worthwhile physical-world stuff going on too.

This is a critical point.  It's here, if I'm not careful, that it all turns to shit.

When things are going as well as they are now, it's very tempting to take on a bit more.  Maybe find a bit of weekend work to supplement my income, or make a genuine effort to pick up some freelancing on the side.  Move out of the house I'm sharing with family into my own place.  Launch a substantial creative project, get involved in a club or a community group, sign up for a class.

But the reason I'm doing so well right now is that there's about as much on my plate as I can handle.  Adding a bit more - an extra job, an extra commitment, maintaining a whole place by myself rather than just my bit of a shared load - means scraping a bit of something else off, or the whole plate will overbalance, fall down the front of my white shirt and land in an inedible mess on the carpet.  That's what happened when I left full-time work a year and a bit ago.  I was producing good enough work and being productive and all the rest of it, but the job plus living alone and being a long way from my family plus the various other stuff I had on didn't leave any energy for anything else, and I was getting more and more burnt out until I reached a point where I couldn't do it any more.

Just because someone's coping really well with n days a week of work or school or other things doesn't mean they'll be able to handle n+1.  Maybe the whole reason they're coping so well is because n is their sweet spot for getting stuff done without burning out.

The other risk is that you're doing so well you forget about the importance of your support structures and coping mechanisms.  So you get lazy about your diet or your health care or your relationships or you physical activity (which I do actually do, for all that I talk smack about how much I hate sport) when those are the very things that are making it possible for you to do as well as you're doing.  Those start to crumble, and the whole lot comes crashing down.  Yes, going for a walk sucks when for nine months of the year it's so hot the water out of the hose will scald you, and the other three it's perfect weather to lie in the sun with a good book.  Yes, it sucks to be making a constant effort to eat enough vegetables when you live with people who do just fine on a diet of soft drink and heat-and-eat spring rolls.

But life's a series of trade-offs and negotiations.  There's no weakness in knowing your limits, or having to make extra effort at things other people don't have to, in order to deal with issues other people don't have.  The balancing act often wobbles.  Life changes, and this sweet spot won't last forever.  But with a bit of maintenance, I can enjoy it while it lasts.