Protect Your Energy

A friend of mine posted this birthday wish over the weekend:

“Birthday Reflection: I hope you celebrate my birthday with me today and for the next 364 days by committing to this: PROTECT your energy. Your energy is your life, where your creativity lives, how you love, and what makes [you] uniquely unrepeatable. Protect your energy from people and things that attempt to siphon it from you. Protect your energy so that your work, whatever it is, can be done. Say no, say hell no, close that door, move to a different house, quit that job, dump that fool, put those hands up and PROTECT your energy. My hope is that we all protect our energy so that our dreams have a chance to come true.”

I needed to see this post at the end of this week. I put so much of my energy into things that I am completely tapped out and having nothing to give to myself. I put too much focus on people and situations that suck out the last bits of energy in my reserves, people and situations that really shouldn’t get as much time as I give them.

Before I started taking Welbutrin, I would find myself anxious and fixated on these people and the situations, going around and around with whatever conflict they presented in my life until I was completely empty. If a conflict presented itself, I would fester and get so worked up about it and a need for a resolution even though that resolution was something I had no control over. The medication has helped with allowing me to not spend too much time focusing on things I cannot control. I have found that a problem might present itself to me and I focus on it for a bit, then I move on.

This week reminded me of the me before I started taking medication to help with my anxiety. This week it was more difficult that normal to give a conflict enough time to sort out my feelings and then move on. I was carrying around anger and frustration for several days this week over something that did not deserve that much of my time and energy. When my friend’s post came up on my feed, I felt like she was speaking directly to me. I hope it speaks to some of you as well. The last sentence especially.

My energy is better spent on things that bring me happiness and working towards my dreams. I have to find ways to protect myself from those out there that drain me and take me away from what I want my life to be, or bring out the version of me I don’t want to be. I have to find ways to protect myself from situations where my time is not well spent burning off energy that I need for myself and what I want from this life.

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Met My Limit

Sleeping has been tough lately.  My mind races with all kinds of thoughts, mostly wondering about how our appointments will go on the 20th and the post-IVF consult with my RE on Jan 2nd. I wish that we could get our pathology results back before Christmas, but my RE is going out of town and the 2nd was the first appointment we could get to see her. The practice is huge, so I’m sure that another doctor could meet with us but I want to see what she has to say. While we have decided to take a break for a few months from treatment, I feel like knowing something from this loss will help me to process all of this over winter break and move forward in the new year. My mind bounces back and forth between all of these thoughts and the hours waste away. Soon, 4:40 AM has arrived and I feel like I’ve gotten 20 minutes of sleep.

I’m a high school teacher. I have about 160 students this year with class sizes at the highest I’ve ever seen in my 11 year career.  Working while going through treatment has been extremely difficult.  To compound this, I am also at a new school this year. This was to simplify things, but in a lot of ways it has made life possibly more stressful than they were last year. I’ve also found myself making constant comparisons to my old school. I taught there for 10 years and if you’ve done the math, that was pretty much my entire career. Things weren’t always easy, but it was a well ran school. Where I am now, there are a lot of policies stated, implemented, and changed again sometimes within a matter of days. I’ve felt incompetent. I’ve felt like I am not being considered as a professional. I’ve felt like support staff find ways to make their lives easier and pass what they don’t want to deal with on to the faculty.  It has been a rough year professionally. Combine that with our personal struggles with fertility and I’ve met my limit.

Getting ready this morning, I could feel myself getting overwhelmed. We haven’t set our budget for the month. For teachers, January is the longest month.  We get paid at the end of November and then three weeks later prior to the break. The next pay check doesn’t come until the end of January. Being off for the break, buying gifts, seeing friends, traveling to see family-it all adds up and you can find yourself in a pickle come mid-January.  So, this morning I have fixated on the budget.  I have also been composing a response to a parent. I’ve been sifting through all the papers yet to be graded. I’ve been going over where my three preps are and where we need to be by the end of each period that day.  My heart rate is elevated and I feel a shortening of breath.

I tell my husband that I’m overwhelmed. He knows and understands. He is as well.  He’s also a teacher. He’s also facing all of what I am professionally, but with no planning period. He’s also felt the devastation of our loss.  As we get closer and closer to school, our car feels like a confined space filled with stale air. Deep breath. I tell myself to focus on one period at a time until the day is over.

My planning period arrives and I go in search of a form I need for a fund-raiser. I see three different offices and three different answers to where this form can be found. I arrive finally to the bookkeeper. I stand in her doorway and wait for acknowledgement since she was speaking with another secretary. Finally acknowledged, I ask for the form and I am told I have to look on the server. I explain that others have told me she has the form. Impatiently, she points to a crate and says that the form is there but it is also on the server.  It is all I can do to not scream as I take the forms I need, turn on my heel, and speed out of the office.

One rude person in the course of the day, typically not such a big deal.  Rude person thrown in the middle of my life that I feel is completely out of control, and I’m ready to write my resignation letter. It is just too much.

On the way home, my husband says that there is an article in the New York Times about stress.  Tonight, it was the first thing I read when I got some down time after dinner. While she’s mostly talking about small anxieties, she frames it in a larger picture, how those smaller stressors and our responses to them can make it more difficult to handle catastrophe when it happens. She talks about emotional capital and how we allow ourselves to put too much energy into what she calls “extraneous catastrophes”- those things that “don’t deserve much of our emotional capital.”

I can’t change the way the school is ran. I can’t change how that rude bookkeeper reacts to a question I have. I can’t change having 165 students and very little time to evaluate all of their work. I don’t have to let one really rough semester define the remainder of my year, or the 11 years I’ve taught. I don’t have to put more emotional capital in than I have in my reserves, and right now I’m almost on empty.

Perhaps if my professional career was all that was taxing me, those things would be worth being fairly upset about. Right now, my professional self will have to take a back burner to my personal battles. In the meantime, I can try to find possible ways to manage these things when they happen. I can seek the help of those whose counsel I trust. I can relish in the moments I have working with a pretty awesome group of young people. I can continue to try and be a positive person in their lives and create a space where they are comfortable to take the risks I hope they’ll take in learning.

I guess it is sort of like that prayer: “God, give me grace to accept with serenity the things that cannot be changed, Courage to change the things which should be changed, and the Wisdom to distinguish the one from the other.”

Here is the link to the article.