Today was one of the latter.
I lay there in the dark, listening to the rain on the skylight, curled round my hot water bottle and trying to go back to sleep. It was only 7am, and I didn’t need to get up, but my brain was whirring round and round, and after an hour of that I figured I might as well be drinking tea as just lying there.
I tried to sort through the things in my head. What was stopping me from resting? I was fretting, which is unusual for me. Bothering about things, twirling the same things round and round, not letting them go, winding myself up. Why?
Usually when I do this (which isn’t often) I make myself stop. I find the acronym ‘HALT’ useful – am I Hungry? Angry? Lonely? Tired? Any one of those things can distort my thinking, and I need to address that before I either act (and say something I’ll regret) or wind myself into a frenzy of anxiety about something that will probably never happen anyway.
For me, the problem usually comes when I’m hungry or tired. Hunger (or even slight peckishness) can change my personality in an instant. It’s quite surprising. I have a friend who refers to that feeling of impatience and unreasonableness when you need food as being ‘hangry’, and I completely understand. I’m normally mild-mannered and pleasant (no, really, stop laughing) but when I’m hungry (or hangry) I snap and stomp, and say ridiculous things like ‘no! I do NOT want any food! You’re just trying to shut me up!’
(Fortunately Peter has known me long enough now to ignore all this stropping, and just insist I have something to eat).
But this morning I wasn’t hungry, not really, not hungry enough to make me grumpy. I wasn’t angry. I wasn’t lonely. And theoretically I wasn’t tired, having just woken up naturally from eight hours sleep.
But tiredness is a funny thing too. I can do a couple of days of work on not-enough-sleep, and often do, but beyond that things get difficult. Simple tasks feel like wading through treacle. Decisions that I’d normally make in a jiffy take forever. Normal parts of my job seem completely impossible. People I usually get on well with are really annoying.
When everything feels too difficult, and I hear myself complaining about more than one person in a row, then I know the problem (probably) lies with me.
The answer is usually to have a nap, but like when I’m hungry, I can be quite unreasonable. ‘I don’t WANT a nap!’ I strop. ‘You’re just sending me away because you think I’m being grumpy!’ Well, yes, but it’s usually for my own good. Again, Peter (wisely) ignores my stomping, and just stands at the bottom of the stairs pointing upwards. Realising I’m not going to win, I grump my way off to bed, and after an hour or two he’ll bring me a cup of tea and I’ll be full of sunshine and cheerfulness, wondering what all the fuss was about.
The point I’m (very slowly) trying to make is that this morning I think my problem was tiredness. Not superficial ‘I need a nap right now’ tiredness, but longer term ‘I need a day of doing nothing’ tiredness.
This week I’ve been to Newcastle, York (twice), and Liverpool. Last week was similar. I ran three miles yesterday, and six the day before, and thirteen last week. I’ve done all the usual pottering (washing, hoovering, ambling round the charity shops, cafe trips) and spent a long time fussing about what I need to do next week. And now I need a day off.
Of course, I have plans for today and I can’t abandon them all. But I can, and will, make some alterations. No four mile run for a start – much as it pains me to drop a run, my legs ache and it’s cold and raining heavily, and I suspect running today would do more harm than good.
I planned to spend a couple of hours at the community garden this morning. I’ll pop round and see if the others are there, but I can’t imagine we’ll find enough to do in the polytunnel to occupy three of us for two hours. This evening’s outing I can’t avoid, but I’ll go straight there and back without hanging around.
Which leaves the rest of the day. My list said things like ‘tidy attic, cut and hang more rosemary, empty recycling, hoover downstairs, prepare for tomorrow, paint nails, take masking tape off outside windows, do washing, hang clothes up’. Right now I can’t see the urgency. Most of that has waited weeks already, and can wait a bit longer.
Instead I’ll spend the day doing what I know will recharge my batteries – sitting on the sofa reading a library book. Drinking tea, and eating leftover chilli. Having a small afternoon snooze. I might plan some summery adventures, or ring a friend, or paint my nails – or I might not. My list is tucked out of sight so I won’t be tempted to start crossing things off.
I hope you have a restful day if you need one too.