I carry a portable power source for my phone. It’s a bit clunky and heavy and it is my assurance that if I get to a point where my battery is low, I can recharge. It’s in a cute purple case (staying on brand) with all of the proper connections, including a wall plug for when it needs a boost itself.
Ordinarily, I carry it in my purse so that I have easy access on my city jaunts via the Metro. I miss the Metro. Walking to meetings and riding the Metro are both large parts of the reason that I moved to the East Coast in the first place. No need in going into why that’s not an option right now. We are all living through that reality. Anywho, my car is the preferred (a.k.a. safer) mode of travel for me right now and even though it has a charging outlet, I still keep that portable charger with me at all times. You see, there was the one time the car outlet failed me–just would not charge my phone and I had to “find” my way home from some outer Virginia region. At least I think it was Virginia. Around here I am never certain which state I’m in.
What does any of this have to do with…well, anything?
Probably like you, my phone is a life source for me. It holds my appointments, allows me to connect with my peeps and gets me to where I am going. If it runs out of power, I am in trouble. This got me to thinking about what other resources I depend on and how am I ensuring that they are ready to go and have available backup to recharge when necessary.
Hmmm, what else do I depend on like my phone? My ability to show empathy and compassion, my quick wit and resilience, and certainly the gift of authentic connection. Imagine my surprise when I realized that about 3 months into this pandemic, I was running on empty.
The first thing I noticed was that I had a hard time thinking and focusing on anything. I was doing sometimes 4 or 5 speaking engagements a week and although I was told that they were all stellar, what it took to get me prepared was excruciating. Note, that what I lost first was my ability to sustain myself. Quick wit and problem solving are my jam. Strategy and process improvement come natural to me. It’s what people hire me to do. And it all became really tough to do.
Now running on fumes, I tried to keep going. We call it ‘faking the funk’ where I come from. “These are unprecedented times”, ” We are all in this together”, “You have to pivot”. Platitudes were being passed around like that awful watery hand sanitizer they offer you in stores now. And they left me feeling exactly the same– sticky, gross, useless, and wishing that I just had not.
Last to fizzle out was my desire and ability to connect. I still pushed forward with the usual meetings and gatherings and noticed that people were starting to bug me. And I’m a people person, an ENTP which means that I get my energy from connection and being around others. Now I was still seeing people regularly, from inside a screen. They were all asking me for help, guidance, advice, and ideas. I mean, it’s what I do. It’s what I am known for. It’s what I love! And here’s the rub. None of those people had any clue that I was suffering. At least not to the degree that I was. I tried. And yet it seemed that there was no way of getting energy into me or for me to be fed emotionally. I was just depleted. And I was in deep pain.
It was during a conversation with a dear friend that I heard myself declare that I was not okay. She didn’t believe me! Her exact response was, “You’re okay”. I wasn’t!
Chances are really good that you have stuck with me to this point because this resonates with you in some way. It may not have been the pandemic that brought you to a place of depletion. I know you still get it.
Let me share with you what helped.
First of all, I have done a lot of personal development work really getting to know myself. When I declared myself ‘not okay’, it was a fact. I wasn’t looking for sympathy, I was looking for help. People can only help you from where they are. And you can only ask for help from where you see yourself.
This is why it is critical to:
- Always be aware of your power level– Journaling and quiet time are great ways to check in with yourself. A great personality assessment will give you valuable insight into how you process thoughts and make decisions and what motivates you. This may sound like lightweight stuff. It is actually a life source. You are the only one who can adequately determine how you are doing in a way that allows you to receive help when you need it most.
- Plug into a power source regularly– What you take in will determine your output. When I was struggling, I still fought hard to eat well and exercise in some way. I prayed and tried to meditate and read what should have been inspiring stories. I knew that I didn’t have the capacity to watch troubling or intense drama on TV so when things got to that critical level, I watched things that were lighter in spirit. Classic game shows and old sitcoms became my regular diet of entertainment. Yes, I survived on Classic Concentration (fed my mind) and Hazel (reminded me of a simpler time). Hazel could solve any problem in less than 30 minutes. I was able to escape reality even for a short time.
- Keep a portable source of power at the ready– This is critical, so pay close attention to this part. Who you spend your time with will either make or break you and when you are already broken, you can’t take chances. I have an incredible circle of support. It’s a small circle by choice and these folks rallied around me and offered real tangible solutions to my state of being. They were able to actually hear me when I cried out for help inaudibly, and then quite audibly. Because they knew me on an intimate level and have shared their own vulnerabilities, they were able to be in that frightening space with me without adding to my pain. They listened to what I needed and held me accountable to getting it.
You didn’t miss that did you?
I was responsible for finding my own way out. We all are. Ultimately what I figured out was that I needed a trip to the beach and real physical contact. The beach has always been a place of rejuvenation and spiritual connection for me. And there is no better form of life-giving physical contact than a huge hug from my son. So, in the middle of a pandemic, I hopped on a plane and headed home to San Diego to both– the beach and my son. Instantly I was feeling better and with each day I gained my strength and resilience back.
The answers to our challenges lie within us. They have been planted there with the work we have done to learn about ourselves. Sometimes we just need someone to start us thinking in a different direction. A change of perspective from CAN’T to DONE.