Adapting is Exhausting

Today’s Quest 2017 prompt from Linda Rottenberg took me down a dark and winding path. But ultimately, it ended up going somewhere useful. Grab your candle and come along…

Today we all have a choice: We can take risks and actions to ensure that we adapt with the constantly changing times or we can hope for the best and do nothing. Adapt from within or you may be forced to adapt from without. Are you ready?

As is my custom with Quest prompts, I got hung up on the specific words chosen. Perhaps it’s because verbiage and interpreting the intent behind the words is part of my job in Search Engine Optimization. Perhaps it’s because I’m still a poet at heart.  Words matter.

Adaptation caught my attention. Not adjust. Not change. Not realign. Rottenberg used the verb adapt. Which, in my mind, is a biology class term.

Adaptation is a description of the process of natural selection.  A critter is born with a new adaptation that helps it survive better in the environment. It survives, so it passes those genes on. Until ultimately all of the critters share that trait.   The foxes that stay red in the arctic are more likely to die without breeding than the ones that are white and camouflaged in the snow.

My first thoughts, as I read this morning’s prompt were:

  • Adaptation takes a pretty long time. It’s a gradual process.
  • Adaptation requires the eventual death of the old form of the species.

(Like I said, things got dark.)

I like that the prompt reminds us that we all have a choice. Real, biology-class adaptation does not involve or require conscious choices among its participants. But this is an adaptation of the heart and mind we’re talking about. This is an inner adaptation of Self. And that always comes with choices.

What I dislike about the prompt is that there’s a potential for confusion. 

It sounds like Linda Rottenberg wants the reader to choose to change from within.  But then she suggests that the opposite of that is to “do nothing.”

For me, change from within means ego death. And the process of ego death looks and feels a hell of a lot like not doing anything.  I’ve written about Ego Death in the past.  This form of adaptation calls for us to willingly succumb to that process of transformation.

You have to let the parts of your personality die. The ones that were not really you – but constructs that you created around yourself very early in life.  You have to relinquish what no longer serves you.  You have to let your great swaying tree of Self drop some leaves and lie dormant for the winter, preparing for the spring.

Ego Death LOOKS like Inaction, but it’s Not

Just as the elm in my front lawn looks dead right now, it’s not.  This level of coccooning is deep, soul work. It’s creative work. It’s hard work. And it’s invisible to the world around you. It’s all in your heart and mind until you start expressing it.

Ego death is the ultimate risk. It’s terrifying, to tear down scaffolding of the Self that has kept us going for so long.  It’s one of the five basic fears of humankind.  And we can choose to run away from it for our whole lives, or we can face it.  That is our choice, until “fate” forces it upon us.

What’s My Choice?

I keep rereading this prompt, trying to figure out what the hell my own response to it is. I’ve picked part my larger interpretation of the meaning.  I’m just lost as to how that applies to me. I’ve almost always got an ego-death brewing, but none is imminent right now – unless there’s a sneak-attack of the subconscious coming around the bend.

The prompt specifically asks what risks and actions I could take to meet the “constantly changing times.”

I’m not afraid of change: I work in the world of the internet. I learn new things about my job and the way technology works and expands every single day I go to the office.  I work for a company that reports the latest news and innovations in health and medical science.  I’m inundated by constant change, and I’ve gotten pretty good at surfing it.

I think about the administration that is being formed in the White House right now. The inevitability that those in power will do everything and anything they can to stay in power.  I have pledged to use my privilege and voice for those without voices. I’ve put my money where my mouth is. I gently and with empathy teach people around me about their hidden assumptions. If something so abhorrent as a Muslim registry would ever come to pass, I would be in line, along with 8,000 of my closest non-denominational friends. Diluting the efficacy of such an action.

What will I do that I’m not already doing? Avoid Burnout

The greatest danger facing me is burn out. The danger at work, and the danger in the larger world. It’s easy to grow so full of despair that we can turn our faces away from the fight.  So the actions I need to take are the ones that I need to avoid burning out.

First, I’ll keep doing what I know works:

  • morning writing time – During last month’s NaNoWriMo, I got up an hour earlier each day. That was the time I carved out of my schedule to write, and it worked marvelously.  I’m keeping it.
  • monthly woods time – about three years ago, I figured out that if I get to go to the woods once each month, my stress levels are drastically reduced. I’ve made it a point to put that goal on my schedule every month for years. I know tree therapy works!
  • taking the long way to work – For the last year or two, I’ve been getting off the train early, and walking 12 blocks to work. I’ve stopped that in recent weeks for any number of excuses. No more excuses. That walk is better than a cup of coffee for a wake up.
  • reinstitute my dog walking habits on the weekend  – Low Key is chewing on a toy at my feet, and the three mile walk that used to be necessary to make him behave properly is no longer necessary. That doesn’t mean it didn’t do both of us good for other reasons.  Add this to the “no more excuses” list.
  • honest to gosh lunch breaks – After the third time I didn’t get lunch in a week because meetings had been scheduled over my lunch hour, I blocked my calendar for lunch across the board.  No eating at my desk. No lunch meetings that don’t feed me. I get an hour to myself once a day. Period.

Second, I’ll experiment with a few more ideas…

  • push back on meetings — Meetings are a double-edged sword in my work life. I’ve begged for a seat at the table, and now I’ve got one. The problem is that I’m in so many meetings, I don’t have time to work.  Last week, a coworker laughingly said “Thank you for always being gullible for a meeting.”  — I’m instituting a policy of asking for agendas, so I can decide whether to skip or keep going, or delegate it to a team member.
  • disconnecting from technology more – I work online, so it’s hard to say I’ll disconnect. Maybe I’ll just make an effort to read more paper books.
  • reconsider time management – one of the other Questers mentioned this article and path for time management, and I’m completely blown away by it. The “circling” technique is what I often end up doing, while never acknowledging that fact. I feel compelled to see my day in the linear, American/Germanic way, but my brain doesn’t work that way. There’s a disconnect, and a source of a lot of anxiety and stress for me. It’s going to take some work.

What do you do to avoid burnout? How do you reserve your inner resources?

 

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2 thoughts on “Adapting is Exhausting

  1. Pingback: Reassessing Habits to Keep, Drop or Add | A.K. Anderson

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