Anyone who has experienced a moment of crisis knows that those colossal events have the power to bring everything to a crashing halt, demanding all of your attention and energy. During crises, you run on adrenaline, you are consumed by the chaos, you are aware of the massive outflow of energy a situation requires of you.
Somewhere in the chaos, you know, too, that this moment will pass. You understand that the joys in your life thus far have accumulated to sustain you through the times when everything goes to shit.
Low-grade energy-sucks are a horse of a different color. They aren’t isolated, like crises. They aren’t as obvious, either. But make no mistake about it: situations and individuals that steal your vital energy–with less severity in the moment but continuously over time–are ultimately more damaging to our psyches.
It’s the person you interact with just occasionally who for whatever reason rubs you the wrong way who depletes you.
How many days afterwards do you spend ruminating over your interaction with them? How much mental energy do you spend rehashing issues, re-running conversations in your head? How much energy are you truly losing?
It’s the items or collection of items loitering in basement cupboards that really get to you–the ones you aren’t dealing with, but know you someday will have to.
How many hours have you already spent thinking about that? About what it will entail? How many arguments between you and your spouse have already come as a result of it?
It’s the job you’ve loyally showed up at for years that yes, sure, grants you a paycheck, but at the price of sucking your joy.
How many days have you gone home and felt completely unseen? How many times have you felt frustrated at yourself for not demanding something more?
On a daily basis, these things that you’re “dealing with,” “putting up with,” “avoiding,” or “settling for” may seem like low-grade nuisances. They might feel like a needle prick at the back of your neck. Sure, it makes you wince a little, but really, what’s a needle prick?
But over time, that tender place on your neck starts to become sorer and sorer, and that needle starts to feel damn-near daggerly. Eventually, you become trained to link the pain with the person and or situation. You go to work, and before anything has even happened, a stinging sensation begins to creep its way up your back. You walk down the basement stairs and the back of your head starts buzzing with anxiety.
People go years–their whole lives–with a needle that’s grown to feel increasingly bigger and longer deeply wedged in their necks. Until they forget they’re in pain. Until they no longer remember what it was like before they were debilitated.
But you wont, will you?
You, who are intent on waking yourself up, on seeing the truth, you won’t wait that long. You will start to have less and less of a tolerance for circumstances that make you wince, and that drain you more than they fulfill you. You will begin to see that protecting your earnest life energy is not merely your prerogative but your responsibility. And you will begin to cut ties, more and more, with the situations and places and people that jeopardize that.
Today’s stress is tomorrow’s disease. What seeps the energy you might have otherwise put forth to show up for yourself, to give love to your family and friends and clients, and therefore to heal the whole world, must be considered the highest affront to your wellbeing.
Sources in your life that cause you unnecessary strife, anxiety, and discontent distract you from thinking about more important things. They obstruct your ability to enter an imaginative mental space, and keep you limited, instead, in a fight-or-flight loop in which you cannot progress, see beyond, or grow. That’s no way to live.
If there’s a person in your life who takes without giving in return, allow yourself to evolve past them.
If there’s clutter in your basement, face the big scary.
If your job is joyless, make it your mission to figure out what career will fulfill you.
You can recover from a crisis. But seemingly benign sources of grievance and frustration will continue to drain your spirit at an exponential rate, while continuing to trick you into thinking “everything’s fine.”
And you are worthy of much, much more than that.