Today marks my eighth consecutive day of work without a break. I’m more than halfway through to the countdown of 13 days straight without a day off. Sounds insane, right? As I try and step back from it to analyze how it all came to be, I realize that it sort of just happened. Like a lot of things in my life, it presented itself as a challenge so I said “Sure, why not?”
I work Mondays through Fridays at a college and this is the week before finals so you can imagine what that’s like (yes, in fact it does feel like a tiny person inside my brain is jack-hammering my skull). I also work part-time at lululemon athletica which means we’re open Saturdays and Sundays during the busy holiday season. Add to that the fact that I teach/participate in yoga classes three times a week, and what you get is one very exhausted person. I feel slightly out of it, all the time. Kind of like I did in college when I tried to write my 75-page thesis in Spanish in one week.
What I’ve realized on this journey is that exhaustion can actually bring about a certain kind of clarity. Sure, your mind might be clouded (and you might put the milk in the cabinet and the oven mitt in the fridge) but there are moments when you lift your head to glance out the window and you realize how very small we all are. In other words, exhaustion leaves no room for the ego. Which could be the secret ingredient when dealing with stressed-out, whiny college kids who start sentences with the words, “I didn’t know we had to…” or “I couldn’t meet with you because I overslept.” Fatigue washes away reaction, it eliminates drama.
My 13-day stretch is also the very thing I need to guide me back to a daily meditation practice. Since meditation helps to focus the mind in times of stress or exhaustion, I find myself breathing more deeply and pushing my shoulders down from where they want to be: up around my ears. As Richard Rosen suggests in Inhale, Exhale, Relax: “To work with fatigue, settle into your everyday breath. Then, after it has slowed down and smoothed out, pause briefly after an exhalation. Rest peacefully in the stillness. After a few seconds, you’ll feel a kind of ripple; it’s the swell of your next inhalation, building like a wave approaching the shore.”
Interestingly enough, I had a dream the other night in which I climbed countless flights of stairs inside an apartment building. Exhausted, I finally reached the top floor and swung open a door to the roof. There, in front of me, were people having a dinner party by the ocean. Waves rippled up onto the shore as I walked barefoot out onto the sand.