Overwork | Writing Nights

Overwork



So there was that time I hired and fired 18 assistants in less than a year.
Why would anyone do that?
I was desperate for success.  It was just in reach, right on my fingertips and yet I couldn't hold it in my hand.

There was so much pressure.  Oceans of pressure.  Marianas Trench pressure.  Everyone in my life wanted—no needed—something from me. They needed me to save them, they needed me to write motions that would force the government to stop picking on them, they needed me to buy books for school, they needed me to pay for operations, they needed me to organize their lives, they needed me to service their computers, they needed me to balance their books, they needed me to make the world better.

Everyone was counting on me.  

I didn't know how to get what I wanted, and I thought that if I yelled loud enough at an ever increasing number of people one of them would know what I wanted, or figure out how to get it, and bring it back to me.

Yeah.  I can feel you laughing.  That doesn't work.

But almost everyone I know is doing that.  They're yelling at, or being pissed at, or getting frustrated with, an ever increasing number of people.  That frustration isn't getting them what they want, and so they get frustrated at even more people.  

An ever increasing gyre of self destruction.

Frustration is the iceberg of emotions.  Everyone sees the tiny surface indications, but the larger mass below the surface rends metal like fabric and sinks unsinkable ships.  Sure frustration appears to be directed outwards, but the greater stress under the surface has a disproportionately larger impact on the person doing the directing.

I am 35 as I write this.  I have not had a heart attack, but I've short-circuited my body.  I felt just like when two frayed live wires meet.  I felt the bzzzt and the zzzaaap, and I was bedridden for two weeks.  I felt like electricity being ground out.  I didn't walk so much as ghost around the place, curved at the waist—a 250 year old young man in need of a walker.  I had no energy.  Whether you call it masochism, or addiction, or lunacy, I've done this to myself twice.

I've worked so hard that my feet swole up twice their normal size.  At one time I thought red was my natural eye color.  Other people thought I had allergies. I'd tell them "Naw, they're just like that.

My girlfriend freaked out at the foot thing.  She made me lay down.  She pulled me away from the work.  She screamed, "If you die who will help these people?"

One day I couldn't work anymore.  I broke.  I just broke.

An interesting thing about heatstroke is that after you've suffered one, you're more susceptible to heat strokes in the future.  You're much more susceptible than people who've never had one.  Your body operating on the once-bitten-twice-shy principle.  Since you don't know when too much is not good for you, your body says, then I'll shut it down before we get anywhere near the danger zone.

Overwork is like that.

And the sad thing is, I'm not so sure I got more work done then than I get done now.
I take more time off, I am more mindful of taking breaks, and I get much more work done (and get paid more) now than I ever did.

Don't break your body figuring out that same thing.

One day you may need your stress tolerance, you may need 100% exertion for a real emergency.  Don't run the risk that because you broke before, your body will shut your shit down when it gets to 85% load.  You won't know how to live with yourself for letting people you love down.


Image credit: Sabeel Ahammed