I want a diet soda. I’ve been driving for 7½ hours after visiting my son at his college. I’ve stopped at a rest area and I’m trying to keep myself from eating sugar because I’m exhausted and out of sheer boredom. I decide that a diet soda is the best compromise. There’s a little souvenir shop with all kinds of New York stuff where I know I can easily get the soda, but then there’s also a Roy Rogers! A choice for Roy’s comes with a lot of other baggage — I’ve talked about this is a previous blog, also while on another trip to see my son, only it was a Burger King in that case. The difference here is that I know it’s going on, so I decide in the souvenir shop.
I end up very proud of myself as I walk out of there with just a Diet Coke. I get back on the road to continue my drive with several more hours to go. I take all the steps I should to try and get rid of this exhaustion, feeling of loneliness, and general malaise. I go to my tools!
First to phone calls. This helps for a little bit to keep my mind off the drive with some good conversations. But, to be honest, I’m not in a place to make very good conversation, so therefore it’s really hard to stay in them.
Next, I try fishing for confidence and a feeling of capability by doing some of my work in the car, but my eyes are shot and my energy is crap. So, I reach for another tool. I start reminding myself that these feelings will change. But, in truth, I’ve had these feelings since I woke up this morning, it’s been a long day and it doesn’t seem to be getting any better from an emotional perspective.
I dig my ‘hand’ into my toolbelt again. I can focus on other things. There are other things that are going on in my life that can help me feel better and by paying attention to them I can change the way I feel now. The problem is I’m so tired every time I try to put my focus on something else my brain actually hurts. No joke. I feel that itchy feeling that makes you want to get out of your own skin — or maybe for me at the moment it’s more like I just want to get out of my car! I’m wishing these hours on the road would pass more quickly than they are, but I’m not having a lot of luck. And I’m running out of tools.
There is truly only one tool left. One that works especially well when you’re combating fatigue. Because, truth be told, in the words of the great Vince Lombardi (if you don’t know who he was, he was a hell of a football coach!): “Fatigue makes cowards of us all.” Coach Lombardi was spot on because when we run out of energy, we run out of the ability to be our best selves. What we’re left with is grasping. Wrestling at a performance that is out of our range, whether it’s our fault or maybe just circumstance, we are really just out of gas. I think some words that were probably never said by Coach Lombardi, but might have been the thing that would’ve helped his players the most, is the same thing that could help me right now:
Sometimes it’s just OK to not be at your best.
Knowing that you are engaging in whatever sport, whatever activity, or whatever situation in your life from a less-than-perfect energetic stance may actually allow for the best performance at the moment since it is the best you have. Sometimes, instead of looking for your best, you just need to look for the best you have in the moment that you are in.
Right now, while I’m driving, and exhausted, and lonely, I can’t compose the perfect chapter in the new book I’m trying to write. But maybe I can put some ideas down that I wouldn’t have gotten if I didn’t try while I was tired. So I don’t have the best conversation in the world with a couple friends that I call looking for connection, but maybe it’s better that I call in the first place and we both get some connection and we remember why we’re friends. Maybe Diet Coke isn’t the best choice, but a Caesar salad with light dressing is. But a Diet Coke isn’t a pint of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream, so maybe there’s something to be grateful for in that.
We all function on our own plane (where we are in the present, physically, mentally, and emotionally). A plane shift (significant change in one or all of these areas) usually happens when we are our best selves for a prolonged period of time, or something monumental occurs causing us to rise to the occasion, bursting through our present plane, leaving us with a new-found knowledge that we are more than we had ever thought possible. However, where we are within our present plane depends on where we are at any given moment physically, mentally, and emotionally.
So I may need to concede that today most likely isn’t going to be “plane shift” day. No saving children from burning buildings (hopefully not needed while driving), no writing the next great american novel, or ushering in the next renaissance era. But that doesn’t mean I have to fall out of the plane that I’m already in. I don’t have to be my best, I just have to keep trying my best wherever I am. While the words of the great Lombardi ring true on fatigue, a fairly decent president wedged between Thomas Jefferson, and Honest Abe on Mount Rushmore also once said, “Do what you can, with what you have, where you are.” Well, right now I’m on the road. I can focus my mind on the task at hand and be the best driver I can, so I can get safely home and sleep in my own bed tonight.