In my letter to my mum on the third anniversary of her death, I said that 2020 was a really muted year for me and I am hoping for better and MORE in 2021.
Call me naïve but I was sooo damn sure that since I wanted it so badly, the better and MORE I was hoping for would happen for me *snaps fingers* like that! I was sooo pumped to get the ball rolling once I came back from my baecation in Diani on January 7th, but life has a way of telling you “you know nothing Jon Snow.”
I will not get into how busy things were for the first five weeks after I resumed work on January 11th as I have spoken about that extensively in my last two posts that you can check out here and here if you are not up to speed. What I will get into is:
- How miserable I was trying to “serve two masters at the same time”
- The systems I created that enable me to use my 24 hours effectively and efficiently
2021 is the first year in a very long time I have set goals for myself at the beginning of the year as I usually set my goals/resolutions on my birthday (which is exactly five months from now FYI 😊). I cannot reiterate enough that I want better and MORE in 2021 and I will do whatever it takes to make that happen. I promised myself that I will grind harder this year than I ever have in my entire life and if by the end of the year my goals do not come to fruition, it will not be for lack of trying.
While I have set some really lofty goals this year, when it comes down to my priorities the needs of my employer come first because my salary is what makes countless things in my life possible. Without my salary I would not be able to meet the basic human needs of food, clothing and shelter. Without my salary I would not be able to afford any of the comforts I currently enjoy e.g. a car, having Wi-Fi in my house, being able to eat out on a whim etc etc. I wanna reside where the money’s at and right now it is at my employers. So as long as there is work to be done for my employer, that will always take precedence and I can only carve out time for writing after I have met my deliverables for the day. That said, I have been in my industry for just under eight years now so I know how to work smart and can easily rearrange my days to ensure I get some writing done and still meet my deadlines.
However in January the workload was too intense and I was trying my damndest to “serve two masters at the same time” (Valerie Lwile, the Media Director, and Lwile the Leo, the writer) but failing miserably at it. It was not an easy thing to do, but I had to be honest with myself and admit that in trying to do it all I was instead failing miserably at both ends. Hence the decision to postpone bringing the blog back by a month, a decision I did not make lightly and that took me all of February to make peace with.
After admitting to myself that I was failing at both ends, I carried out a critical assessment of the systems I had in place to determine which aspects of it were enabling me to be as productive as possible, and which ones needed to either go or change with immediate effect. The one thing that stood out clearly as needs-to-change-with-immediate-effect was the gym.
Last year I used to go to the gym around 10:30 a.m. and would be back home around midday. The timing worked for me as I was working from home and my work schedule was not very demanding so I was able to carve out time for the gym during the day. But after deciding I want better and MORE in 2021 I opted to change my gym time to either early morning or early evening as the 10:30 a.m. gym time only works when I am not too busy. I am most productive between 9 a.m. and 12 p.m. so going to the gym at 10:30 a.m. and getting back home at midday when I have a lot of shit to do is doing myself a great disservice as I am missing out on half of my most productive hours. So last year December I made the decision to switch my gym time to either early morning or early evening, but seeing as my boyfriend-trainer is currently unavailable in the evening, early morning it is.
My boyfriend’s alarm goes off at 4:30 a.m. because he needs to be at the gym at 5 a.m. as that is when his first client of the day checks in. I prefer to go to the gym at 5 p.m. but if I must do morning then I would rather go in at 6 a.m. because I find 5 a.m. such an ungodly hour to exercise. The problem is that I am a very light sleeper and when my boyfriend’s alarm goes off, it wakes me up as well. He walks to the gym as it is not too far away and because of this crazy little thing called love, I do not go back to sleep until he tells me that he has arrived safe and sound. That is usually around 5:15 a.m. and if I were to go to the gym at 6 a.m. I would need to be up by 5:45 a.m. to get ready. Meaning if I were to try and fall asleep after my boyfriend lets me know he has arrived safely at the gym, I would only get about 30 minutes of sleep before I have to get up again. And surely what is the fucking point of that?! So we would both get up at 4:30 a.m. to be at the gym at 5 a.m. and every fibre in my being HATED that arrangement.
I am not a morning person. At all! I like to joke that I prefer sunsets over sunrises because the latter come around too damn early for my liking. I can wake up super early if need be, but I do not enjoy it. I also like to wake up slowly therefore I always set my alarm for 30 minutes before I need to get up so that I can do so at my own pace. So asking this body of mine that a) does not like to wake up early and b) likes to wake up slowly, to wake up at 4:30 a.m. to go work out was always going to end in premium tears.
A babe I know at the gym tried to assure me that as the days go by my body would adapt to working out at 5 a.m., but after three weeks I was still sooo fucking miserable every time my boyfriend’s alarm went off at 4:30 a.m. I am a logophile therefore I tend to be very specific with my choice of words. Not only that but to me synonyms are not always interchangeable as no two words are weighted the same. So when I say I was sooo fucking miserable I do not mean sad or unhappy. What I mean is every time my boyfriend’s alarm went off at 4:30 a.m. something inside me died a little bit. I mean that not only did my body not adapt to working out at 5 a.m., my anxiety skyrocketed and I started having trouble sleeping through the night.
I have said before that I have three anxiety disorders: Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) and Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD). I became more conversant with mental health when I started going to therapy in 2017, but it was in 2016 when I first learnt that anxiety can get so overwhelming it keeps you up at night. I was working on an account (that I will not name for obvious reasons) whose workload was sooo overwhelming I would work 60 hours in five days trying to get shit done. I would get to the office everyday by 8 a.m. yet I hardly ever left before 9 p.m. My days would often get so busy that I could not even spare a few minutes to check my socials or WhatsApp messages until I got home. Hell some days were so busy I would even forget to eat lunch and would only remember when someone asked. I would get home tired AF, but would struggle to sleep through the night as the tasks I had not completed the day before, together with the ones I knew were waiting for me the next day, consumed my mind. I confided in one of my bosses that my never-ending workload was keeping me up at night and that is when he enlightened me that I was suffering from anxiety.
While that was my first experience with anxiety keeping me up at night, it was certainly not the last. But that is a story for another day. Within two weeks of waking up at 4:30 a.m. to go to the gym my anxiety had elevated to such intense levels it was keeping me up at night. I often wake up in the middle of the night to pee, and for the last decade or so whenever that happens I do not check the time because I fucking hate it when I do so and see it is not long before my alarm goes off. If I am not suffering from anxiety then I can easily go back to sleep once I get back to bed, but if anxiety has made me its bitch then sleep becomes extremely elusive. I would lie in bed and try to force my brain to switch off so I could sleep, but the more I tried the more it fixated on the fact that 4:30 is coming. And since I do not check the time when I wake up in the middle of the night, I would try and guesstimate it by listening to the number of cars on the road. If I could hear one or two cars every so often I would guesstimate it was still within curfew time. But when the cars became more frequent I would guesstimate it was after 4 a.m. meaning it would not be long before my boyfriend’s alarm went off.
Some nights I would count cars for what felt like 20 minutes, other nights I was certain it was more like two hours. Doing so, whether it was for 20 minutes or two hours, would fill me up with dread that would grow with every passing minute from just an emotional sensation to a physical one in that it would tie my stomach up in knots. It got so bad that one Wednesday while driving to the gym I could feel myself about to start crying, and once we got there I burst into tears the second my boyfriend left the car. I cried hard for a few minutes before pulling myself together and going in for my cardio workout, but it was at that precise moment I knew something’s gotta give.
It is all too common for anxiety to manifest itself via physical symptoms and that is what happened to me as I started carrying the stress of the long ass days in my body, yet this same body was the one required to get me through the long ass days. I would get home from the gym tired AF and all I wanted to do was sleep but that was not possible as I had a shitload of work waiting for me. Seeing as I was not sleeping through the night, I would stay tired throughout the day meaning this new schedule that was supposed to make me more productive was doing the exact opposite.
It was not long before the gruelling schedule took its toll on my relationship and my boyfriend and I started fighting a lot. Conflict is a normal part of all human relationships and provided the conflict, and solutions towards it, are healthy then there is no major cause for concern. But my boyfriend and I were fighting a bit too much for my liking and a lot of the time it was not healthy. It had also become next to impossibility to find my happy as I was miserable AF from the time I woke up and started counting cars to the time I went back to bed. One day I did a deep dive on my emotions and it startled me to realise that the last time I described myself and my life as miserable was during the initial days after my mum died.
Coming to that realisation is what finally spurred me to action and at the tail end of January I had a conversation with my BFF Adelle Onyango about my miserable life and she reminded me of two things I often say but was not doing 😐
- No one will create time in your schedule for you but you
- You cannot pour from an empty cup
That conversation is what led me to admit that I was failing in trying to do it all and it was then I carried out a critical assessment of the systems I had in place to determine which aspects of it were contributing to my misery. Once I figured it out I embarked on creating new systems that would enable me to successfully juggle all the demands that come with being Valerie Lwile, the Media Director, and Lwile the Leo, the writer. It took me about three weeks to figure it out, but I finally have a system that works for me and I am happy to say that I am no longer sooo fucking miserable.
I was initially planning on sharing my system in today’s post but I am already 2,400 words deep so look out for ‘You Cannot Pour From An Empty Cup Part Two: Systems’ next week.