- I’m soul-crushingly busy at work. No time for socializing, sleep or food.
- Work lightens up. I relax, catch up on sleep, see people.
- Two or three days later, I’m bored out of my mind, so I join three choirs, start training for a marathon, plan dinner parties at my house, enroll in piano lessons, schedule dentist appointments, and start talking about finding an apartment downtown DC.
- Then I take on more work and everything is perfect: I’ve got an awesome high-powered job, plus I’m doing everything else that I want to do. I feel like superman.
- Somewhere between four and eight weeks later, things fall apart. Work is again soul-crushingly demanding; I fall behind in my rehearsals, socializing, training, household chores, sleep. I’m back to step 1.
Anyone who has known me with any degree of intimacy for more than, say, a year, knows that this is a recurring cycle in my life. I’ve done this to myself over and over! In the past few years, I finally started waking up in the middle of step 5 — I’d realize what had happened, how I’d gotten myself into the bind I was in, and I’d resolve never to do it again. Only by the time I came back around to step 3 again, that self-awareness I’d had in step 5 would be long forgotten. That’s because whenever I’m not in step 5, all I want is to get back to step 4. I love step 4; it’s like a drug and I crave the rush. Going into step 4, I always think that I’ll be able to make step 4 last forever.
Does this mean I’m insane? There’s that adage that says “the definition of insanity is doing the same thing again and again, hoping for different results”, and I guess by that light I might be a little crazy sometimes.
But guess what? I may have broken (or at least tweaked) the cycle this time: After intensely busy months in August and September (step 1), work slowed down significantly after all the weddings in early of October (step 2). I relaxed for a minute, got bored, and started looking for choirs and other activities to join (step 3). But I didn’t get any farther than scheduling an audition for a new men’s choir in DC before two things happened. First, it occurred to me that if singing in a choir that rehearses across the street from my apartment is too demanding, then singing in a choir that would require significant travel would only be worse. Second, I got distracted with other fun opportunities; namely, two new gym memberships (one at the Sculpt yoga/cycling studio, and one at the nearby Crossfit) and a seven-week Intro to Ballet class on Saturday mornings. That’s the direction I took — in a fit of moderation, I signed up for all three.
So I’m still in step 3, but this time the mix of activities is different in important ways. Unlike musical groups, which require consistent, long-term commitment to a group of people and regular off-day practicing, and marathon training, which requires fairly strict adherence to a plan, these other activities are flexible, day-to-day commitments to myself (there’s a social element, but the others aren’t relying on me) that can be scaled up or down depending on other pressures. I’m hoping these differences will permit me to maintain step 4 for longer and avoid crashing in step 5.
The proof, of course, will be in the pudding. I’ve been staffed on a new M&A deal that will take off this week (because of course it will — I’m trying to take next week off!), so I will officially be back in step 4 before I know it. Here’s hoping I’m not insane!