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“You Look Tired” Is Not What Anyone Wants to Hear

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NOTE: This post meanders a bit. Stay with me. Creativity, sleep, and taking care of yourself requires rest. You can’t stimulate your body with Adderall or coffee or drugs to make up for lost sleep. You never get it back.

If you haven’t caught up on the health story about sleep yet, it’s actually the fountain of youth. Hear me out…

Tired or Inspired

When we are chronically tired we are not living our best lives. The stress that lack of sleep puts on our physical and mental bodies is enormous. There is no stimulant (coffee, Adderall, mushroom tea) that’s going to repair the damage we are doing to ourselves. There’s no miracle “smart drug” or “smart technology” that’s going to give you back your lost sleep. There’s no genetic mapping and regimen physical/chemical/spiritual that’s going to rejuvenate us. And our cultural addiction to plastic surgery, supplements, and medical advances in aging and health are not taking us closer to a balanced and restful life.

Okay, I get it. I’ve been there. And… I’ve also made choices to move away from that “candle at both ends” lifestyle. It wasn’t good in my 20s when I learned about computer gaming. It is not good now as a middle-aged semi-healthy human.

Here’s the key: your body repairs during sleep. And the repair is much more substantial than we understand. Brain function, the filtering and removal of waste by our blood and endocrine systems, the repair of muscle tissue. We need sleep to live. But at the basic level, when we are not getting enough sleep red-lining our bodies, like an F1 car, and eventually we’re going to require a pitstop. The goal in our lives is to understand that the pitstop is CRITICAL TO OUR RACE STRATEGY. If we catch our brakes on fire, or blow the gearbox, we’re going to DNF. (Did Not Finish)

In your life, don’t you want to finish the race?

What’s the Hurry?

Most of us are deadset on achieving our WIN at any cost. Wins, perhaps. And we feel pressured that we are running out of time. But that is a lie. Let me explain.

There is no hurry.

You have all the time you need.

And finally, everything is in the exact right place at any given moment

I know that sounds a bit abstract and “woo-woo” but it is more powerful and important than you think. Here’s the key to understanding the statements above. If you believe in God (the God of your choosing, goes here) then you can rest assured that everything is working out just as God wants it to work out.

There Is No Hurry

I wanted to be famous when I was in elementary school. I wanted to be famous in high school, college, and in my middle 30s. I also wanted to have a family. I also wanted to live in a nice neighborhood and send my kids to a good school. Those were my youthful UBER GOALS. And I was in a hurry to get there. I hungered for that success. I also hungered (even more) for love. Love that I was losing as my parents go divorced and my older siblings moved out of the house.

I’ve been seeking LOVE since my first conscious memory. But in our fractured house, love was hard to find. It was usually mixed with anxiety, fear, and control. (See the classic Drama of the Gifted Child for the real story behind this breakdown of the modern affluent and successful family.) In my family, love was used as a control mechanism. Do what I want you to do and I will love you. Disappoint me and I will no longer love you.

Being loved was based on the approval of my behavior. And most of us learned this at a pre-lingual age. It’s baked into our lizard brain. Love is vital, like sunlight. But love was used as a weapon. Love was conditional.

So, with all that, I wanted to be a famous musician since I was in 1st grade. I kind of still do. I will probably never be a famous musician. But here’s the lesson: that’s okay. If I’m not a famous musician, that must be part of my god’s plan. If this is the way the world is at this very second, this must be exactly how god (or God) wants it. If you believe that god or some higher power is in control then your anxiety and hurry are probably counterproductive.

Loving Myself from the Inside Out

Over the course of my life, so far, I have begun to really understand and believe that LOVE is an inside job. So is happiness. So is my individual relationship with the god of my choosing. So if it’s all part of god’s plan, then I’m better off if I can go with the flow. If I’m a fish in a really strong Montana stream I’m better off going downstream or finding a pause in the eddies. We don’t need to be spawning salmon jumping upstream and killing ourselves to go upstream.

I didn’t get famous in my 20s or 30s or … I am not famous. And I’m okay with that. I’m in no hurry to become famous. Sure, I’d like to be recognized NOW. But I don’t think I’d want to be Sting, for example. I think I’ll be me. And that’s the god plan.

I’m not advocating trying to pray your way into the life of your dreams. I can pray all I want and if I don’t do the work (write the book, song, blog post, poem) nothing is going to be created. Sure, I’m praying. I’m close to god. But if I want to be a writer, guess what? I don’t need prayer, I need to write. I need to get my butt in the seat and practice my craft. Time at craft. Time doing what you love.

Back to Rest and Thriving In Our Long Lives

Okay, the trick, either way, is to keep living and staying healthy as you rush forward in your life. And if you can learn to trust god, trust the process, trust that the Universe is in perfect alignment with some higher plan, YOU CAN TAKE ACTION while LETTING GO OF THE OUTCOME.

But we’ve got to survive. Blowing up our bodies as artists, writers, musicians, is the tragic creative arc we know so well. Jimi Hendrix might have actually been touched by god, but he died of excess, drugs, and a lack of a healthy lifestyle. But, Jimi was living a high-rolling life. He would play his gig (in London, for example) until the clubs closed, say at 2 am. In that late hour, Jimi was just catching fire, and he booked recording studio time from 3 am to 8 am. He and his cadre would jam and record all night.

There’s nothing quite exhilarating as feeling your creativity is en fuego. (On fire!) Jimi was on fire all the time. And Jimi died by accidental choking while he was high.

Sorry, I got off on a tangent. Returning to the main point: you need rest. You need to slow down. You cannot push the river.

If you are en fuego all the time, you’re likely to burn out like so many shooting stars. Your body needs to unplug and reset. If you’re using stimulants and excitement and ambition to fuel your rocket-fueled lifestyle you may be a bit more like Jimi Hendrix. Personally, I’d rather the Lou Reed. He lived to 71. He was famous. He was well-loved by Laurie Anderson (his wife) and his fans. He is still adored and loved today. So is Jimi. Do you know how old Jimi Hendrix was when he died? (Any Winehouse, Elliott Smith, Janice, Jeff Buckley, Michael Hutchence, the list is long, add your favorite names here.) Jimi was twenty-seven years old when his journey on Earth ended.

Do you want to be Jimi Hendrix or Lou Reed?

I still want to be Lou Reed famous. I do not advocate Jimi Hendrix famous. But, of course, we’ve all got our own paths. Choose wisely. And then take that nap. Sleep in. Drop coffee for a year. See how you feel when you get enough sleep and your body doesn’t require rocket fuel to stay awake.

If you want to live a long life, you must also choose a balanced and restful life. En fuego mode is okay for short sprints, but not for the marathon of a long and happy life. 

Ambition and sleep are often at odds in our modern success-based society. But without sleep, you will die young. Don’t be like Jimi. Don’t die young. Let’s go for a long and happy life.


John McElhenney – life coach austin texas
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