Sometimes we feel drained of energy. We do not want to talk to anyone, and we do not want to hear of anybody; we don’t desire to watch or read anything. The general feeling is that we have become a shell. No one is living inside. As if we had posted a sign: “Out on vacation.” Who cannot recall coming out of bed after an illness and feeling she had no strength to deal with anything? Please leave me alone. Usually, the lack of energy comes after dealing with complex issues or diseases. But recently, I feel that way at the close of every day. Not to mention how fast the days fly!
It’s not as if I worked for hours, built buildings, or engaged in tiring physical exercise. There is no objective justification for this lack of time and energy. I figured that “time and energy wasters” sneak on without us being aware of them. The biggest energy eaters are devastation and sad events that produce stress — for instance, the news about an entire family killed in a car crash, even if I have no connection with the family. But, right away, a sense of distress rises, overwhelming me and settling in the depths of my consciousness.
Other issues that disrupt our lives and require us to relate while “draining” our energy and time are mishaps and errands. If your computer doesn’t turn on or the printer is not printing, you need to look for the appropriate technician; you have to explain the problem, carry the machine, find parking or figure out a convenient time for the visit. These errands cause stress, which drains our energy much more than the physical power of carrying the computer. The same goes for the so-called “errands.” For instance, you need to speak to a communications company representative to fix your Internet reception. The time wasted while waiting, listening to an annoying commercial recording or music on repeat, gives me the feeling that there’s no respect to my time! As soon as you become a subscriber, a resident of a city, or a country (choose for yourself, Darling), you are no longer counted. Your time is not appreciated anymore. This feeling and the need to be attentive to perform the “task” consume a lot of energy.
There are also people who “steal” our energy. I only said howdy to a neighbor, and he immediately asked about the water pressure. And even before I had a chance to answer, he went on to tell you about his son, who found an excellent water engineer. The son works in Hi-Tech and has three kids. His wife is a lawyer, so she sent a letter, and the engineer came and advised. The plumber, which is the best in the world, came and repaired and now it is possible to wash all the children in the bath, and it does not take hours and the water are not spilling around. He tells everything with one breath, and you become a captive audience – nodding in the right place and expressing feelings: admiration, sharing sorrow, etc., and feeling how your time and energy flow away.
Coaches tell about a philosophy professor that came one morning to the classroom and placed an empty jar in front of his students. He filled the jar with large stones and asked his students if the jar was full. The students responded that the jar was full. He added some small stones to the jar and shook them to mix within the spaces of the large stones. Again, he asked his students if the jar was now full. The students replied, again, positively. The lecturer poured into the jar sand, which filled the cracks. Once again, he asked his students if the jar was full. This time one student responded that he thinks that the jar is full, but from previous experience, it probably is not. And indeed, the lecturer poured some water into the jar.
The teacher explained that the jar represents a person’s lifetime. The large stones represent the vital projects or events in our lives, such as our family and the time we spend with it; our health, social relations, and work. If we take out the little stones, the sand, and the water, we will still have a very satisfying life. The small stones represent somewhat less relevant things in our lives that we cannot survive without. Nevertheless, they are still meaningful to us, like our home, hobbies, and other topics of interest. These things shift and are not essential for our well-being. Sand and water represent even more minor things that waste time, such as watching television or using other technologies.
Then, the professor asked his students what they took from the “experiment?” They replied that it seemed that they had much more time than they believed. The professor responded that this was not the outcome of the experiment. The experiment showed that if we didn’t put the large stones in the jar first, we would not put them in at all. In other words, we must first identify the vital things in our life and attend to them as we might miss them by our further engagement with the sand and the water of our life.
I see as energy-eaters the people that sometimes are our close friends and family. We feel it is inappropriate to tell them that we are busy with “the large stones.” For instance, people who love drama are attached to the news day and night and have to make sure that I too hear the latest news; Out of concern for me, of course. The people who “like” to help sometimes push their nose into things that are none of their business, and I am busily shoving their good intentions away. In the end, they are insulted and complain later that they have been taken advantage of, and everyone is ungrateful to them. And there are those who “like” to suffer, but only when others know about it. They do not sit alone in the dark (as the Polish Moms do, Darling) but bother to complain and detail their “difficult” position. For instance, a good friend wails for hours and days about a father/ husband/ son who doesn’t handle their lives according to her criteria. And so, I feel compelled to help, advise, try to share my knowledge, and even offer help. But she does not listen since she just wanted sympathy and maybe make me feel guilty as I have no troubles, or I don’t whine about it.
The trick for preserving energy and time lies in the tiny word “NO!” The word is so hated by both children and adults alike, as no one likes to get a negative answer. When we ask a question, we usually desire a positive reply. Of course! Otherwise, we would not ask. For example, can I eat some ice cream? We want to eat ice cream, and a negative answer is not what we want to hear. But the NO word is vital for our mental health, using our limited time and energy. It is appropriate to say “not now” and disregard the text that just came in. Not now, I’ll get back to you! Setting the boundaries between unavailability and getting lost in the sand and water is the key!
The last word: “If I am not for myself, who am I? And when I am for myself, what am I? And if not now, when? “Tractate Avot, 1, 13 – When I’m unengaged!