Braincrash!

Around 2PM today, I experienced an extreme loss of focusing power while I was at Starbucks. This is a stream-of-consciousness reflection on it to see if I can figure out where it might be coming from.

The Sensation of Thought Loss

It might have been due to having not slept enough; the night before I’d stayed up to 4AM working on getting the Shopify + Shipwire setup working, and had inexplicably gotten out of bed around 9AM. The morning I’d spent answering emails related to accounting, responded to an email from an UK retailer that had decided to pass on having some goods shipped to them because the cost of shipping destroyed any hope of selling them competitively. Then I looked at some similar products from Behance, which this retailed was indeed selling, to try to figure out what made it more competitively priced. None of this was particularly mentally challenging, and I wasn’t stressed out over it.

Then my brain seemed to shut down. It felt like my thoughts were not completing; I would start thinking of something to do, and then the thought would float away before I could come to a conclusion and initiate an action.

The First Attempt to Shake Out of It

To try to shake myself out of it, I opened up Scrivener and reviewed my last Groundhog Day Resolutions post; there were some action items in it that I wanted to hold to as my “activity anchor” for the month. I managed to eke out a shorter list of anchoring goals, which I’ll type up here to see if I actually remember them:

  • Get the ecommerce working so I can be selling internationally
  • Get the digital downloads organized
  • Get the calendar products updated

There’s also a list of “mindfulness” goals:

  • Embrace uncertainty
  • Be a bright spot on the Internet
  • Connect with People
  • Reduce meetings to 2 days a week in July
  • Keep Management Thinking separated from Creative Thinking
  • Remove the false liberty of choice from my to-do selection

Then I actually started falling asleep; maybe I was just tired from the lack of sleep. So I went home and slept for a few hours, hard. I woke up again at around 7PM, checked my email, answered some questions from the CPA I am planning on engaging for the year, and am now just sitting here trying to muster some energy. It’s 930PM.

Speculation Follows

Although the main episode of extreme fuzzy-headedness has passed with my long nap, it’s still present. I’d like to know why. Here’s some thoughts on the matter:

  • My friend Bill suggested that maybe I just needed to drink some more water; it sometimes works for him. I am actually fairly well hydrated today, but maybe I’m not. I drank a bunch of water.

  • Yesterday I did my 30 minute workout at the gym, but on a different machine than I usually use that has longer strokes. The heartrate monitor on it seems a little weird, and I ended up doing a more intense workout than usual. Maybe my body is just tired.

  • Today I did not eat well, mostly peanut butter cookies, leftover pizza and curry, and a tomato sandwich. Very little protein that wasn’t laced with refined carbohydrates. Perhaps diet is part of it.

  • I’ve been working on this e-commerce thing for a while, dealing with numbers and company representatives and broken systems for the past couple of weeks. The progress has been slow and frustrating, though now I’m starting to see the new system come together. However, it’s apparent now that it won’t be able to function well as a great international purchasing option for people who want to buy my notepads. That’s very disappointing. Perhaps that has squashed my motivation

  • Tuesday and Wednesday were very full days of talking to people for various business and project reasons. I had three meetings each day, which for me is a lot; I find them stressful because I’m watching the clock to ensure I’m in the right place at the right time and prepared. After the meeting, I have to gather my thoughts and capture them in a way that will make sense so I can recall them later. And then, I need to empty my mind of everything and switch to another task. The process is a bit exhausting, mentally, because I capture a lot of detail that has to be processed into actionable chunks. Context switches are exhausting too; each person I talk to has a different set of expectations and experiences, and I do my best to match with them. Maybe I am working too hard at this.

  • I am feeling a looming sense of urgency about getting the online sales working, and I’m feeling behind in several projects. This sense of dread is probably contributing to the feeling of anxiety. I’m concerned about money, health, household maintenance, the blog, and projects, now that I think about it, more than usual. I probably need to calm myself down in some way.

  • Today is THURSDAY, and it feels like nothing really great has gotten done all week. Mostly it has been dealing with piddly stuff like e-commerce setup, reading docs online, and trying to get things to work that apparently were broken. The week is almost over.

  • Maybe I just need a change of scenery. I’ve not been allowing myself much fun, and I’m painfully aware of how this is reflecting in what I’m writing about. I started to put together a tomato post the other day, as I haven’t talked about this year’s Tomato Growing Experiment (I did put up a slideshow here but haven’t linked it). I definitely feel like I can’t enjoy myself because I have so much work to do, and I haven’t “earned” the fun. It doesn’t help that I am facing a lot of expenses that I can’t afford to pay off all at once, which increases stress.

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p>Reviewing this list, I think that these are all like causes of stress that might lead to the fuzzy-headedness. The last two in particular particularly resonate with me as I am thinking about them. However, the actual fuzzy-headedness episode seemed more like a loss of consciousness, except being awake. Like being a mental zombie! It was like I lost my sense of self as a self-activating, self-actualizing human being.

Hmm.

Let me try simplifying the analysis.

  • I was feeling unmotivated and apathetic.
  • I just felt like sitting, though I also craved focus
  • I wanted to get out of the chair and do something kick ass, because it seemed like I was wasting time, yet I found it difficult to actually start.
  • I kept losing track of what I was thinking, and not due to external distractions. It was like the thoughts were just randomly ending and beginning.

I find myself wondering what those thoughts WERE. Mostly, I think they were thoughts about thoughts not creating a sense of purpose. A reaction to NOT doing anything, which was coming about because I wasn’t able for some reason to just pick something and do it. I also am craving the sense of having accomplished something meaningful; the e-commerce store might be that thing once I launch it, but I am also not that excited about it because it doesn’t seem like it will be a significant source of revenue. It’s a big ball of uncertainty, now that I think about it, and in the spirit of doing my “embrace uncertainty” thing I should shift my attention to seeing WHAT HAPPENS. That thought generates a bit of excitement and curiosity!

Hmm.

You know, I think I was tired, stressed, and disappointed with the e-commerce stuff. And I should probably go eat some protein to be on the safe side. Tomorrow I’ll have to spend the day working on non-Dave projects, but I can remember to find the interesting Dave-level stuff in the work and try to enjoy it. I also have this weekend to myself to do something fun! The past two weekends were very full of socializing, particularly with the 4th of July holiday, and I do know I need a lot of time to myself to feel balanced. I should add that to my mental awareness list:

  • A three-day continuous block of time to myself is required to stay balanced. I’m an introvert.
  • A sense of major accomplishment needs to happen early in the week for me to feel ahead of the game.

UPDATES

After posting this, I had a few followup thoughts:

  • I’m kind of stressed because I’m again comparing myself to what I think I should be doing, and making a judgment on myself as not “living up” to expectations. I have a weird life and I’m trying to build a weird business based on my personal foibles, and I think part of me feels guilty about it. I also wonder if I’m being really stupid and self indulgent. Perhaps I should just commit to the Weird Life once again and not be apologetic. The drawback of living the Weird Life is that it’s hard for other people to relate to, and it’s hard for me to relate to them. Is having relatable experiences so important? Maybe it’s more important just to be there with people and share stories and be interested in other people’s lives. “Relating experience” is more of a work thing. I think about that too much!

  • I have been sending a LOT of emails to a LOT of people this week, so I’m handling more external inquiries than usual. Perhaps this is also bothering me.

  • I’ve been aware of several other products and ideas that have gained more traction than my own work, and I may be feeling a bit grouchy about that. But I will hold on to that and use it to light more of a fire under my ass.