My Energy is Like the Tides
How to cope when life is intent on beating your brains out
Every Friday during the summer months, immediately after work, I make an urgent escape to the seaside. Living on the edge of a massive desert, a long workweek in the dry summer heat can be merciless and unforgiving. It chips away at my fortitude and breaks my spirits down. I try to stave it off by having a fan on at all times and by drinking copious amounts of cold water, but it's only enough to simply maintain and endure.
There's something about the oppressive summer heat that makes you incredibly weary. It zaps your stamina and nails you to the wall. Because of the harsh heat, I've been forced to tinker around with my schedule, moving my daily runs to the early morning before the sun rises, fitting in whatever writing I can in the space afterward before I drag myself to the office. It hasn't been uncommon that, after my morning routine, I begin my day in the office, already depleted and exhausted.
I've always had a very special relationship with the seaside. It's a place that begs for languidness. Its very nature compels us to set up chairs and blankets and sit in front of it as the waves crash at our feet, and we cast our gaze out past its gently rolling horizon and into the void.
And besides escaping the stewpot of inland summer heat, that's what lures me there every Friday evening during the summer. It's a comfortable, largely symbolic place for me to unload and cast out the burdens of the week. I park my car, trudge myself across the sandy beach, spread out a blanket, lie down, close my eyes, and through some kind of spiritual osmosis, allow myself to be absorbed into the cool breeze and the droning, endless white noise of the waves.
The seaside is my church, a restorative sanctum. Lying there on the sand in its presence is a kind of purification ritual. Just being there washes clean all of the toxic stress, frustrations, and mistakes of the week. It cleanses the slate, just in time for the wonderful weekend ahead.
I'm a big believer in an unseen metaphysical energy that runs through all living things. Call it chi. Call it prana. It goes by many names, but it doesn't really matter how you label it. When it's running high, it nurtures the spirit. You feel inspired, enthusiastic, eager to learn, and ready to create. When it's running low, you feel slow, weary, lazy, and unmotivated.
Which brings me back to my opener. These past few weeks, my energy reserves have been diving. After riding the wave of an incredible spark that began while I was in Japan over the New Year and spread over the next six months, things finally took a hard crash.
Up until this point, I had been writing daily, reading voraciously, on pace to finish more books than I had any year previously. I began the year publishing weekly articles on Medium, which kinda morphed into the idea for this Substack newsletter centering around the mental quirks of midlife.
I was floating high on the winds of inspiration, and then somewhere back there, a few weeks ago, among the booming workload of my 9-5 and the growing, menial obligations of just being alive, the wind left my sails, and my fire got snuffed out. Things tend to get busy this time of the year, during the final stretch of Summer, and this time, I just couldn't keep up.
But as I spread myself out on the sand, staring into the grey Pacific during one of my Friday evening therapy sessions with the seaside, I lost myself in the rhythm of the waves and the breeze. I let my thoughts run free and zoned out into the disappearing abyss of the ocean. Over the hours, as the golden hour came and went and the scant few Friday evening beachgoers packed it up and headed home for the weekend, I noticed the waves gradually approaching closer and closer to my feet, knowing that soon they would force me away and wash over my spot on the beach.
It's at this point that I drew an important parallel. My energy is like the tides. It comes and goes, steadily pushing itself further and further, making gradual, compounding gains before hitting that high point and then beginning its retreat, unable to sustain itself any further. Right before it seems to blaze new territory, It gets pulled away and swallowed back into the belly of the sea.
I've experienced this phenomenon my entire life, and there's nothing abnormal or unusual about it. Sometimes my own energy's tides will roll in for months, years even, before the inevitable drag back into nothingness. Great gains are followed by mundane lulls, where weariness and laziness fill the void where progress and achievement once stood.
While these lulls might not be as exciting or pleasurable as those periods of rich creativity or brimming inspiration, I see them as inevitable and necessary even. This is simply nature working through you the same way it works through the rise and fall of the tides.
There's no magic pill here. My best advice would be to accept the lulls and ride them out as best you can, managing the energy deficit with intention, directing what reserves you do have towards those high-priority activities that bring the most meaning into your life, and setting the rest of your endeavors aside until your spirits return.
And rest. Rest really is its own form of progress and needs to be regarded as such. Just as the steady crawl of the ocean's edge must be pulled back for it to rise again, perhaps even higher another day, so must your own mental workspace occasionally retreat and refortify itself for your next magnificent breakthrough.