Doing too much is a bad idea and brings on more fatigue, but doing too little is also a bad idea and brings on more lethargy. It’s hard to strike a balance. I’ve also noticed that I feel better on the days that I interact with people I like for at least an hour or two (but preferably longer.) A trip to CVS where I chat with the pharmacist for a few minutes usually doesn’t help much, but lunch with a friend can brighten my whole day. Staying at home makes me feel lousier than usual. (Yes, I am going to use “lousier” as a word. Do you have a problem with that?)
In an effort to get out of the house more, I’ve done some unofficial volunteering lately. A friend works for a nonprofit whose mission I believe in. I know many of the staff there and I love hanging out with them. A few times now I’ve gone to their office in the late morning (since early-mid mornings are tough for me), worked for an hour or so, enjoyed a nice lunch with some of the staff, worked a couple more hours, then headed home. And of course, some of that “work” time involved chatting with friends there, too. I always feel good (tired, but still good) on those days, but today was even better than usual.
Interacting with people is one of the reasons why I feel good on the days I help out. Another reason is that I feel useful. One thing about not working and not being able to do much else is that I don’t feel like I’m doing anything to help other people most days. This is hard for me. I have always worked in nonprofits because I enjoy doing something productive to help other people. In my spare time, I used to help out some more. Now, spending my days researching treatments for myself, doing my exercises, and measuring medications might be helping me physically, but it’s really not helping me emotionally. There’s also the mental issue – when I sit at home, I don’t get to use my brain too much. Sure, I read, but that doesn’t usually involve stretching my intellect. The volunteer work isn’t usually the most challenging work I’ve ever done, but at least it’s different from what I’m doing every other day, and that’s enough to help.
So what made today so much better? Well, in addition to helping out with several office tasks, I also helped my friend create a new budget. For many reasons, his financial situation is changing for the better, but he also needs to be saving for some new, previously unexpected areas of his life (wedding, house, etc.) so we worked on the numbers. I love numbers. Math is great because 2 + 2 = 4 EVERY FUCKING TIME!!! How great is that!?! I can always count on getting the same answer. I wish my health (or anything else in life) was that consistent! Anyway, that’s beside the point. The point is, I love this stuff, so I was able to use my skills and knowledge to help someone directly. We spent a while working on this. We looked at his paychecks, his retirement plan options, his obligations, and considered it from all angles. I created a spreadsheet with formulas that will automatically update when he changes anything (yes, I’m a spreadsheet geek and proud of it!) I added a chart that automatically changes, so he can visually see his savings increase over time. We came up with a plan for him to save significant amounts towards retirement and reviewed the tax implications of the different types of plans. By the end, he had a useful, beautiful spreadsheet and a greater understanding of his present and of his future.
In return, I felt, for the first time in a while, a great sense of accomplishment. I did something today. This won’t help my long term plans or settle my nerves about the future, but today, right now, it makes me feel really good. Life has been difficult and stressful, but today it felt a little bit easier. Helping someone else really helped me. It was a distraction, but also a reminder that I’m not useless (despite what society and government says), that I can do something to benefit others. I can’t do it every day, but I’ll definitely do it as much as I can from now on.