A change in energy

I noticed the change on Easter Sunday. The definite shift in the season.

I stayed home from church on Easter Sunday morning (kind of a bummer since I am big on celebratory worship and Easter Sunday is the most celebratory of them all). Celine was healing from bronchitis and needed the long sleep in the morning. I stayed home with her and slow roasted the chickens we were taking to Easter lunch at our friends' house.

After a quiet morning at home I was very relaxed and rested. I was refreshed, ready for an afternoon of feasting and engaging with friends and new acquaintances from our church.

I had a fabulous afternoon. It felt like stepping out into the light after nearly two months of sickness and quarantine.

Since that day, or nearabouts that time, I have experienced a change of energy.

My goal through March is to hold on to my sanity, hold on to Joy, hold on for dear life. It's a fight. I have to work hard. I know from experience things will change in April, and all signs point to winter ending, but in the day-by-day living it feels like there is little evidence of this.

Trusting that winter will end reminds me of one of the conversations I had on Easter Sunday, around our friend's generous dinner table.

I have a hard time trusting God. I want to be in control. I like to anticipate how situations will turn out so I can avoid pain and discomfort, both present and future. My struggles with anxiety are all wrapped up in this of course.

In early winter I talked to a friend about this, my struggle with trust and how perhaps my personality type affects that, and she said "oh, you need to talk to so-and-so". On Easter Sunday I was able to talk to so-and-so, someone who shares my STJ. He explained the way that he is able to trust God is to look back and remember God's faithfulness in his life till this point and to rely on what he knows to be true, the Word of God. This made total sense to my way of processing information and how I make decisions.

I can't just feel my way to trusting God. "It just feels right", does not work for me. And I need to experience things hands-on, not in an abstract way.

Waiting for spring feels like learning to trust God. Every year spring comes. The track record is impeccable. And the logic, the truth in the lengthening days, is inescapable. I can trust spring will come.

As I'm writing this post, we're experiencing frequent snowfalls (that thankfully melt), cold rains, and freezing temperatures. But the days continue to lengthen, we are drawing closer to the sun, and past experience tells us this weather is the harbinger of better things to come.

Even though the daffodils and tulips haven't bloomed yet my energy has shifted and spring is the reality in my mind, which makes all the difference.

Lately I've been thinking about personal energy through two different lenses.

  1. The cyclical nature of the seasons and how that affects my energy.
  2. The importance of personality type in how we manage our energy.

I undeniably experience shifts in energy with the seasons and in certain activities and ways of doing things.

Noticing and naming this reality has been really important because it gives me greater self-awareness and helps me make better life decisions from this awareness.

I'm not going to talk too much about personality type and energy, fascinating though that is. (I love that stuff!) I'll direct you to this Personality Hacker podcast instead. I love Personality Hacker. This podcast is particularly good as it explains energy flow, stress and burnout from the perspective of identifying and operating in the strengths of our personality, while building, but not overly relying on, the weaker parts of ourselves. When we operate or depend too much on our non-dominant functions we can experience burnout. I know this to be true.

Listening to this podcast was like flash bulbs of understanding all over the place in making sense of some of the stuff I've experienced.

Another way I think about energy is by paying attention to how cycles and seasons affect my energy.

I have calendar seasons of low energy (winter) and high energy (summer). (I know for some people it's the opposite.)

I have a monthly menstrual cycle that affects how much I can give out and when I need to pull back.

My weeks looks like a wave; gathering energy, expending energy, gathering energy, expending energy, over and over. My days even look like this. Gather energy, expend energy. Certain obligations and commitments will drain me, the fact I call them obligations is a big tip off. Those must be balanced with the activities that renew and energize me.

All of us have to expend energy and experience draining activities, that's life. The important thing is that we recognize and nurture the activities, practices, disciplines, and mindsets that restore our energy. And yes, this is challenging when you're living with people whose energy levels are fueled and drained in ways different from your own.

I feel better when I live in a way that acknowledges and honors my energy highs and lows. I need to hibernate for a period of time in winter. I need a chunk of time every week that is unstructured and unscheduled. I need daily quiet times. I need naps. I need to read and write. I need to go for walks. I need so many things I can't even begin to name them all.

I must listen to my body and read "the signs" (fatigue, excessive tears, frustation). I must do the things that restore my energy. I must honor boundaries, mine and others.

And here's the kicker: I must give myself permission to be this way in the first place.

Give myself permission to be the unique mix of "me". To have the personality I do (an introspective, quiet-loving ESTJ, enneagram 6), and to be a person who lives by seasons and cycles.

The human-made world around me - institutions, establishments, infrastructure - often doesn't account much for cycles and seasons. We want the economy to be in a state of constant growth. We expect steady output, like we are machines, not man.

I'm not anti-society or establishment. I love the security of systems. (ESTJ folks.) Hospitals, schools, insurance, air traffic controllers, police, all the people and infrastructure we rely on in a complicated world.

But sometimes it feels like seasons and cycles, which are inherently circular, bump up against the rigidity of our human-made constructs, which feel linear and square.

I have lots of questions around this. How is it that systems designed, created, maintained and used by humans feel square and we humans feel round? Or is it just me?

I highly value the efficacy of a well-oiled machine. I love systems. But I know that I have limits and other people have limits. Ergo, society and systems have limits. I ponder these things; the role of society, the dis-function of society, the human-ness of being human, and how that all fits together. And though I value and respect authority I do feel we must question "the way things are done". Our systems should work for us, not against us.

This is not (wo)man against machine, or a call to arms or action, except for the action of quotidien living that honors cycles, seasons, and energy flow.

My energy has shifted with the coming of spring. The household routine is transitioning, menu plans are changing, there are more appointments and errand runs. I can manage a "fuller" day with aplomb and joy.

It's time for a new season.

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  • Deborah

    Deborah on April 16, 2016, 1:03 p.m.

    I think that trusting God is hard no matter what your personality type!  I am an INFJ, and I think that for me trust is about knowing.  I know what Jesus has done for us, I know God's promises, and by His grace, I trust that He is with me (and my family), no matter how things may feel at the time.

    And yes, Buffalo, New York, is not as far north as Montreal, but hooray for spring!


  • Marcia from OrganisingQueen

    Marcia from OrganisingQueen on April 18, 2016, 10:43 a.m.

    I was going to recommend that episode of Personality Hacker and then I saw you reference it. As a fellow ESTJ, I also had lots of lightbulbs go off for me! Yes to how sitting behind a desk for 8 hours a day without interacting with others nearly destroyed me.


    • renee

      renee on April 18, 2016, 12:27 p.m.

      for me the lightbulbs were in recognizing I had been relying on my 10 year old and 3 year old processes too much, especially Harmony (which I think women sometimes feel they have to do because of cultural expectations)


  • Cahleen

    Cahleen on April 20, 2016, 2:52 p.m.

    "I can trust spring will come."

    That gave goosebumps. As someone with Generalized Anxiety Disorder, I can't tell you how many times I CLUNG to some version of that before I got my anxiety under control. When I couldn't sleep because of a panic attack, reminding myself that no matter how horrible I felt now, my body would succumb to sleep eventually was the most comforting thing I could do.

    Sometimes spring doesn't come as quickly as we'd like, and it's impending arrival might not change our current situation, but it WILL come. Such hope in that!


    • renee

      renee on April 20, 2016, 2:54 p.m.

      Cahleen, Exacty. I feel the same way when I'm struggling with negative/unpleasant emotions and times of anxiety. This is not the end of the story.


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