In Episode 1 of Battlestar Galactica’s first season, the humans are on the run from the Cylons (machines originally created to serve humans). The Cylons’ attempted extermination of humanity left less than 50,000 survivors, and all of them now live on the small cluster of ships protected by the Battlestar Galactica.
Somehow the Cylons are able to track the human’s FTL (faster-than-light) jumps. They attack every 33 minutes, down to the second. FTL jumps are extremely difficult to plot safely, and when the episode opens, the humans are struggling to have jump coordinates ready every thirty-three minutes while also maintaining their equipment. If a ship breaks down and they can’t repair it in 33 minutes, the Cylons will kill everyone on that ship.
Because FTL jumps feel like riding a rollercoaster, not even the civilians have had more than a few minutes sleep. The fleet’s fighter pilots and other essential military personnel are running on stimulants (what they call stims).
“Five days now,” Dr. Gaius Baltar says in a rant to the Cylon delusion only he can see. “There are limits…to the human body. To the human mind. Tolerances that you can’t push beyond. All those are facts. Proven facts. Everyone has their limit.”
They can’t keep going. They have to find a way to shake the Cylons or they will all die.
The Cylons’ plan of attack is perfect because, as humans, we do have limits. We can only push so hard for so long before our bodies give out. No amount of determination can change that.
For the last year and a half, I’ve been working seven days a week on average. During some stretches, I worked 12- to 14-hour days. I was tired. I was sick every month with something new (and worked anyway). My creative well was dry. And even though I was working hard in pursuit of my dream and trying to be a responsible adult, I recently realized that I’d reached my limit physically, emotionally, and creatively.
In her book The Top Five Regrets of the Dying, Bronnie Ware, an Australian nurse who works with palliative care patients in the final months of their lives, explains that the second-most common regret expressed by dying people is “I wish I hadn’t worked so hard.” They feel like they missed out on the more important things in life in order to succeed at work.
The temptation to burn ourselves out in support of our dreams is something almost anyone in any profession can fall prey to. We might think we’re being dedicated, and sometimes there are times when we do need to push hard, but we also need to rest. Without it, we’ll ruin our health and relationships. We won’t be doing our best work. And when we look back on the end of our lives and see only work, we’ll regret it.
Ignoring the need to rest is short-term thinking.
Because of this, and because I want my life to be more than the sum total of what I’m able to produce, I’m making a change. It’s not going to be an easy change for me. I have emotional baggage (why can’t the airline lose that for us, eh?) that means I feel guilty and afraid when I’m not working. I know it’s not healthy. It’s not balanced. And there’s only one way I know to fix it.
I am taking one day a week completely off from work. No social media. No writing. Maybe even no housework. I’m also setting aside one afternoon/evening a week to spend time with my husband. He deserves more of my time than he’s been getting.
Maybe this change means I’ll reach my goals a little slower. Maybe it means we have to live a simpler life and pinch a few more pennies in the short term.
And you know what? I’m okay with that, because I’m in this for the long haul. A life well-lived is about the long haul.
Have you been burning yourself out in the pursuit of your dreams because you think that’s the only way to “make it?” Or are you instead fighting, like me, to find a balance? I’d love to hear about the choice you’ve made and how/why you’re putting it into action.
(For an excellent, non-geeky look at this topic, check out Emma Burcart’s post “Sometimes We Just Need a Break.” For writers, I also love Kristen Lamb’s beautiful post “There Is A Season” where she talks about needing to let our minds, bodies, and imaginations rest if we want to be career authors rather than one-hit wonders.)
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Photo Credit: Michael Lorenzo (obtained via www.sxc.hu)