Time & Motion

When you’ve lived with finite energy for a couple of decades, conserving your battery life becomes second nature.  I am so used to conserving my energy expenditure that it’s actually difficult to write about, as it’s become such an automatic response it’s something I’m not really conscious of.

I observed myself unstacking the dishwasher yesterday and soon realized there’s a constant internal dialogue about energy going on in my head.  Some of the items belong on one side of my little kitchen and some on the other.  What I wasn’t aware of is that I only take out the items which belong on one side of the kitchen at a time – all the while my brain is thinking “if I take out the big glass jug and the little glass jug together I only have to walk to that cupboard once cos they both belong there.  Then if I take the little plates out with the bowls I only have to walk to that cupboard once cos they both belong there.  I’ll leave the pans til last, cos they belong 3 feet away on the other side of the kitchen”.  This internal voice rabbits on all day long, conducting its own time and motion study to help me conserve my battery.

I constantly have a pile of stuff on the bottom rung of the stairs.  Yesterday there was: clean linen off the washing line; a packet of Rennies cos I keep them in my bedside drawer and I’d run out that morning; a toy for Bertie (who has to carry one round in his mouth when he first wakes up, but then always leaves it downstairs later on) and a can of hairspray I’d bought in town.  Pre-illness I would have run up the stairs two at a time with each item throughout the day, but now they form a little pile which I take up with me in the late afternoon when I go to bed thereby only incurring one trip up The Eiger (my pet name for the stairs 😉 ).

The situation I struggle most with involves being with other people who always, always think I have more energy than I actually do.  A friend at Camera Club lost his wife to cancer recently and then his spine collapsed and he spent 3 weeks in hospital.  He’s had an awful few months and is still on crutches awaiting surgery.  He’s fed up of being stuck in the house alone and when he asked me out to lunch this Friday of course I said yes.  But he seems to want to make it an all day event – coffee at 11am, a 45 minute drive up the lakes, lunch and no doubt a drive round the pretty scenery afterwards – and while this would be lovely it would take 3 days worth of energy.  So I had to literally battle with him for a venue close to home, I would meet him there for lunch at 12.30pm and made it clear I had to be back for 3pm to collect Bertie who then needs walking before I got to bed at 4pm.

I’m actually wary of meeting this chap for lunch.  We get on really well, but I’ve found from past experience that newly single men (even through bereavement) like to hit on me.  I’m single and empathetic, they’re single, lonely and miserable, and in their minds that equals a couple despite the fact he’s literally old enough to be my Dad.  I also don’t want it to become a regular event because I barely have the time and energy to cope with the mountain of stuff I already have going on in my own life, let alone take on someone else’s problems and prop them up.  But that’s a story for another day!

I’m a rampant multi-tasker.  The quicker something gets done the less time I have to be upright and the less energy it takes.  When I make breakfast in a morning I put my cup under the kettle, press the button for water with my right hand, while my left hand is getting a plate for my toast out of the cupboard.  I then stir my tea with my right hand, while my left is getting butter and jam out of the fridge.  If you use both hands tasks take half the time 😉

Before getting sick I was a perfectionist and a bit of a neat freak.  I don’t have the energy for that shit now.  I unstack the dishwasher in a morning while my toast is browning.  Throughout the day, dirty pots stack up on the kitchen counters and I just pray I don’t have unexpected visitors.  Then in the evening I re-stack the dishwasher and wipe the counters down while my tea is cooking.  The problems start when, like last week, I spend 3 days too ill to do anything and by day 4 the dirty crocks piled around the kitchen are growing penicillin 😉  I must investigate paper plates!  My house gets cleaned once a week…….by the Cleaner.  The rest of the time it can get as dirty as it likes and it just has to stay that way.  At my funeral no-one is going to eulogize that I was a nice person but I needed to hoover more.

Writing this post I’m aware I still haven’t said what I wanted to.  I wanted to list the myriad of ways throughout the day that I subconsciously conserve energy, but that’s the problem……….it’s subconscious so it’s hard to explain what I do because it’s so automatic.  It’s a way of life and I’ve been sick so long I can’t remember living any other way.


2 thoughts on “Time & Motion

  1. d

    Hi Jak

    I agree, once you have lived with chronic illness, how you cope day to day becomes second nature. In trying to explain all the things I avoid in order to feel good, I found myself wracking my brain for all of them. I have gotten so used to subconsciously checking for things that will irritate that I couldn’t remember all of them. I went out for coffee one day and forgot to ask for decaffeinated – I forgot most people don’t drink decaffeinated. I tried to rest later on but I was way too buzzed, and then I realized what I had done. I think we learn to cope so well that that is part of why some people don’t think we’re dealing with illness. We have mastered the art of being functional (for the most part : ) .


    1. Jak Post author

      Absolutely d! I function so well in the world that, to look at me, I totally look like I have my life together. There is no hint of what my life is *actually* like or what I have to do just to get through each day. Jak x



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