I’m a Steamroller Baby…. Or, Not

I have spent many years, decades actually, struggling with low energy. Physically this – what feels like a lack of energy – has ranged from debilitating fatigue to just being tired. There have been a variety of factors contributing to my inability to simply accomplish and do more physically. Environmental stressors (like moving a lot!), hormonal influences due to the cycle of pre and post menopause, and sleep disruption have certainly contributed their fair share. I have seen a variety of healers, utilized alternative medicine and herbal support, and continually attempted to learn, discover, or find some reason – something that I can fix or change – to heal my lack of energy and motivation to do more. Including, just accepting it.

if it makes you fly
Image by notsogoodphotography

It’s been an interesting process to observe, experience, and cope with. What I also find interesting is what presents itself on the rare occasions when I have gotten several nights sleep and my energy starts to strengthen. At first, I try to enjoy and just soak in the feeling of well-being that moments of feeling rested and energized bring. But, there is another layer underneath that: A layer that is supported by a foundation of suffering or dukkha.

Recently in a class on The Eightfold Path, there was a discussion regarding how often spiritual seeking is born from dukkha. For many of us, we were experiencing a sense of dissatisfaction in our lives that prompted us to question our existence. For me, it started as a teenager, but the real significant shift came about 30 years ago. At the time, I thought I was relatively happy or at least that I should have been due to my life circumstances. I had gotten married, completed my B.S. degree, and was living in a house that exceeded anything that I thought I would ever live in. Yet, I was waking up with an overwhelming sense of guilt and shame.

With youth frequently comes naivety. I didn’t understand that I had probably been carrying guilt and shame around with me for most of my life. So, at the time I remember a conscious turning point: I woke up one day and realized that I could not spend the rest of my life feeling like that! Let alone, start my day with so much pain and suffering.

It’s not that I had committed some terrible acts that gave me a clear excuse to point the finger at and say “hey, I need to change that!” No, the subtleties of lack of self-worth were still buried in the shadows of my subconscious.

Maybe I’m a slow learner, but I am surprised that after a lifetime of exploration, education, and expanding my awareness, I am still called upon to face the demons of guilt. And, I wasn’t even raised with a strong guilt incentive like many cultures foster. Of course, that can also lead one to deny that guilt is an issue. Our monkey minds and defenses do seem to enjoy a romp through the trees.

It’s kind of a full circle moment for me. I’ve had several nights sleep and been feeling quite good emotionally and energetically. This means that I have the opportunity to observe what bubbles to the surface when I am not overwhelmed by lack of sleep or fatigue. Hmmm, there’s some anxiety, and oh yeah, there it is: guilt. Really? I still have to deal with that? Naturally, there are the accompanying judgments, expectations, and confusion. Lots of confusion.

What am I so confused about? My life path. How have I managed to stay unemployed for so long? Is it really ok for me to be lousy at earning money? What is the matter with me? What am I to do now that I have some energy? Will the energy last, or is it just a rare occurrence that will cease any moment? If I keep this up long enough, I will be tired again and the pressure to clear a path through the confusion and act will most likely recede – which leads back to guilt. How can you waste a good night’s sleep?!

Let a smile be your umbrella
Image by Lel4nd

And so it goes, as I delight in a dukkha free moment, I am inviting dukkha right back in. Or, was it ever really gone? It’s funny really. It reminds me of the coyote in the old Road Runner cartoons. Get flattened by a steamroller just to get up and do it all over again.

It’s ok. I am not the same naïve person that I was so long ago. Now, I can observe and not attach my well-being to the guilt and confusion (most of the time anyway). I know I am more than that. I have greater awareness and understanding of my thoughts and feelings, and how I create them. This allows me to open to the duality of pleasant and unpleasant states without having to do away with one or the other

Even though I find myself with similar feelings regarding guilt and lack of self-worth, the significance and impact they have on my being have dramatically changed. Now, I can stand off to the side of the road; watch the steamroller go by and avoid getting run over. On the occasions when I still can’t resist wandering into the middle of the road and getting smashed, I know I can still move to the side – even if I have to crawl.

The coyote does always rise again. My faith in our ability to change gives me hope that strength will follow.


© Sallie Odenthal 2012

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