For many years, I’ve been functioning with a very basic-level MBTI understanding of how I gain and drain energy. I’m an extrovert, so my energy levels raise when I’m around people, and lower when I’m alone. This has never seemed quite true, because I’m actually fine being alone, too; I just don’t get the kind of rush from it that I do from social connection. But I’m a classic extrovert, with all the extrovert privilege that comes along with it, so I’ve rolled with it.
In the last couple of years, and especially in the time since I’ve moved to Cincinnati, I’ve noticed that I need a lot more sleep. I’m tired more, and it doesn’t seem to have anything to do with how much time I spend with people, and it also isn’t related to my satisfaction with my call or life, which is as high as it’s ever been. Helpful friends have reminded me that I turned forty in this time. I’m sure age plays a role, but I had an epiphany tonight about what might really be happening with my energy levels.
I feel most energetic when I’m engaged in action. My energy levels are kind of frightening, actually, when I have things to do – when I’m going places and accomplishing tasks and being physically and socially active. When action dominates my time, I barely sleep, and I tend to closely resemble a ping-pong ball.
If I’m mostly engaged in thinking, it’s kind of a zero sum game. Acquiring and analyzing knowledge requires focus that takes energy, but it also produces ideas that inspire me and give me energy. When I’m spending a lot of time studying or generating intellectual content, I’m running at roughly half strength (which might explain why I can never seem to finish writing a book, ahem).
When I am in the world of feeling, however, I am spending energy. Pouring it out in vats. I am completely exhausted after I’ve had a conversation that delves deeply into emotions, or made myself emotionally vulnerable, or even watched a movie that stirs up a lot of feelings.
(Some of you might notice some Enneagram connections here. You’re not wrong.)
Of course I’ve been tired the last couple of years, and of course an increase in sleep has accompanied my move. I am doing a ton more emoting. I’ve been working on my emotional awareness and vulnerability in my personal life. Somewhere in there I cracked something open that makes me cry all the time. I shifted from a ministry that was almost entirely action-based, to one that involves a lot of sitting with people in the midst of deep emotion. So yes, I need the renewal of sleep. I’m constantly hemorrhaging energy. And I’m fine with it.
Emotion is good. No, it’s not my most comfortable realm, and yes, it makes me tired, but…so what? Kids sleep more before a growth spurt; maybe this is like that. Maybe someday I’ll get my emotion muscles in better shape and using them won’t wear me out so much. For now, I’m going to bed. It’s been a very tiring day.