Thoughts: Energy

I woke up this morning. Got up, fixed the coffee. I let the cats out. I sat at the table and read up on yesterday’s football games and checked email. My first coaching client of the day asked to delay our meeting an hour. No problem. I put up the dishes, packed my computer and headed to the studio.

Pretty normal kind of morning. What was not normal is just how easy it all was.

I have energy on my mind today. Not the stuff we plug everything in to and pay the bill for each month. Personal energy. What we use to just get through the day. I am coming to understand just how little I understand it.

Let’s go back a few weeks. A few weeks ago I go the news that my cancer was not. quite. gone. I would have to get radiation treatment. we began immediately. My docs are great. Somehow no-nonsense and compassionate at the same time. Try it – that’s not an easy combination. They laid out the treatment in detail, explained what would be happening and laid out the side effects.

That’s something I have learned the past few years as I have gotten older and more of a chemical factory of little round pills to keep everything working well. Everything has side effect. It fits in well to one of my philosophies of life, one that has carried me through sixty some odd years: Everything is a tradeoff. Ask my kids. They have heard it so often they likely roll their eyes when they hear it.

So the tradeoffs with this treatment: On the good side. I live longer. And with a good prognosis of killing off this last little but potentially dangerous bit of cancer. On the not so good side there are those pesky side effects. Nausea. Diarrhea. And a loss of energy.

But not to worry they told me. The first few weeks generally have no side effects, then they show up and build through the treatment. Some people have almost none. I went from in shock to a little blase about the whole thing. A cake walk. I am younger than most of their patients. I am vigorous. With the help of my little bottle of chemicals each morning, I am ridiculously healthy for a man my age.

(When I was in college, there was a comedy routine about “better living with Chemistry” that had to do with, well shall we say non-medicinal drugs”. I have since adapted it to my 65 year old reality, with great humor each morning.)

Alas, there is a kicker. In my case it was that word “generally”. Two days I pretty much had the gamut. You don’t need the details. If it gets progressively worse, this was going to be ugly. But it was just for a couple of months or so. I’d survive. I’ve survived worse. Everything’s a tradeoff.

I slept a lot. Nap in the morning. Nap in the afternoon. Early to bed. ROugh sleeping but hey, when there is no energy, there is no energy.

I am familiar with that idea, having fought depression for a decade and a half. One of the things they don’t tell you about in depression is that along with the myriad of melancholy and the struggle to just function, you scratch and claw for every bit energy to function.

I am better off than a lot of people. I am disciplined. I get angry at my depression and anger carried its own energy. Except for an odd day here and there, I have been able to keep the spinning plates of my life going pretty well. If it wasn’t easy, if it was a struggle, well it WAS the reality. I didn’t so much have energy as I faked it. I pushed through.

And the trade off: Something resembling a normal life. Maybe it lacked a few things. Maybe I was not as productive as I was before the depression, that was OK. Good habits and discipline made it so hardly anyone noticed the fall-off. If I was dragging my lilly white to get it done, few noticed. And that was the tradeoff I wanted. Worth the work.

But I knew. I knew I lacked the energy I had taken for granted the first fifty years of life. Everything came easy then. Nothing came easy with the depression. Everything was hard. Even simple things like getting up, making the coffee, taking care of the cats. Never mind the things in life that really ARE hard. It was all hard. I just struggled for the energy to do them. THenergy to even think clearly. Forget real thinking about important things. And then add all the side effects of the radiation…. Yeah, you get it.

So here’s the weird thing. A good thing, but weird.

Last Sunday, a switch turned. Nausea – gone. Everything gone. And energy…. back. In fact, I did not just have energy, I wasn’t fighting my depression. There was a vague melancholy back there, but it was not an energy sapping thing. I didn’t have to fight just to get up in the morning. Stuff like coffee, cats and cleaning were easy. Keeping up with the daily minutia of life – easy. I could think clearer. I didn’t have to struggle through every decision or struggle through my depression to feel other things. Plans that have had a hard time coelessing in my head, came together. I could write more, work more, and none of it has been hard. None of it.

Will someone please tell me how that happens? Where is this energy coming from? I eat the same. I get about the same amount of sleep. I am a creature of habit and none of my habits have changed. I take the same seven pills each morning that I have taken for years now. Nothing makes sense to me.

Don’t get me wrong, I like it. I just don’t understand it. And I like understanding things.

With that energy has come some clarity. I’ve had some struggles in terms of what to do with some of my long term plans. (Yes, sixty five year old men still have long term plans. I am an optimist.) I just could not narrow things down to something I could see, I could get excited about. And if I have learned anything in my life it is that if I am not excited, nothing big happens. When I am excited. it happens.

So clarity. Energy. Is the energy coming from the fact that I have found some clarity at last? Or is the clarity creating energy? I have no idea.

There’s something in this. If I could understand it, I could make something of it. Harness it. Make use of the lessons (Everything in life is a lesson and all lessons are made to be shared.) I don’t have answers, but I am thinking on it. Fast and furious, and easy.

It is probably hard to understand what it is like to fight through the marshmallow puff of depression for all these years and then suddenly, have that barrier removed. I feel younger. I feel stronger. I dance, even more than normal, and I don’t have to make myself do it. I just do it. What should be easy, is. What should be possible, is. What is hard, is possible. WHen that has not been your reality, and suddenly it is again.

I don’t know what to do with it.

But I am a creature of habit and discipline. I just keep doing what I do. “Trust the process” I tell my clients and parishoners. And I am doing that only it is easier.

I don’t know what to do with it. Or how long it might last.

I am a creature of habit and discipline. In good times and bad. One of the habits I learned in my darkest, darkest moments is one moment at a time. Don’t worry about what is ahead. Just live this moment. And that is what I am trying to do. It may last. It may go away tonight. Whatever the reason, it is worth savoring and using and living.

But Dang, I wish I understood it. For a smart guy, I feel slightly dense. But that’s OK. I got stuff to do. And the energy to do it.

Be well. Travel wisely,



  1. Actually, I do know what it feels like, because the same thing happened to me when I left Washington State and came to live Upstate NY. Suddenly the depression I had fought all my life was gone. Poof. I didn’t understand it either. Still don’t. In the 2 years since I have had some downers but that was related to being taken off oxycodone that I was on for pain control (for some 15 years). The withdrawal from oxy is not good for anyone, particularly someone with depression issues, but for the past few weeks I seem to have reverted. I am very happy for you, Tom and hope it stays for you as it has me. I would like to understand too, but do I need to? No. I am just so grateful.

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