In which laziness is native to humans, yes, but more sophisticated than that.
See, you have many varieties of laziness.
Flat out sloth where anything outside of eating, sleeping and watching television [or reading for that matter] is shrugged off.
Then you have laziness that emerges when someone wants you to do something–like, I don’t know, paint a room–and you simply avoid it…
For a very long time.
Then there’s laziness that’s caused by depression. Lethargy is a better word here. Lethargy as in being dull, listless and apathetic.
The first sort is an extreme version, but nothing more than the second sort ferociously out of control.
And while no one will ever indict me as a slob, at any time in the week you can find me squarely in the camp of the second sort. [Not sure why, but I have lots of people asking me to do lots of things I don’t want to do. Go figure.]
But about two months ago I found myself in the third sort for the first time in a very long time. And how I ended up suffering from this low-grade, pathological laziness is an interesting story.
The Origin of This Lethargy
It officially kicked off when my family and I abruptly departed our home and moved in to a friend’s house. Our fate was uncertain as we tried to figure out what was wrong with our home.
Mold? Radon? Lead? What was causing our daughter to have severe headaches?
Naturally, all of our plans for that week– for the next month–were not going to get off the ground.
Our routine–MY routine–was severely disrupted.
A Short Litany of Psychological Hang Ups
In the span of about three days I slept for 30 hours. [Ten hours a day is unusually long for me]. Found myself bent on withdrawing from everyone I knew, including my wife and children.
Coffee–a usual mild medication to put pep into my step and fiber into my personality–wasn’t doing the trick.
I tried to read when I could–even the Bible. But I didn’t have much space. Or privacy. So I was distracted much of the time.
I continued to blog but felt guilty when I did because I wasn’t sharing in the same concern for my family’s fate as my wife.
So, while I wasn’t clinically at risk by any stretch of the imagination, I was officially in a funk.
And not sure how to get out.
The Unusual Antidote
At some point I picked up a copy of Psychology Today and found the answer in one of the most unusual of all places: an article on Obama’s chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel.
This short profile on a prototypical hypomaniac [which, by the way, is not a clinical diagnosis] described Emanuel with words like effective. Extreme. Unflappable. Immense energy. Drive. Confidence. Creativity. Infectious enthusiasm. Charisma. Big ideas.
He was described as ”a shark who dies if he stops moving.” He possessed “unyielding aggression in pursuit of his goals.” But was “more heat-seeking missile than loose cannon.”
This rapidly became clear to me: my achievements and energy and drive pale in comparison to Emanuel’s.
For whatever reason that smacked me in the face. But that was exactly what I needed.
In the end, this realization [that I was dinkering on in life, feeling sorry for myself] helped me snap out of my funk. It also pointed out that my lethargy was nothing more than prolonged self-pity.
Prolonged self-pity that was damaging my family.
Sure, our family suffered a setback. A defeat. A rearrangement of our lives that messed with me monumentally. But how long did I plan on sulking over that setback?
Three days? Three weeks? Three years?
In short, this borderline psychopath I read about in Psychology Today inspired me. Inspired me to work hard. To accept responsibility. Reject passivity. And lead courageously.
A Second [Almost-as-Sobering] Epiphany
This experience also demonstrated something else to me: the apostle Paul was more than likely a hypomaniac.
It seems right to say he possessed “unyielding aggression in pursuit of his goals.” It seems right to describe him as extreme, creative, driven, charismatic, confident and unflappable.
And it seems right to say he would die if he stopped moving. That’s why, in spite of relentless persecution and obstacles, he never stopped traveling, preaching or writing.
Thus, the issue came down to this for me: am I going to squander my mind, ideas, creativity and energy on self-pity? A momentary setback? Or was I going to take it in the chin and climb back in the ring as Paul did countless times?
The answer was easy. I wanted back in the ring.