Enjoy anticipation

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The choice of how we act is one of the things taken away from us by fatigue, and one of the hardest things to deal with. When you have very limited energy, a lot of things that make up the joy in life are restricted, and some are completely impossible.

This means we have to look a little harder than we may have done before to find pleasure and enjoyment, with a focus on activities that use minimal energy.

One area that bears fruit is to enjoy anticipation; learning to appreciate the potential of doing things, as well as actually doing them.

Anticipating enjoyment takes minimal energy and gives us extra pleasure out of each future activity, which makes a big difference when we can only do a few things.

The anticipation of an event is often one of its most pleasurable aspects. When we book a holiday, we get weeks or months of enjoyment out of imagining ourselves at the destination. The real thing often doesn’t live up to this idealised vision - it’s too hot, we forgot to pack our swimsuit, or it’s just over too quickly - but the pleasure of anticipation was real.

Let’s say it’s the evening and we can only do one or two things. We can approach it like being in a restaurant, choosing from a wide menu of possibilities and playing with options for how we might use our energy. This gives us the pleasure of anticipation without needing to spend the energy on doing the activity. Sure, we’ll likely choose our old favourites most of the time, but that’s actually great if we’ve discovered that we really do value those activities over the other options. They are more precious because we had to pick, we didn’t just get given every item on the menu.

This is one of the hidden benefits of fatigue, being forced to really choose what matters to us and what doesn’t, because we quite literally can’t do both.

This approach also helps with pacing energy use over the day. I try to save a certain number of energy points for the evening, which I use on relaxing activities. It can be a constant battle not to spend this energy earlier in the day, and I find anticipating spending those points later on things I know I’ll enjoy both pleasurable in the moment, and really helpful at giving me a reason to save the energy until later.

By focusing on where we do have a choice, even if only in a limited capacity, we regain some freedom and agency. This is especially good for the day to day of life, where things can easily get very restricted and depressing when we have limited energy.

There’s another type of anticipation that we can focus on and enjoy - the anticipation of recovery.

The idea of recovery is wonderful, but I find focusing on it directly brings up a lot of thoughts and emotions, including sometimes some limiting beliefs, so I try to approach this in small steps and just think about what I’d like to do when recovered, as a way to help decide what I should use my energy on at the moment.

Being forced to prioritise our energy is like a training camp in working out what really matters to us. Combining this clarity with our ideas of what we’d like to do when recovered means we can take steps to reorient our life in that direction now, without needing to wait, and it’s these little steps that will have the compound interest that will make our recovery sustainable.