I had a bad executive functioning day today. For me, when I struggle with executive dysfunction, it means that I just can’t get my brain to do things like: remember to brush my teeth in the morning, choose what food to eat, find the energy to leave the apartment, or make frozen sweet potato fries in the toaster oven without burning them.
I’ve been sick since coming back from SXSW. The first week that I was back, I was taken offline by an upper respiratory infection that resulted in a fever and exhaustion to the point that I couldn’t raise my arms. This week, my stomach and digestive system have been a wreck – almost certainly a result of likely cross-contamination of gluten with all of the times I’ve been out to eat while traveling.
Becoming comfortable with my inconsistent executive functioning has been (and continues to be) an ongoing journey in undoing internalized ableism and finding self-love. Sometimes, I struggle with executive function because I’ve damaged the inside of my small intestines, and my body can’t absorb the nutrients from food I’m eating. Sometimes, I’m struggling because I had multiple weeks with more than 40 hours of meetings, and met dozens of new people, and I have to balance all of that with the actual “sit down and do the work” part of life.
I’ve found that it’s about celebrating the small wins, and finding ways to celebrate every possible moment. While I still struggle to allow myself downtime and rest in the quantities that I know I need, I’m finding delight when I’m able to make a small improvement. I’ve cultivated a routine of daily yoga over the past three months – so even if I can only manage five minutes in one easy pose, that’s worth celebrating.
I’m using a lot of my executive functioning to be a functioning executive. Learning how to navigate a rapidly shifting market on the advent of a technological breakthrough as banks collapse and the climate becomes increasingly hostile asks a lot of our functioning these days.
So maybe instead of executive functioning, I’ll start thinking about it more from a perspective of empathetic functioning. If I can’t verbalize my deep appreciation for you, look to my writing and my words and where I am spending my time. When I show up, it is because I value and am making space for you. Do not assume my silence is a lack of interest or attention. If I can’t make a quick decision – even about something that seems “trivial” to you – know that it is because I am deeply and thoughtfully considering the needs of my body and the experience that I want to co-create with you in my answer.
With AI, and the era of the “large language model” upon us, it is time for us to start thinking about the most important language model: our own.