The older I get, the more varieties of tired I can feel. It’s like life has stages of exhaustion, some more qualified than others.
Kinda starts with the “I kicked my legs, ate breakfast and farted” kind of tired as a baby. Like, it takes absolutely nothing to feel tired as an infant. I think we’re more tired than awake at that stage, which lines up perfectly with our parents.
And then there’s the “I’m hungry and angry about it” kind of tired as we get a bit older, which can sometimes set in after the “I played a lot at the park and now I’m hot” kind of tired, or the “We’re driving kinda far” kind of tired.
And then there’s a long stretch of the “I’m bored” kind of tired. On road trips. During summer breaks. On lazy Sunday afternoons.
Then we graduate to the “I stayed up until 2 writing love notes to a boy while sleeping at my besty’s” kind of tired. The kind that takes your entire afternoon away, gives you a few minutes to eat dinner, and quickly returns by, like, 7. It’s a recovery kind of tired.
Which is actually a gateway to college-level sleepiness. I think you’re never not tired in college – unless it’s 2 a.m. and you have a burrito in your hand. Then you’re jacked – wide awake. Ready to absolutely rock. Until you hit the pillow, or find a comfy patch of grass or stumble upon a hammock or recline your car seat or face-plant on a couch.
And somehow you get a power up in your 20s, after college. You can do pretty much anything and never feel gross or sick or sleepy. Because you have no one to answer to on the weekends and you can sleep as late as you want. You being tired is like a foreign language. It’s not something you comprehend. You can go for-frickin’-ever.
Until you have a baby. That really slows the ol’ roll. And you experience a level of exhaustion that is unprecedented. You haven’t experienced anything like it since you were actually an infant yourself and your own parents were experiencing this new level of exhaustion and you have no memory of it.
And then you go through this whole period of hangovers and shitty sleep with no chance to ever recoup what you’ve lost. That sleep is gone. No rebates. No returns. Because you don’t get rainchecks on a bad night’s sleep. It’s first-come-first-serve. And in the morning, it’s go time. For work, for life, for kids, for everything.
And you wish you were in college again, for a minute. Minus the exams and awkward make-out sessions. And utter broke-ness.
And then this season of growth or knowing or something otherworldly arrives – usually in your mid-to-late 30s or early 40s, and you are introduced to a new kind of tired. Because people you know are getting divorced or dying. It’s when life gets real. It’s kind of a jack-in-the-box tired, in so much as it pops up and hits you out of absolutely nowhere.
You heard the music for years, you just never knew when the box was going to open. Welcome to actual adulthood.
That’s the kind of tired I feel now. I go, go, go, go, go, go and without much warning, collapse. I actually fell asleep while writing last night, which might explain some of the goofy wording I used when talking about our new trailer.
Some of the exhaustion is self-induced, because I can’t bear to waste one minute of any day. I can’t. It’s not something woven into my DNA. But having zero regrets is. So I manage my life around that. And most times my eyelids cooperate. Last night? Not so much.
Go. Do. See. Explore. Question. Write. Laugh. Wonder. Talk. Love. That’s me. All of those things, until my brain absolutely can’t take another second. Even when I beg it to.
The “this stage of life” kind of tired is a mash-up, for me anyway, of putting demands on my brain and then managing the demands on my heart. They don’t balance each other. Instead I think they fight each other for the energy they require.
And by some force of nature, the balls all stay in the air. I don’t know how that happens, either. They just do. It’s like exhaustion inspires a higher-level game.
I think, though, as a whole, we underestimate the toll of emotional exhaustion. We don’t give it enough credit. We don’t even really acknowledge it, unless you’re a celebrity headed to rehab. Maybe that’s why the concept is cheapened.
When you have to, say, worry about the emotional well-being of your kids when they’re not in your care – that’s god damn exhausting. It’s something that can’t be measured. And at the same time, in the same season of emotional concern, you’re getting through work at a ferocious pace, and that’s god damn exhausting.
They both pull. They both require your energy. And at the end of the day, when everything is done, they pop out of the box and knock your ass out. As you’re writing. On the deck.
And suddenly you’re in college again, which is what you kinda wished for about a decade ago.