I’ve been so tired lately. I’ve been bone tired. Bone crushingly tired. Guts-smashed tired. I’ve been the tired-est of my tired. Rock bottom tired.
Yes, I had the flu. But it’s more than that. It’s years and years of work, and raising a family, and moving and war, and military life. It’s all those things. And then the flu happens.
Oh, it’s not the first time I’ve been this tired. When women ask me “how do you do it”, I usually say something quick and trite like “Well, you just take it one day at a time”. But I’ve wanted to say so much more for such a long time.
I remember the first time I was bone-crushed, gut-smashed tired. I only had two kids back then, and I had worked and persevered so very diligently for so long, that I felt like my left eye was being crushed constantly. It resolved, over time, but it was then that I began to say “no”. I started saying no to a lot, although it would take me over a decade to finally get comfortable with it.
No, I didn’t say “no” to more children. I wanted more children. My husband and I both wanted more children. It’s the other stuff I started saying “no” to. I also started asking my husband for more help.
And then later, after my fourth child, I became so tired that I remember sitting on my back porch, wrapped in a blanket, breathing so shallowly. I remember telling my husband that I needed days – days and days of “me time”. I remember telling him that needed help with buying the kids spring clothes. I needed help cleaning all the winter clothes out of the closets. The mere thought of these tasks was breaking my brain.
Yes, he did help me. I remember him coming home with all four kids and finding me, again, on the porch. He showed me all the spring outfits he found for them. He told me what a great time they had shopping together (although you know it was chaos). I cried from relief.
The years cycle, and the scenery changes, but still – I get tired. I’ve learned, however, that this kind of bone-crushing tired is part of life. It’s nothing to be ashamed of. It’s what all people encounter if they are living life to the fullest.
I’ve found that it’s often difficult to talk about the bone-crushing tired times. First, because there is no quick quote or meme or mindset to fix it. “Fixers” get very upset when you’re not AWESOME all the time. Maybe it’s because they see you allowing yourself to be human while they’re still performing for an imaginary audience. Or maybe it’s because they’ve shamed themselves into living a beige existence, and seeing you out there in all your crimsons and indigos makes them upset with the fact that they settled…..for beige. So they make a point to needle you just a little while you’re down. Oh yes, I see it.
Secondly, I have observed that admitting to being bone-crushed tired brings all kinds of unsolicited advice, and a bit of “tsk tsk tsk you need to slow down”, kind of advice. Which, to a woman like me is maddening. “Of course I need to slow down, Karen, I’m pretty sure my body is telling me to slow down”. More than once, I’ve intentionally slowed down and wasn’t available for gossip and coffee, then guess who had a problem with it? That’s right, “Karen”.
I’ll call this phenomenon “Society’s Problem With Women Who Don’t Feel Great All-The-Time”. More of the “damned if you do, damned if you don’t “ scenario that I talked about in my last post.
So, from now on, whenever I’m not at 100%, I’m going to blog about it. Whenever I’m in recovery from whatever life has thrown at me, I’ll talk about it.
For a long time now, whenever I get the “superwoman shtick” I’ve wanted to tell women “No, you don’t understand, I’m not at 100% all the time! I’m not feeling awesome every day. I’m just taking it day by day and trying to look on the bright side of things!”
Conversely, many think a woman who has chosen to have a large family MUST be exhausted and defeated ALL THE TIME. Also not true.
I can assure you that as my responsibilities have grown, my ability to gage my strengths and weaknesses has only increased, my ability to spot and call out bullshit has only sharpened, my ability to be unabashedly ME has only flourished.
Why? Because this is the path of life I wanted, chose and desired for. And this path is a jewel to me. A jewel worth protecting.
I have learned to love my day as it is. I’ve learned that every day is a GIFT, and that I do not perform for anyone. I am me, and I am alive, and that is amazing.
Weakness is part of living. Do not ever let anyone convince you otherwise. In fact, exhaustion is a gift. It’s a way to see what’s working in your life, and what’s not. It’s a way to see who has your back, and who doesn’t. It’s a way to gauge which choices in your life were “worth it” and which ones weren’t.
And sometimes, it’s just the flu on top of everything else.
Ups and downs in life happen whether you have kids or not. Whether you have two kids or seven kids. Whether or not you are in crisis, or smooth-sailing. Maybe it’s the self-compassion we wrap ourselves in that will determine who will actually be strong and healthy and whole in the long-run.
My oldest kids ran the house while I was down with the flu all week. They did a remarkable job. Investing in my children – by way of patience and kindness and compassion has paid great dividends. When I need compassion, not only do they know how to practice it, but they are willing to give it.
In this season of rest and reprieve in Kentucky, I’ve found great solace in making my daily fruit salad. It’s become one of my daily self-care rituals.
Part of my daily shopping trip is curating the most colorful combinations of flavor and texture.
I even have my favorite fruit bowl.
I think a lot of people shy away from making fruit salads because they are unsure how to wash and chop specific fruits.
I do not wash pineapple, but I do cut it in this specific way. Top and bottom off, slice the rind off in long strips.
The very center of the pineapple is a hard, wooden core. Do not eat that. Simply slice the flesh off on long chunks. Cube.
I put the sturdiest fruit into the bowl first.
I wash the grapes in a colander. These are Seedless Black Table Grapes. I love them. Not only is the color so striking against the golden pineapple, but the grapes are light and sweet – like cotton candy.
I pull all the grapes off the vine.
Then slice them all in half. I’ve found generally, that halved grapes work much better in a fruit salad than whole grapes. Plus, less of a choking hazard for kids.
Pretty, yes? I like to choose colors that contrast beautifully against each other.
I wash strawberries by gently wiping them with a damp towel. If you deluge strawberries in water (like we did our grapes) they will lose most of their flavor.
I remove all the stems…
And then I decide which shape to slice the strawberries. I like to take my time and make measured decisions. Fruit salad “meditation” has one of my best tools of self-care. Back when I had my cooking school, I used to go in often by myself, and design cakes for the sheer joy of it. I found joy in designing here in my Kentucky kitchen, by way of my simple fruit salads. It’s been very healing.
I went with strawberry wedges today. Toss by hand…
It’s pretty. Seeing my completed artwork always lifts me up.
And it’s delicious.
Maybe our ability to live life to the fullest has a lot to do with the safety net we build for ourselves. Safety nets like good bedtime routines, and the ability to call out bullshit and shun it….
And our ability to make self-care a daily practice.
And when we fall short on that even….maybe self-compassion will get us through until we are feeling just a little better.