Life’s A Lot of Work, I’m Tired


Life’s a lot of work, I’m tired. 

These are the seven word, seven syllables, that came into my mind as I ran.

I was surprised to be running. I’d been running, sure — errands. I thought it might turn out to be the kind of day when I go around in running clothes but never actually end up running. I’d gone to the post office to mail our taxes stuff off to my what-would-we-do-without-her accountant in Northern Vermont (loyalty, yo), along with an overdue parking ticket. I’d stopped off at the library to return two books that were so overdue they’d been marked off as missing. (Shit, I’m noticing a theme here…). I drove to the grocery store, receipt in hand, to pick up the paper towels and bottled water I’d paid for but left behind yesterday, in between picking Aviva up from the bus and Pearl up from Hebrew school.

A slight headache that began yesterday morning, and that low-grade meh that comes every month so predictably you could set a Swiss clock by it. It’s too minor to be called depression, and too insistent to ignore.

It felt like a minor accomplishment to be out running errands in running clothes in the first place. I glanced at the weather app on my phone. Temperature: 21. RealFeel: 1.

One degree? I could hear the little voice in my head, the one that wants to pick a fight with life. The same one that gets whiny and wants a vacation.

But I did it. I left the car in the Stop & Shop parking lot, set a timer for 20 minutes, and ran. Hands red and cold, breath surprisingly steady, twenty minutes of sun and oxygen and heart rate up and moving through space and time enough to get things moving, including my mood.

Life’s a lot of work, I’m tired. These seven words, these seven syllables, like ticker-tape. A mantra. An allowance to acknowledge that it’s ok not to be the energizer bunny. Not to be “on” all the time or positive all the time. Not to have to defend “tired” as if somehow it contraindicates gratitude. No, I will not buy into that noise.

I looped back to the car, rosy-cheeked. And as I drove home, with grand plans to shower and nap before doing work, I talked to myself a bit. I do this — I talk in the car when I’m alone all the time. I talk to God, I talk to my angels, and I talk to myself. Maybe it’s all the same, who knows. There’s something about the car, though, that seems to bring out some of my clearest moments.

And you know what I said?

I have a great boss.  She sends me home for a few hours to shower and rest when she can see that I’m feeling tired or down or achey or just meh

Suddenly, I had a new framework for my morning funk. I’d been up since 6:00am. I’d gotten two kids off to school. I’d resisted the rabbit hole of the bad news and the even worse news we’re all stewing in. I’d also resisted the rabbit hole of all the “shoulds” that come to my door some mornings, peddling their snake oil and suitcases filled with fears gussied up as magic potions, potions that will help me make more money, have more energy, write more beautifully, connect more deeply, and all other manner of bigger, better, different, and next.

Life’s a lot of work, I’m tired.

Instead, I wrote a haiku at a red light. Those seven syllables were the first of three little lines. Later, after a long, hot shower, I climbed back into bed.  Because I have a great boss, and she told me to get some rest before coming back to the office. I mean, kitchen table.

I looked over at my wife. “Is it ok that I wrote that I’m tired on Facebook?”

She looked at me with something I can only describe as confusion. And before she could say another word, I answered my own question, chagrined that I’d asked that in the first place. Did I really just ask that? As if being tired, as if saying that life is a lot of work sometimes, is somehow something to keep to myself or downplay or conceal? Social media is weird.

Earlier, I’d read words I needed more than I knew. They planted themselves in my psyche as I set out in my running clothes to run errands.

Dear Sister,

What looks or feels like laziness is actually exhaustion 9 times out of 10

Take the time you need and rest your body and soul

Desiree Adaway

So, so true. I can berate myself for being “lazy,” or love myself by recognizing when I’m exhausted. This distinction makes all the difference.

I’ve held several full-time jobs. The kind you go to in the morning and come home from eight or nine hours later. I’ve also always had a full-time life. Imagine that! And life and work were often at odds in some way, vying for my time and attention. Sometimes, there was that sweet spot, where the two overlapped. I loved that.

Since striking out on my own again, one thing I keep encountering is this: You take yourself with you. (Duh.)

I still have those crying-out moments, when I’m tired and there’s too much and I wonder, how will I keep going? Where I fear, if I “stop,” everything will fall apart.

And here’s the thing: I am gathering evidence. Over time, one day, one week, one month, six months now without a traditional paycheck, that we are ok. That I can trust life. That I can relax. Take rest. Reset, regroup, recharge. All those fabulous “re” words.

There’s no glory in burning out just as there’s no shame in saying, “I’m tired.” Or, “I need a hand.” Or (gasp!), “This can wait.”

Life’s a lot of work, I’m tired.

To say as much is not an admission or cop-out or an embarrassment or a complaint. It doesn’t mean I’m not madly in love with my life and my work. It’s just honest.

I joke a lot about napping and how much I love it. A few days ago, I even came up with a title to add to “promptress.” (Naptress!) Today, after a much-needed and delicious nap, Mani took it a step further by calling herself a sleepologist and coming up with a brilliant slogan: “To rest is to invest.” See? I’m quoting the real experts here, people. This, from a woman who used to thrive on all of four or five hours of sleep a night. Where I was a devoted napper and an early-to-bed, early-to-rise type, she was more “I’ll sleep when I’m dead.” Amazingly, I now work at home and can nap pretty liberally, and rest is now a crucial part of her healing journey. How about that?

Oh, life. You keep showing me this and I keep picking fights with you before surrendering, sometimes gracefully but more often than not, collapsing in a heap.

Thank you, for such patient, welcoming arms.

9 thoughts on “Life’s A Lot of Work, I’m Tired

  1. Dana says:

    Love this Jena. I had one of those days where I can feel the angstiness rising up with its cat claws and pulling at me, and instead of falling into my rabbit hole of self-doubt and not-enough, I thought, man, I really need to sleep. So tonight after this perfect read and my comment, I’m off to bed to rest and recharge so I can feel the light when it’s shining down.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Tara Borin says:

    I love “to rest is to invest”. Too often we overlook the importance of giving ourselves a break. Whenever I have time to myself slated for “self-care”, I think…I should write, I should do yoga, I should go for a walk…but sometimes what I really need is to sleep. And that usually feels like time wasted to me. Thanks for reframing it, for reminding me that sometimes that is an absolute gift to ourselves!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. em-i-lis says:

    Oh Jena, I feel you! Sounds like we were running on the same wavelength yesterday. I, too, ended up running, and boy did it feel good. I, too, cringed when I wrote publicly about how tired and pissed I felt. But then I thought, would I tell my friends how I’m feeling? Yes. And my space is that same sort of space. As is yours. Writing is healing. Sharing and honesty foster better connection. Who benefits if no one honestly shares that life is hard and that sometimes, we all get tired. Love you and hoping for a restful day for you!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Katalina4 says:

    Last week my horoscope said: You need a vacation.
    I couldn’t see how I could possibly consider a vacation, the schedule, the obligations, the deadlines, but in the night, a dream of one of the producers I just finished working with leaning over to me and saying: You don’t even realize how much you need a vacation.
    He’s currently on a beach in Cuba – I think he was speaking to me from there.
    Your life sounds so so full – in all ways glorious, but also exhausting.
    Rest, if you can…


  5. daniel says:

    Kvetching is such a good thing from the Jewish culture (and I don’t know any other group that has this exact approach)……not that all of this was kvetching…..but Life is Hard Work! and I like where you say: “An allowance to acknowledge that it’s ok not to be the energizer bunny. Not to be “on” all the time or positive all the time. Not to have to defend “tired” as if somehow it contraindicates gratitude. No, I will not buy into that noise”……..and it’s okay to be angry, fed up with the world, wanting to pull the covers over your head and just disappear……anger is not acknowledged enough and I find it freeing because you can see where the sliver is in your life and pull it out and go on…..maybe with a nap or hesitant question to Mani….good for you getting this all out!!! we all need to do this…..

    Liked by 1 person


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