I wish I had told her it spreads if left untended. I wish I had told her that closing her eyes was not an option, that if she gave herself permission to lean back she might never regain her balance. I wish I could have told her that it will pass; told her that she has no idea what joys await her and that she will forget the exact edges of this pain. I wish I had told her “No!” told her “You’re not allowed”, told her to keep fighting no matter what. But I didn’t.
Instead I told her “I know.”
I told her I know about that kind of tiredness. The tiredness that is unrelated to the usual definition of the word, unrelated to needing to take a nap, this bone-weary, hopeless, exhausted state where breathing is a marathon and imagining days upon days filling in a lifetime leaves you praying for endless sleep.
I told her I remember this tiredness, a giving up on hope, on the world and on myself. I said the same thing: “Please, I'm so tired. Please, let me stop.” That was my final wish, to be allowed to unlace my shoes and stop running. I begged for permission to stop. To stop trying, stop fighting, and stop searching for healing. Pled my case to ignore the hoops and appointments and doctors and treatments. I was tired. Tired of trying the same things countless times. Tired of disappointing those I loved. Tired of glimpsing hope and then letting it slip through my fingers. Tired of not knowing who I was or what I wanted. Tired of scrambling to stand up only to fall. Tired of the money spent, the guilt produced, the tears reflected in my family’s eyes. Tired of the promises broken and the good intentions slashed by self-destructive obsessions. I was tired of the internal fight with my brain’s committee, tired of the war between logic and instinct. I was tired of the merry-go-round ride: new plan, new perspective, new doctors, new treatments, new mantras and daily tasks. I tried on each of them in my life dressing room, and squirmed to make them fit, tugging and snapping, desperately hoping this would be the seamless answer. But as soon as I got home, I slipped into my comfortable hand-me downs once again, piling the helpful suggestions and curative tools in the hamper.
I was tired of the loops of years overlapping, months filled with new settings and the same plot. I was tired. I was tired in a way that extended forever, a horizon lined with endless days, failure, strenuous effort, blame, anger, pain, and absent joy. And I begged for permission to eject my life’s drama.
This tiredness coats like psychosis. This tiredness etched in my history was resistant to pep talks, inspirational books, and motivational cards. And my world weary brain was incapable of choosing anything other than the guaranteed cure: death as a treatment for exhaustion.
So I could have told her to hang on, not to give up, that life really does have laughter. I could have told her to look for blessings, to be gentle with herself, to be strong and hold off on the white flag of surrender. I could have told her that the tiredness drops a blindfold over your dreams, and submission only tightens its knot. But I didn’t.
I didn’t because she couldn’t have heard me through the death drums hypnotizing her brain. I didn’t tell her its what everyone else is telling her, everyone else who might not know what she really means when she says she’s tired. I wish I could show her a crystal ball, prove that life can be sweet, that better days are possible, that the tiredness doesn’t have to be a life sentence and even crisis carries gifts.
I told her I know the paralyzing weight of being tired. But I wish I could make her hear the rest. I wish I could prove that life is worth giving it your all, lay out the formula that results in happiness, give her the map towards fulfillment. But my maps can’t be her maps, and it’s not her that I really wish I could tell. She is drunk with exhaustion and trapped amidst the critics and bullies in her brain. I wish I could tell her parents, her friends, or her doctors. I wish I could tell anyone with more authority not to let her give up. I wish I could tell them that it might seem like she’s begging, but to save a life, you sometimes you need to bear the jabs and igore the pleas. To save a life, you might have to carry her, to mute her voice and take away her freedoms, to listen between her words, bypassing the delusions and tiredness and failures and lack of hope. To save a life you might need to read below the begging and transplant your own strength.
I know what it’s like to be tired. I remember when I closed my eyes, having been granted my wish, and the wave of relief as I set down my backpack laden with sorrow and fear. I know that kind of tired.
And yet, today, when I say I'm tired, I mean I need a nap or a long bubble bath or venting time with a friend. Today when I'm tired, I need nurturing or relaxation, soft touch and kind words. Today when I'm tired, skies might cloud over, but I still remember that the sun exists. I might be tired but I still want to live. And that is my unanswered prayer, the unrequested gift that my parents bought me by ignoring my pleas and forcing me to my feet. Eventually, slowly, the tiredness receded and hopeful dreams crept in.
I wish I could tell her to hold on no matter what because tomorrow might be brighter. But she can’t hear me. So instead I listen and I tell her “I know this tiredness”. And then I tell her about my day. I tell her about swinging on the playground and the dog friends we’ve made in the neighborhood. I tell her about my puppy’s face on the elevator and the great novel I just finished (Every Last One, by Anna Quindlen). I tell her about the standup comedy act that made me laugh out loud and the song whose lyrics made me cry. I tell her how the hours disappear when I write and about my dream of visiting a library and seeing my book in a reader’s hands. I tell her about my life, the smiles and the worries, hoping that somewhere, beneath the tiredness, she sees a snapshot of laughter, of joy between the struggles, of connection during the sickness, of a life born out of tiredness.
I tell her I know that kind of tired, and I tell her that I'm not tired anymore.
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