Of course, on the scale of exhaustion I've felt over the years, this certainly isn't the worst.
It's not the mind-numbing exhaustion of new parenthood where your body is screaming but it's so hard to fall asleep because you know baby is about to wake up again, and you spend hours at night nursing in that still quiet while watching 30 Rock on the iPad and reading internet message boards, and you mark success of your day by whether or not you took a shower. I made it through all that. If you're still in it, my heart is with you. Just hang on. This time won't last forever.
It's not the back-aching, touched-out exhaustion of being pregnant with a toddler, where you are in a contest of wills with a creature whose desire to climb on you and cling to you is directly related to your own need for personal space. The exhaustion of parenting through the primal fear that you are ruining your family by adding another person to it because how on earth could your heart expand enough to love another child as much as you love the one you already have? I made it through all that. If you're still in it, my heart is with you. (Your heart will expand, by the way. There is always enough love. The love is the easy part.) Just hang on. This time won't last forever.
It's not the exhaustion of being pulled in multiple directions by a demanding full-time job outside the home and the need to tend to your people inside the home and your desire to stay connected to your community, and the realization that you can only manage two out of those three things so you feel the friendships fading out of your daily life. If I had stayed in that particular job, the exhaustion might have broken me. If you're still in it, my heart is with you. Thank you so much for working so hard. Lean on those of us who have a little extra time and space to keep community alive. You deserve to feel connected.
This is a new exhaustion that I'm feeling right now. That's the beauty of parenthood - kids keep changing and you keep discovering new ways of being tired.
This is the exhaustion of just living regular life, the life that you have intentionally built, and realizing that you and you alone have to do the work, every day, to keep yourself well even when life is relatively good and the kids are sleeping (mostly) through the night.
I recently had to give up coffee. Not just coffee, but all caffeine. Being an HSP, I used to get a buzz from drinking decaf. Yet somehow in the last two years I cultivated a habit of 1-3 regular cups a day. My body finally said ENOUGH and developed a heart arrhythmia to force me to quit.
Quitting coffee has not been easy. I miss the earthy smell and the no-frills, rugged feeling of drinking my coffee black. I miss the way I would come downstairs in the morning and find my travel mug filled and steaming with fresh-brewed coffee from my hubs.
Most of all, I miss the jolt. I miss being able to count on something that helps me convince myself that I'm not dead tired.
Without the coffee to mask the exhaustion, I've had to pay attention. I've had to recognize that I was trying to use my daily coffee to trick myself into thinking I don't need to do all the other hard work to keep myself well.
Every day I need to get up at 5am with the cat and stay awake even though the kids are still asleep and it is dark outside and it goes against everything I have ever known to intentionally get up before the sun. I need to do my morning pages and practice yoga and write for this blog, and when the kids call out to me I need to send my husband in to them instead. When I do not do each of these things, I feel resentful and angry at them and myself for the rest of the day. I've had a lot of angry, resentful days lately.
And those are just things I need to do to start my day. There are so many other things I know in my core are necessary actions if I want to be well. There's a big long, exhausting list.
One reason I haven't posted to this blog in over a week is that I was trying to put together my own "Preventive Maintenance for the Highly Sensitive Parent" list, the kind of list that you'd want to share on Facebook and who knows, maybe it would even get picked up by the Huff Post? Big blogger dreams.
But I just kept stalling out. I would think of new categories that didn't fit into the neat list of items I had already brainstormed. I would go back and forth between Preventative and Preventive (I think both are right? But I still don't know?) I would find myself going on so many tangents that I could feel my focus slipping away and the inner voice would start to yell, "This will never be a share-able list if you keep telling all of these stories!" Finally I started to feel like a major fraud because I find myself not doing so many of the things that I know I should be doing, so why should I tell you what to do?
Maybe I'll keep working on that list. But for now, the best I can do is share what I'm going through as I aim for the grounded, joy-filled, compassionate days I know to be possible when I lay the foundation. I can push through those angry, resentful days and remind myself that the sun will come up tomorrow and I'll have a fresh chance to get up with the cat.
I'll keep writing and hitting publish, even when the posts don't feel finished or thematically coherent or syndicate-worthy.
And maybe I'll even help you find the courage to listen to that inner voice that is telling you what you could do to better care for yourself, too.
Thanks for reading. May you have a grounded, joy-filled, compassionate day.