on being tired: a lifer's field guide: part 1

On Being Tired is a series of posts exploring what it means to be tired as a parent.
Make sure to catch the first few posts in the series: 

New Mom Tired explored the acute exhaustion that accompanies a woman's swift and merciless arrival into the brave new world of motherhood. It's a hunker-down-and-stay-alive kind of tired.

But then... at some point the kid starts sleeping for longer stretches, you start to vacuum again (I'm told), and you realize that you kind of know what you're doing now.

The tired that used to feel panicky and hopeless now just feels kind of normal. And it stays that way, at least for the next three and a half years. I'm sure it stays that way for a lot longer, but my oldest kid is three and a half so that's as far as my guided tour can take us today.

Question: How does tired feel when you're no longer the Piper Chapman of parenting, and you've settled into Red territory?

Well, I can't speak for you, but these are five tireds that I still feel, three and a half years into my sentence.

1. Scatterbrained Tired

Scatterbrained Tired is not just "where are my keys? Oh, here they are in my pocket."

It's, "where are my keys? Where am I going? Are they in the door again? The car door? Have I left the house today? When was the last time I went somewhere?" Scatterbrained is reaching for basic understanding of the world and coming up empty.

i was wondering
do i have to fill this out here
can i take it home
maybe bring it back tomorrow
what this is

Imagine your brain is a library, a big, old, hushed one - the kind with a domed ceiling and streaming light and smooth, scarred tables, and rows and rows of books. This is your entire life. There are books with titles like "Middle School Halloween Dance," and "What I Remember From Pre-Calculus," and "All The Zip Codes Where I Have Ever Lived" and "Times Ryan Was Wrong And I Was Nice About It," and a pamphlet called "Fun Facts about British Parliament" and a six-volume series of "Boyz II Men, Michael Jackson, The Four Seasons, and Paul Simon: The Complete Lyrics to Everything."

You go to the volume entitled "Location of Keys," and when you open it, not only are the keys not there, but the book itself is hollow, one of those plastic faux-books that realtors use to make the study in the new condo look lived-in. You look down the shelf and start to panic.

You check the books:
"Tom Cruise Complete Filmography" - No, I know this. He was in the one from the 80's where he was in his underwear on the floor... and the one in the future, or there might have been a couple in the future... and the one where he was a super agent guy... nope, EMPTY.

"Best Friend's Sister's Name" - Sssssssssssssssssss............arah? No. EMPTY.

"Current Date" - June? No, January. It's January, right? It's a J month. Check outside to see if it's winter. EMPTY.

"How To Get Home From The Grocery Store." And where did I park? Or... did I walk? EMPTY.

The library, once filled with the knowledge of an entire complex, well-examined life, now holds nothing more than boxes of air. It looks real, but the books clatter to the floor, useless, a sham, a mess.

You look up at the domed ceiling, see dust suspended in the beams of light.

You think, "what in the literal fuck has happened to me?"

Nothing, girl. You're just Scatterbrained Tired.

2. Dead Inside Tired

All the best existential nihilist philosophers did their best work right after having new babies.

(Do not look it up.)

But it would make sense if it were true. There comes a point in every Tired Mother's life when she thinks, "this is meaningless. Nothing matters. I could stay right here on this couch all day. In fact, I think I will."

Welcome to Dead Inside Tired.

That's when you stop showering.
That's when you wear sunglasses all the time.
That's when you sit in front of your phone and play Candy Crush, and you half-hear, but do not look up to watch the baby squeal, coo, and babble in his jumperoo.
That's when you say, occasionally, in an oddly robotic voice, "are you having fun, little man."

It's a hard feeling to describe if you've never been Dead Inside Tired.

You're not sad, or mad. You're just.. quiet. You're just a statue, one you imagine in a public housing lobby somewhere in the Czech Republic, a heavy, still form sitting on cracked linoleum, next to a plaque that reads, "Shell."

You're checked out.
You're done.
You can't summon the energy to give a single fuck.

Dead Inside Tired is a rough one. But on the upside, it has a short shelf life. You can only be Dead Inside Tired for so long before you either fall asleep or move into the next phase.

And for me, that next phase is usually...

3. Manic Joy Tired

Yep, I usually swing straight from Dead Inside to Manic Joy Tired. 
Listen, I never said I was a role model, and my family has a psychiatric background that our friends call colorful and our enemies call nothing because they've all disappeared.

If Manic Joy had a theme song, it would be One Direction singing "Who Gives a Fuck Let's Just Drink More COFFEEEEEEE!"

Here are the key elements for a period of Manic Joy Tired:

1. Way more coffee than is medically advisable, which you will drink to the rhythm of your galloping heart while attacking a long-overdue project like...

2. A crusty stovetop, food-spattered fridge shelf, cluttered basement, or toothpastey sink, that you can scrub furiously while sweating and lip-syncing to...

3. Upbeat pop music, playing way louder than it should be if you are over the age of 12, but which the baby totally loves, as is evidenced by his giant gummy grin, that you respond to with...

4. The most terrifyingly exultant displays of joy that any non-figure-skater has ever attempted to execute. Jumping, laughing, clapping, dancing... think about what a crackhead would do if she found all of the crack. You're there.

you had to be there
but trust me
it wasn't crazy
it wasn't
and it had been too long
since anyone had dusted
all the lightbulbs
at the grocery store
okay now that i'm thinking about it
it was definitely

Manic Joy Tired is fun while it lasts, but it only lasts as long as the coffee. At least you get a clean sink out of the deal... and as you get better acquainted with your own personal roller-coaster, you'll figure out how long you can ride this period of happiness and productivity, and how you can make sure that you get the most important things done while you have the give-a-fuckitude to do them.

4. Panic Tired

There doesn't need to be a reason. I've never suffered from depression but I do have some pretty high-octane anxiety that is a natural byproduct of being what one therapist called "lightly manic." She seemed to be pretty happy with the diagnosis, since she went on to tell me that most successful people are "lightly manic." Which I thought was pretty cute. Like, crazy manic, but light! With a lime wedge! And success! I'll take it, doc. Where do I sign?

But if I don't get enough sleep, my brain doesn't remember how to be still, and then if I don't give my brain a project (like a crusty stovetop, or, I don't know, a blog) then my brain will find its own problem to chew on. Fueled by too much coffee and tethered only by frail, spindly roots, my brain plunges madly into the dark places where Mufasa told Simba he must never go. This is where you'll find me, when I'm Panic Tired, thinking about:

1. My children dying
2. Me getting cancer
3. Ryan leaving us
4. Earthquakes, tsunamis, flash floods, zombie apocalypse, Ebola, North Korea - all that good global nightmare stuff.
5. Rats & child molesters (This is a fascinating pairing that I'll explore in more detail on my own time.)

The thing about Panic Tired is that if you call someone to explain why you're panicking, the first response is usually something like, "that's not something you need to be afraid of right now," or "but that's not what's happening right now," or simply, "you're okay."

That's true, I am! Except I am NOT.

Panic Tired doesn't care what the world actually is - it only cares what it could be, if Michael Bay were directing it based on a screenplay co-written by Jodi Picault and Cormac McCarthy.

5. Bread Tired

I don't think I need to go into detail about the number of loaves of French bread that have been eaten by tired mothers the world over since the beginning of this blog post, do I? 

I don't think I need to lay out the reasons that a crusty, flaky, crunchy, pillowy, still-warm loaf of French bread is the exact fuel a tired mother needs, do I?

I don't think it needs to be said that when I say French bread I could also mean Entenmann's coffee cake or Hostess Twinkie or mashed potatoes or obviously cookies of any stripe, right?

this mom
brought to you
by mission tortillas
"they're bread... but flatter."
I don't think it'll surprise you when I say that scientists have recently proven that bread cells bind directly to the spine, literally holding you up on days when you don't think you can go on, does it?

Nope. I didn't think so.


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