You’re Tired, I’m Tired, We’re All Just Exhausted

Okay, let's just admit: life doesn't always come with adequate sleep guaranteed.

Can you remember the last time that you got a full night of blissful, uninterrupted sleep?

Can you will your mind to bring you back to those days when you weren’t drowning in the wee hours of the night in a barrage of demands from the tiny dictators who live under your roof and eat all of your cheese? 

Please don’t resent me for admitting this, but I actually can. My only living child recently celebrated her fourth birthday, and I’m elated over the fact that she seems to have outgrown the endless charades we used to live through at bedtime and all through the dark hours of the night. (I’m knocking on wood, here. Seriously. All of the wood.)

You should know, at any rate, that it took us what felt like six thousand years to get to this place, though. My daughter had already started her third lap around the sun before she cut her nighttime wakings down to three from — and I kid you not — upwards of A DOZEN times. I can’t even quite figure out how I lived through those first couple years of her life, considering I spent every night as a human pacifier — as a veritable set of boobs with a body attached — crawling like the living dead back and forth from her room to my own, nursing her at her every whim. Because God forbid she should ever even consider the legitimacy of a soother or a bottle, and because I’m a woman who turns into a human puddle at the sound of my baby’s cries. 

So, you know, I have an idea of what tired feels like. 

And so, full disclosure — a few nights ago, we had a relapse. I can chalk it up to this awful cold my daughter’s been wrestling with, but whatever the cause, it was one of those nights where every hour or so I was awoken by her screaming my name at full-blast because she needed me to do her bidding — to fetch her a Kleenex, to locate her left sock, to rummage around in the blankets for her water cup, and, the grand finale: to change her sheets and her pajamas after an extensive bout of coughing caused her to throw up. It was an incredibly exhausting night, which ultimately came to an end shortly after 4:30 a.m., at which point our day began. I felt like I’d been hit by a Mack truck. 

You’re tired, I’m tired, and we’re all just exhausted. This isn’t a contest, as far as I can tell. Although if it is, it’s safe to say we’re all losing — so dare I suggest we do away with our tendency to compare and to minimize, and instead just huddle and cry and eat more snacks together?

When I finally gathered a handful of my wits and made sure both my eyes were actually open and pointing in the same direction, I did what I always do: I picked up my phone to group-text my two sisters. They’re privy to everything from how many Twix bars I ate in the bathtub last night to what state my vagina is in. They know it all. 

Except I caught myself, and stopped what I was doing. I, mother to a single four-year-old who just ruined one perfectly good night’s sleep, was about to text my two sisters, who themselves are wrestling through parenting a varied combination of infants and small children alike. And these sisters of mine, if I’m right in my calculation, are certain beyond reasonable doubt that they haven’t gotten a full night’s sleep since before the invention of the light bulb.

And so, I thought to myself, who was I to ever dare suggest that I was tired? Nay, I knew not what tired meant. I was, for all intents and purposes, the mildly inconvenienced and very-privileged Queen of Sleep sitting atop her mountainous pile of pillow-top mattresses, irked over the existence of a dumb pea (or, in my case, a bit of puke and a bunch of dirty laundry). I convinced myself that I was not tired at all, and to suck it up. 

But here’s the thing: I’ve changed my mind since then. Because I’ve got no more patience for any of us who are even unknowingly running in the Suffering Olympics. Do you remember being laughed at or otherwise belittled by adults when you were a young teenager? Because I sure do. I remember feeling like people my parents’ age thought it was downright adorable that I was struggling with this or that, and would inadvertently let me know that I knew not what struggle was, for I was merely a child. 

But struggle is struggle. We should know this by now. It is imperative that we stop heaving people up onto these lofty pedestals — or worse, climbing up onto them ourselves — and instead start walking softly along this uneven terrain we’re collectively on. If you look around you, you’ll find throngs of people on their knees, and throngs yet reaching out to help. I am either of such on any given day. 

You’re tired, I’m tired, and we’re all just exhausted. This isn’t a contest, as far as I can tell. Although if it is, it’s safe to say we’re all losing — so dare I suggest we do away with our tendency to compare and to minimize, and instead just huddle and cry and eat more snacks together? 

Just because my life isn’t yours, or because your life isn’t someone else’s, doesn’t mean that the things any of us are up against pale in comparison whatsoever. It is our duty, I believe, to wipe away our natural inclination to compare, and instead to practice empathy, validation, love for others and love for self. 

So sit with me and tell me what you’re going through; tell me about your workload, about the massive amounts of both literal and figurative garbage you have piled in your lap, and about how you’re holding up. In exchange, I’ll regale you with all the stressors I have mounted against me, I’ll unravel my miles-long scroll that lists all the things on this earth that make me want to set it on fire, and I’ll offer you my hand to hold. 

And maybe, when we’re done, we can even take a quick, tiny nap. 

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