Tired is not the word you use when you really mean weary when you really mean tapped out when you really mean that you just don't have the words or the patience or the foresight or the wherewithal. Tired is not the word you use. When they ask how it's going you say that it is, going which is true because in fact there is no stop, no pause, no break in the action, it's going as you said, there are no lies, it's going and hardly matters how just that it's going and we see that's going and we ask how it's going as a courtesy not an investigation. It keeps going and I keep saying so. Tired is not a word you use when you really mean overextended when you really mean depleted when you really mean imbalanced when you really mean that you are no longer sure what counts as any of those things only that you expect to keep going until you can't because if you can't find the word, how can you possibly define the reality? When they ask you if this is the best you've got and if this is what it's going to be and if you're planning to send it out like that and if you're sure this is how you want it to look and you don't say, you just stare and stare and stare. Tired is not the word you use. Tired is not the word.
I believe there may be a kind of exhaustion which cannot be cured with a few good nights’ sleep. This exhaustion leaves you largely functional and provides you with just enough energy to make it through day after day after day, but once the social demands of the workplace are shut off, so is your whole affect. It’s like you crawl into yourself but can still drive home, pick up a few groceries and be sure to check the mailbox before going upstairs. It’s an exhaustion that leaves you soggy but without the evidence of how you got that way. You feel put out because of so much physical, mental, social output. The consequence for your organizational mind is a low-level havoc: nearly missed appointments, paperwork submitted a day late, lost items that turn up a week later when they’re no longer needed. You forget to hydrate. Yet you appear fine. You teach your classes, manage groups of kids with a degree of routine and detachment that for them feels like a relief that you’re not so easily bothered by their noise or interruptions or resistance to listening. It’s an exhaustion that seems well-fed, adequately sheltered, sufficiently nondescript so that no suspicion is aroused. At home the functionality remains – it’s ok, keeps things running along. There’s food to eat; dishes and clothes get washed. The child is not left entirely to his own devices. Only when bedtime is within sight does your patience appear quite frayed at the edges. Once you’ve decided that the bed is your definite next destination you make quick dispatch of everything and anything that might stand in the way. You retreat under the covers, stretched out, still soggy-feeling yet safe. You pick up whatever book is on top of the pile and read until you stay stuck on the same sentence. You put the book down and let sleep collect you. For a few hours you’ve won. You know rest. When you wake the next morning you know that rest is only incomplete but enough to start the whole process over again. You’ll be fine. You know how this goes. It’s Tuesday then it’s Friday and then Sunday again. You’re done and you’re beginning.
image via Pixabay.com CC0
Recently I threw out this question to my teaching team mate: How fit does a PE teacher need to be?
I’ve been wondering about this lately as I feel my own fitness levels sink to new lows. When the teaching day is done, physically for the most part, so am I. After a day of 5 or 7 discrete classes, lots of standing, some walking, skipping, jogging, jumping, and stretching or strengthening, I usually cannot wait to sit down, to stare into a screen, read to my heart’s content and comment too, if I want.
My desire to get outside and run up a hill or amble through the woods is gone. Carving out time for a yoga or Zumba session – honestly, I’d rather not. So much of my day consists of encouraging and facilitating movement, that once the spotlight is off and that is no longer my public charge, I am thinking about when and how I can finagle enough time to compose or simply linger with a text.
And I’m aging. I have more mini aches and pains than a decade ago. I feel like I’m in a constant state of never-fully-recovered. My body is functional and can do what appears to be ‘all the things’ but rarely without some slight discomfort in one spot or another. There’s plenty of things I can still do ‘at my age’ and a number of things I wisely try to avoid. My youngest students still believe in the miracle of universal proficiency – they fantasize that I can do everything and sometimes it’s nice to indulge them in that.
Exhaustion is a natural teaching health hazard. I see that. To claim and actually articulate my own sense of exhaustion feels risky and not all that smart but no less necessary. I travel in circles where saying that I am tired may be dismissed, laughed off, or cut down to size by another’s suffering. I have learned the guiding lesson for perpetual teachers that perseverance at all costs is a virtue. Some might call it grit.
Today I want to call it BS and say, y’all, I’m tired.
I’m tired and I love the work I get to do with children. To do my best work, I’ll need rest and recovery and fellowship.
Heading into these precious free days I feel deeply grateful for truth and community. To be tired and still be loved, that is a coveted gift in this busy, bustling world.
image: (c) Spelic