Bone Weary

When the ambulance pulled away from our house the night before last, my shoulders slumped forward. The painful spasms that wracked my daughter’s body and impinged on her breathing had passed and she, with my husband, were chatting away, as if she’d not been screaming a mere half hour before. I locked up the house for the night, kissed and hugged them both and crawled into bed.

I fell asleep to the rhythm of their voices going back and forth, wondering if I’d ever feel well-rested again. I’m exhausted and this morning I’m trying to remember how I find my way back to a life where saying “I’m tired” is not an auto response.

canstockphoto10766394There are always the basics. Sleep. Movement. Hydration. Nutrition. Giving the body alternately the rest and fuel it needs to function optimally. So I start there. Beyond that, depression looms, a shadowy companion of sleep deprivation and constant anxiety. I can’t afford to indulge it at this point, so I try to remember the basics of taking care of my soul: solitude, writing, reading, music, gardening, running, the meditative braiding of words, movement, rhythm, silence – the solemn tending of Wordsworth’s inward eye.

Great art is often more about what you remove or leave out than what you add. Life, too, can be like that. I’ve started the process of cutting things away. It’s easier to do this when something dramatic happens, because priorities crystallize. Everyday life is full of scope creep. The hours are siphoned away by social media or fussing with picayune details of housework or being lured into further consumerism with artificially planted ideas of need.

Sometimes the jolt of fright that comes from a major life event can pull you out of the morass of mindlessness. Sometimes you choose to drown in a cesspool of distraction. It’s 50/50 for me these days – a push-pull of adrenaline and numbness.

canstockphoto16093077It is telling that as a child raised walking on eggshells, I become more placid as the stakes rise. I am deadly calm in the face of screaming, blood loss, hysteria. I’m the person you want with you during a mugging, but not necessarily there to help you through a cold (shake it off, dammit). My bedside manner is perfunctory if you go on too long. I’m wired to pull you out of a fire, to put salve on your burns, but irritable if I have to hear your retelling of the tale once again. I am the flow chart of next steps.

After the dramatic peaks have passed, the landscape flattens. I recognize the topography – a land of dulled-down plateaus, of depressive vulnerability, of self-recrimination. I try to re-frame the perspective, seeing it Edward Abbey-like, as a wilderness that is a necessity of the human spirit. It’s necessary to go through the desert in order to recognize the need for replenishment – to appreciate the small oases that one encounters.

canstockphoto3611259We’ve had the kind of emergencies lately that require a go bag. It sits in the corner, ready to be grabbed at a moment’s notice – toiletries, a change of clothes, critical medical documents, and that ubiquitous need of modern living – a tangle of chargers. I had thought about unpacking it over the last week, but after having to call 911, it will remain.

When I was in the Army, we used to be put on readiness alert duty. Wherever we were, whatever we were doing, we’d have to be able to report to post within 30 minutes, in uniform, with our packed duffel and gear. We’d sign out our weapons and be ready to head to the field for an unspecified duration. We were a ragtag lot, showing up disheveled and occasionally hungover, depending on the hour of alert. The relief was palpable when we could stand down.

I was young then, responsible for my own readiness, and there was an assumed end. Now I’m older, responsible for a child, with no end date in sight. Now is definitely canstockphoto11858226.jpgharder. Tired is the default mode. Sometimes I buy into the bootstrap myth – that whatever state I’m in, I should pull myself out of it.  But the real trick and wisdom is knowing when to ask for help, when to lean on others, when to let go.

Sometimes too, it’s just allowing yourself to rest for a bit. Sure, rally the troops. Reorient yourself to the mission. But first, a nap.

17 Comments on “Bone Weary

  1. In the midst of pain, anxiety and fear, writing is a gift. It is the light. It is your light.
    Every post reflects that. I am so moved by your writing.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. I, too, am moved by your writing Michelle, by your eloquence and honesty. I can’t even begin to imagine how exhausted you are and I hope with everything that’s in me that life calms down for you, your daughter and your husband.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thanks, Fransi. I’ve been writing pretty raw lately. There is a certain immediacy to life these days that doesn’t lend itself to circumspection. It makes me feel like an apology will be in order somewhere down the line, but I usually write from wherever I’m at and this is it.

      Liked by 1 person

      • You can put the idea of an apology being in order out of your mind. I know it is an unimaginably horrible situation that is behind your writing, so a part of me feels squeamish about complimenting you and I hope you take this in the spirit in which it is intended. But this is magnificent writing Michelle. Yes, it’s raw, but it’s raw in the best sense of what that means. It is honest and soulful. Don’t ever apologize for that.

        Liked by 2 people

  3. Catching up on this and your previous post. I think I understand that constant state of readiness — the emergency around the corner. It’s debilitating, ultimately. You tell yourself to appreciate the precious moment, but there’s always the potentially bleak moment on the horizon. That’s exhausting. I suspect when people ask you how you’re doing, you say, “Fine. Hanging in there.” (That’s what I do, anyway…) It’s good you have this place to admit that it isn’t.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’m glad to write here as well. I’ve discovered the tension between admitting to the stress and anxiety while also being wildly grateful for the prognosis. In person, if I tell someone that I’m exhausted or tired of the stress, they immediately pipe up with “yeah, but she’s going to be okay.” They’ve shut me down and made me feel like some sort of ingrate.

      Fortunately I have some friends who can hear my lived experience while knowing I have an eye on the bigger picture. It’s possible to be grateful and completely wiped out simultaneously.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I am catching up on reading and read all your latest posts. I am sorry to read about your current situation with our family and you are all in my thoughts. I am not a mother, but an aunt and a teacher who has had the hardship and honor of seeing families through situations like this. I will wish and hope for continued healing physically, mentally and emotionally for you all. Your writing is touching, honest and needed. Thank you for sharing through this difficult time.

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  5. As a mother I know how it feels to be always on call, and always responsible, and always dog-bone tired. That is what I have frequently called it. I would go for days so tired I couldn’t hold my face up, too tired even to breath. At this point it sounds like sleep is more important than writing – I hope you have many wonderful sleeps and during those sleeps your brain will quietly work on your writing projects. I wish I could carry some of your burden for a while.

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    • Sleep is finally starting to happen – it makes such a difference. I was really chastising myself for not getting back into workout and writing routines, but finally realized it’d been less than a month since our lives hit this speed bump. It always takes a little longer to bounce back from anything these days. My daughter, on the other hand, is doing extremely well. The young always seem to rebound faster, thank goodness.

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      • So good to hear, Michelle. And yes, I too find I need to allow myself longer to heal physically whenever I experience a crisis or have too much fun (and believe me, my fun isn’t ever over-the-top).

        Liked by 1 person

  6. I’m sorry your daughter is still experiencing pain. So many things in life are hard. Caring for a sick loved one is never easy and while there may be relief over the diagnosis, it does not erase all the anxiety you have experienced nor immediately return your lives to “normal.” And it has got to be gut wrenching to watch your child suffer. I hope you can find some time to rest and even get back to relaxing again at some point soon. Best wishes Michelle.

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