Fatigue and the Lie of the Self
I have been thinking about fatigue and why I am tired much of the time. It’s not that I walk around with my head hanging, gasping for air—it’s that I’ll be fine and happy and suddenly, out of nowhere it seems, I’m so tired I can barely finish a sentence, never mind read a book or answer emails or have a thought that feels important. This kind of fatigue is exhausting. It’s like: how can I keep going?
I think this erasing of the essential joyous self is based on lies. Today I got tired at about 11. I had walked for a couple of hours, yes. I had gone to the gym and lifted weights for a short time. I had talked to some people on the phone about writing. I had taken some pictures of the ocean, of some flowers, of a rain drop on a fern leaf. All of these things are activities. All of these things expend calories, energy, and yet when I do all of them generally I have more energy when I am done than when I started. I might be tired in a muscular kind of way, but it isn’t the kind of tired that makes me wonder if life isn’t just a little too much for me. It’s an honest use of myself in the world. All these things make my body and mind hum. They are in accordance with my values. I would do all of them on vacation.
I was near the lighthouse when I got tired, and it happened, I think, because I’d had a little coffee in the morning and I was coming down from the caffeine high. This fatigue was like getting a bill after I’d bought a coat at Nordstrom’s on credit. The debt was due. The lie was making itself known.
The energy the coffee had given me hadn’t been pulled from the sky or the bank. It had come from me. The coffee had sped up my metabolism, asking my adrenals to step up to the plate and hit a couple of grand slams in a row, and my body answered with a roar. My body loves being sped up. My mind loves getting sped up, too. It’s so cool, being amped on coffee. You’re (I’m) way too distracted to think about things that normally bother you, unless you mistakenly overdose (take three sips instead of two). If you overdose, you may well get more than bothered by things that normally bother you. You may be so agitated you want to climb out of your skin, and suddenly you can’t walk or talk fast enough. Suddenly you are psycho. You are so far from your basic nature you have become a walking lie.
I spend the rest of the day making up for that lie. Later that morning I eat some carbs to counter the energy dip I have after the caffeine high. Later that afternoon, I eat more carbs because I’m crashing from the ones I had early. In the evening I am so tired, I think about (and sometimes follow through) on having a little bit of sugar to help boost me to bed time.
I am not as present in the world when I bring lies into my day. Deciding to have the coffee is like deciding to put on a piece of armor. Maybe a breastplate. The carbs I have later are another layer of armor because they make my thinking fuzzy. So now I’m out in the world with a breastplate and some head gear. Because I am not as present for people as I’d like to be when my brain is fuzzy, I start carrying guilt and worry. Now I’m wearing armor and carrying a load of guilt wood.
This ridiculousness just keeps happening.
No wonder I’m tired.
What would an honest life look like? Who would I be if the energy I carried was cared for from the moment I woke up to the moment I fell asleep? What if my energy was my baby, the thing I looked after most carefully? What if I recognized that being tired in the afternoon is a way of being for many people who lead lives that look much sexier and happier than that of the average Americans? What if the word siesta replaced the word frappaccino? If I were the average American and fell in love with the word siesta and all it represented, I’d probably have to quit my job because the whole reason I was spending five bucks on a coffee drink every afternoon was so I wouldn’t do the thing I most wanted to do: rest.
What am I saying?
I want to be real. I want to feel good in my body. I want to be as myself as possible, so when I meet you and you talk to me, I can hear you, so I can see you. I want you to feel loved when you are with me. I can’t do this if I’m wondering if an iced tea would fix the damage the coffee started earlier in the day.
Here’s the thing: I don’t want to give up coffee. I start looking forward to my morning dose the night before. I think about how excited I feel. How I want to call people, connect with them, when I am high on caffeine. I think about how alive I feel. How I can barely keep up with myself as I run walk to the gym. Without coffee, I am a lump. I am boring. I am sad. I am not interesting.
Why do I need to drug myself to feel good? Why don’t I feel good as is?
Maybe I have no idea who I really am. Maybe what I think is boring and sad and not interesting—the me before coffee, before carbs, before a candy bar— is just me not on drugs. Maybe I’ve been living with lies so long I don’t recognize myself. Maybe I am afraid of not being amped up, not being driven to want by outside stimlulents, because I’ll tell you, there’s nothing like a little coffee to make hopping on Amazon and buying a few things seem like a really good idea. Maybe I’m afraid of not wanting. Maybe I am afraid of stillness. What happens if I wake up in the morning and don’t jump up because I know coffee is there waiting for me? What happens if I am just me?
Do you have any lies in your life? Do you give energy to people you don’t like? Do you wear a belt that is too tight because you want to look skinny? Do you swim more laps than feels good for your body because you want to impress to the rest of your swimming friends? Do you live in a house you can’t afford because you think it represents who you are? Do you work a job that makes you cry because if you were a waitress your mother (who may be dead) would disapprove?
The fatigue so many of us carry is intense. It seems to come out of nowhere. And it is frightening. What if it’s always like this?
Am I afraid of my own natural energetic state? Today when I was out walking and thinking about this post, I ran into someone who has cost me energy me lately. Usually I would have pulled on my fake face and done the dance of Hi. How are you? So good to see you. Blah blah blah. Today, I said hi and kept walking. I lost zero energy. Later, when I started to feel guilty about not giving more energy to that person than I truly had for her, I told myself to shhhhhh.
That felt good.
It felt honest.