I woke up this morning in the five o'clock hour, as I do several times each week. Trying my best to exert the least amount of energy as possible, I dressed, drank a glass of water, downed a piece of toast with peanut butter, and headed out the door. Pitbull thumped in my earphones as I shuffled in the cold, misty morning. As I crested a hill and caught a steady pace, I closed my eyes for a moment and considered keeping them closed. I wondered if I could master "sleep running". It is a great idea and a wonderful way to kill two birds with one stone. I could catch some z's and get in my weekly mileage quota, all at the same time. Then I thought of my mother-in-law and my promise to be a safe runner, and I opened my eyes and pushed harder, pushing my body and mind awake. As I trucked along I thought, "I wonder how much faster I could be if I wasn't so tired all of the time?" And then, I thought about all of the things I'd be better at if I wasn't so tired.
I've been tired since October 19, 2006 at 9:55 pm. I held a beautiful little bundle of baby in my arms that night, and was so proud of myself for the hours of labor I endured, the pain I powered through, and the life I brought into the world. A few hours later, a nurse took her away from me, Andy went home for the night (make your comments here), and I drifted off to sleep. An hour later, a nurse came back into my room, woke me up and placed the squirming bundle into my arms. And so it goes. Anyone who has a child knows what sleep deprivation means. With babies it means lots of time awake feeding and changing or stressing that the baby is not breathing. With toddlers, it means putting the little one back into her crib, changing wet sheets or washing them after vomiting (why do they always puke at night?)With bigger kids, it means fighting bedtime. And, why, oh why, do they get up so early?
We start the 24-hour cycle tired. Then, the day begins. I am most certain that there is an invisible umbilical cord/ tube that goes from me to them. It is intravenously sucking energy from my body directly into my kids. The more tired I am, the more energy they have. They hit peaks first thing in the morning: my eyes are glued shut and they are bouncing on the bed,and at night: I am an angry beast who wants to lay on the couch, they are screaming and jumping on the bed. I'm still trying to figure out how to alter the direction of the tube so that the energy comes back to me. By day's end, I am a blob, who can barely stay awake long enough to read to the girls and tuck them in for the night. In their beds, I drift off to sleep, leaving a mountain of laundry and paperwork waiting for me, not to mention phone calls that will never be made, books never to be read, movies never to be watched, and a husband whom I correspond with via email and text between daily activities and children yelling.
So, hmm, I wondered as I ran this morning, what could I accomplish if I wasn't always so damn tired?
If I wasn't so tired I could run faster, like Oscar Pistorius. Wait, he is on trial for murder.
If I wasn't so tired I could make amazing meals and craft projects, like Martha Stewart. Wait, she went to jail.
If I wasn't so tired, I'd be more successful professionally. I could be President like Bill Clinton! Wait, he slept with his intern.p>
If I wasn't so tired, I could have a really clean house. I could clean like Mr. Clean. Wait, he's a fictitious character created to sell cleaning products.
If I wasn't so tired I could try to find a cure for Ebola. If I wasn't so tired I could write a novel. If I wasn't so tired I could volunteer and make a difference in my community.
If I wasn't so tired, I could clean my closet and my car. If I wasn't so tired, I could call more friends or write them letters. If I wasn't so tired, I'd remember birthdays and send people cards. If I wasn't so tired, I could make the kids' lunches at night instead of five minutes before the bus arrives. If I wasn't so tired, I'd play tea party with Char. If I wasn't so tired, I'd be a better listener.If I wasn't so tired, I'd be a better friend, mother, employee, wife.
Who am I kidding? If I wasn't so tired I would not have a cleaner house. I would not cure Ebola. I would not clean my closet. I would not make the lunches the night before. I would not cook well.
If I wasn't so tired, I would watch more TV and eat more snacks before bed. If I wasn't so tired, I'd drink more alcohol.
If I wasn't so tired, I'd miss the awesome feeling of drifting to sleep in my kid's bed, her chunky arms wrapped around my neck, her soft, sleepy breath calming my heart and mind like a meditation. If I wasn't so tired, I wouldn't stay in my jammies Saturday morning, reading them a book while I avoid cleaning the house. If I wasn't so tired, I wouldn't decide not to make dinner and instead have an awesome night getting burgers and sundaes. If I wasn't so tired, I would walk faster into the grocery store and would miss my daughter pointing out the butterfly resting on a cart.If I wasn't so tired, I'd pack up the kids and their sandy junk sooner and would miss the sun setting on the lake.
Being tired has forced me to slow down. It has made me stop to smell the flowers and see the birds and butterflies. Being tired has allowed me to snuggle and be lazy. Being tired has taught me to be patient and understanding even when I am not at my best. I'm not an Olympian, or President, or a millionaire entrepreneur but I am pretty good at snuggling and reading and chilling with my kids; all things I think they appreciate in a mom.