Is it okay to be tired?
I haven’t felt well for a long time. I hang out with the doctor a lot now, and I’m starting to improve. He reminds me of House, but more attractive, and more socially awkward; House before his injury, maybe. There are a lot of tests and appointments to come. It’s all incredibly dull and uninteresting to everyone but me. There is no less compelling subject than the health problems of other people.
This past winter I was feeling so poorly I could not function enough to get through a day of office work. I didn’t know what was wrong with me yet. I thought I was just being lazy or that I was depressed. I tried to get through each day with some measure of success. Success came to mean being able to at least make dinner for my family. I would then tell them goodnight at six p.m. and go to sleep as soon as they started eating so I could get twelve hours of sleep. I needed twelve hours of sleep to live through the ensuing day.
I happened to meet with a wellness coach at work as part of a program wholly unrelated to anything going on with me. It was a Zoom meeting and I tried to ignore my own face, but we glowed side by side for an hour, suspended against one another in this disturbing pan-panopticon we’re all now forced to endure.
This wellness coach asked how I was doing and I said “I’m okay, but I’m so tired.” She scolded me for more than ten minutes. She described how ready we all are to resort to saying we’re tired. It’s a weakness society needs to overcome, she said, especially women. A defense mechanism. She said we need to project other, more powerful feelings. She said I was hurting my own children by saying things like that. How did I want them to remember me? As a woman full of vitality, or as someone who complained of being exhausted all the time?
In retrospect, it was not helpful.
There was also recently a deep loss and an emotional tragedy in my life, both so profound I began to cry in my sleep and wake up from dreams in which I was buried thousands of miles under the earth, dreams about the last day of my life stretching out lonely and endless before me. Again, dull. Drab. Maybe only the dreams of others surpass the tedium of health.
An acquaintance shared a moving quote to help me “feel better.” She said the quote was getting her through her days. I care for this person, and I’m glad she’s making it through each day with some measure of her own success. She has problems of her own; while they fail to excite me, I’m sure they consume her every waking moment.
I don’t like quotes. People who own little calendars and notebooks that express things to them bit by bit throughout the year, with no end or context in sight, will surely disagree with my opinion. They may use some of the quotes they’re armed with to debate me, and I’ll lose. Quotes make me uncomfortable because I’m not sure how I should feel about knowing something I haven’t learned. I would much rather try to read the whole part of everything and fail, and keep any lines or passages that seem meaningful along the way a secret just for myself. I often fear I misunderstand the things I read, which is no doubt a bitter relic of the peculiar childhood shame and mistreatment I uniquely suffered, and in order to avoid being discovered for my errors I no longer like to say what I think things mean. I would rather just quietly absorb my interpretations into myself until I forget where they came from; this, to me, is the idea of peace.
If I didn’t hate quotes (or especially because I do), by the way, a good quote from this letter would be:
Quotes make me uncomfortable because I’m not sure how I should feel about knowing something I haven’t learned.
A book I recently came across in the office where I work is particularly weird. Not quite quotes, but it’s in the same taxonomical category. It’s called Shakespeare for Every Day of the Year. My daughter, who doesn’t really love to read, had recently, miraculously, been enjoying The Tempest. She was enjoying it because she was making herself read and understand it. She was fighting through her boredom and getting a lot out of the text in spite of herself. It seemed to me the every-day Shakespeare book went contrary to the idea of Shakespeare’s plays, which I thought were designed for reading or watching all the way through, or at least pretending to. On the other hand, if you have already read all the Shakespeare there is, maybe this book is for you. It could constitute a nice trip down memory lane, or form the skeleton of a type of Shakespeare quiz show you could play against yourself.
I tried opening the book to the month and day it presently was to see if anything would happen to me. It was an excerpt from Troilus and Cressida, a play I have actually read. Hell, I’ve even read Chaucer’s Troilus and Criseyde. The excerpt didn’t seem to have anything to do with the day, the season, or the atmosphere of the office, or my state of mind. I left the book open on a table in a busy area to see if anyone would stop by and react to it. But the only people who walked by were on their way to lunch, or to ask me a question about how to do something. In fact, most people were working at home, comfortably, and remained ignorant of my test. Three weeks later, I returned to see the book open where I had left it on the same page. Maybe I’m all wrong. Maybe the excerpt started a movement and everyone has been reading it and getting a lot out of it. Maybe Troilus and Cressida is being discussed over coffee, helping alienated co-workers forge new relationships based on the themes of pride and scorn.
(This is from the tinyletter I write called Missed Connections at https://tinyletter.com/cgosnay/archive)