So tired…

Bone tired. That state of exhaustion that goes beyond physical limits and reaches into your mind, turning you from a reasonably intelligent adult into an unthinking, irrational, cranky mess. That’s where I am this week.

Why do I push myself to this point? I honestly can’t answer that. It seems to happen without my willing it. But I know that’s not the case.

What I find interesting is the way this cycle of exhaustion seems to intersect with other emotional and physical events in my life. I always expect that when I’m at my most excited, happiest, most motivated, all that energy will sustain me and I won’t be tired. In my head, tired is for when I’m down or angry; low spirits = low energy.

Although these broad generalizations bear out, to a degree, it is also true that my high-energy, up-beat moods also tend to coincide with an unrealistic optimism. My internal “I’m awesome!” always seems to be paired with an irrational “I can go for hours without a break and produce high-quality work product on no fuel!” sort of enthusiasm. Crazy! (I hope not literally, cuz that would suck.)

I think it’s because these high-energy times are generally inspired by being entrusted with a project or goal that has consequences for someone else. I want to do my very best so that the trust bestowed is never disappointed. One of my most constant fears (for lack of a better term) is that I will let down the people who rely on me. If I’m late or unprepared for a meeting, I’ll have wasted important peoples’ time. If I don’t exceed expectations, I’ll have confirmed that I’m not good enough, smart enough, mature enough, not enough full stop. If I don’t deliver more than what’s promised, I’m skating or slacking.

I’ve always been my harshest critic and the most unforgiving task master. I realize this about myself. Yet, I don’t seem to be able to rein it in when I’m approaching a boundary. I always feel that I should push through and do a bit more before I quit.

Because, at the root of it, quitting (or, more precisely, being perceived as a quitter) is my greatest fear. And that is precisely the right term in this case. I fear being a quitter. There is so much disgust and loathing wrapped up in that term. I’ve been strongly, harshly socialized my entire life to believe that quitting is about the worst thing you can turn out to be, short of a violent criminal.

Quitters are wasters of time, resources. Quitters squander opportunities unavailable to more deserving people. Quitters lack all the best qualities a human can possess. Quitters are unworthy of respect, care, attention, love.

Those are the messages my Midwestern, Protestant, conservative, republican upbringing and education instilled in me. Every teacher, preacher, coach, doctor, mentor, employer I had growing up and, yes, my parents, contributed to this belief. My personal history is full to the brim with time spent pushing to the finish line in order not to be a quitter.

There’s nothing wrong with this, in moderation. Tempered with an awareness that having limits to one’s abilities and tolerances is normal and acceptable, a ‘never give up’ attitude can be healthy and produce great things. But, it’s that last part about limits being ok that I don’t think I’ve fully internalized.

Because when you feel that you are everything that isn’t ‘normal’, life lessons like that get distorted by your lens of inadequacy. If the line for normal people is here, you think you have to push two steps beyond that to just be viewed as having hit the mark. That just feeds the cycle of crazy and you end up on this treadmill of ever-escalating self demand. Demanding more of yourself, you then end up bone tired.

And when you’re bone tired, you write rambling, incoherent blog posts that seem to have no purpose.

Please pardon my crazy, I need to put her to bed in hopes she will wake up less crazy and more coherent tomorrow…

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