On Feeling Burnt Out

I am very tired lately. I sneak naps by accident, like when I am putting my son to bed. I will fall asleep for an hour then wake up groggy, panicky and shaky because my blood sugar is low and I also have lots of work to do.

Work is stressing me THE FUDGE out. Which is so selfish to say because I work from home and am very lucky to have this remote working job. The whole company works from home, as they are an app and it’s a start-up.

I just sometimes feel out of my depth because I need hours of uninterrupted thinking time to do this job, and you can’t have that when you have a one year old with you full time. So I get this work done when he is asleep, often staying up until the small hours, and getting up in the later-small hours to work until he wakes up, and work through his afternoon nap, and while he eats his meals, and sometimes pop The Gruffalo on for him (it lasts 28 minutes) so I have half an hour’s time to work.

But even so I think it’s not enough. It’s 8 hours per day but I need more than that.

And I am falling behind and sometimes appearing stupid in meetings. And am worried they will think I am not doing enough or thinking enough and will fire me. So I am pushing and pushing and pushing harder and harder. And I am so goddamn tired. Bloody hell. And lonely. But too goddamn tired to connect with anybody, even my parents. And when I cook and clean I feel half hearted, and when I read to my son my eyes start to close. I take him to the park 3-4 times a week and try to run around with him and play with him, and that’s tiring too.

How do people do it? How do they work full time and mother full time and get 8 hours of sleep and work-out and eat healthy and be in a good mood?

Because I can’t do all of that. So something has to give. And that’s my sleep. I probably get 3 hours of sleep a night. And when I crawl into bed at 3am my son wakes up and asks for my ‘mam’ – which means ‘arm’, which means he wants to sleep in my arms.

And I lie there in the dead of the night, my arms numb from the weight of his head, and my fingers stroke his soft round cheeks and I listen to his even breathing, and smell the softness of the top of his head, which has lost the ‘baby’ smell but still has this sweet toddler smell, and sometimes he mumbles ‘mama’ in his sleep, and he nestles into me, and moves my arm tighter over his little baby body, and I relax.

Because yes I am stressed and sleep deprived and often think I cannot do this, but I realise that with each day, my son grows a little bit more. Maybe taller, maybe something in his brain grows, maybe he learns a new word, or conquers a new skill. And life is never the same again. And soon I won’t be as stressed or worried or tired, and I will feel glad I pushed through this period of time.

Often I think back to my pregnancy and how bloody hard and painful it was, and I remember the mantra I would recite as I hobbled around on a stiff hip, I would say only way out is through.

And that is true. Only way out is through. Just keep pushing. It will be over. Or get easier. Enjoy the time, as much as you can.

So I can smell the top of my baby’s head, and I can’t let the negativity get to me. Because it will change and shift again. Life always does.

Shovelling Snow

Folks, I can’t keep up. There is so much to do. I feel like I am constantly shovelling a snowy pathway, only to have the snow carrying on falling around me, so no sooner do I complete one patch, then it needs doing again.

I feel like I have to keep moving because if I dare to stop for one second, I will drown.

I had a socially distanced evening last night with some other ladies. We met up in one of their gardens, the night was starry and dark and still. She had a wood fire burning, and we wrapped up warm and sipped spiced hot drinks. We talked until midnight. I have not done something like this in… years.

Anyway, it was really good. But I noticed throughout that I kept thinking of the chores I had to do and the work deadlines I had to adhere to, and even though the evening was meant to be relaxing, and I felt great after it, I felt my neck was so sore and my back muscles so tight from being hunched up in worry.

I saw a quote years ago before I had my son, which said ‘Cleaning the house while kids are growing is like shovelling snow while it’s still snowing’. It was on a fridge magnet and I got it for my mum because she appreciates humour. She also always complains about ‘us kids’ and the mess we make everywhere.

Anyway. I feel the quote is apt now, but it doesn’t just relate to kids, it relates to everything.

Someone recently said that the only reason why we feel stressed in our lives is because we want too much. I think we want what we want and we do what we think is the right thing to get there.

For example, I think to myself, why do I work? Well I work to buy my son his winter coat and shoes, to pay off bills, to put food on the table. If I decided not to work, then we would struggle to be comfortable and my son would be cold in the winter. I think sometimes people don’t have choices in these matters.

Choice, I have come to realise, is a luxury.

October Pledge

It’s Friday again. Hello Friday, how do you do? And how do you do?

In England, shops already have their Christmas decorations out. My mind is numb to it, because just a blink of an eye ago it was summer.

Oh, how I have lagged behind, folks.

Life is very difficult, and there are a lot of bends and twists along the way. Some are happy, and lots are bleak.

I have some big plans, though. Let us see if they come into fruition!

One of my large plans is to knuckle down for real this year and do NaNoWrimo like it’s meant to be done. I want to finish this novel once and for all, even if it is a shoddy mess by the time it is done.

SO, I pledge to write 30,000 words this November. The maths is very easy. That’s 1000 words a day. I think I can do it. I will also be taking off around 5 days of work this month, to focus solely on writing and planning and creating things that have been put on hold for way too long.

I have drafts of blog posts from FEBRUARY, that were meant to be published. I just didn’t have time! Life hit me like a tonne of bricks, and work is just an all-consuming, all-encompassing presence. It is stressing me out. Commuting for 2-3 hours a day, plus running my house, plus keeping mentally sane and maintaining relationships without being a selfish, paranoid arse, pardon my French, is making me fat, miserable, lonely and inadequate.

SOMETHING has got to give.

So this November, I am promising to make a new start. If my novel is finished properly by the end of December, I will have lived up to this new standard. But, first, 30,000 words in November.

Can I do this??

How have you been, fellow bloggers? Do let me know in the comments below!

 

I Stopped

I stopped washing the dishes, and doing the laundry.

I stopped cooking.

I stopped hoovering after every meal, and rushing around with a broom.

My skirting boards are in desperate need of a dusting – but who cares?

I used to care. I used to rush home from work, become anxious that dinner wasn’t done, that the house was messy, that my things weren’t sorted for the next day.

I used to spend all day at work, then all evening (what was left of it after my commute) cooking, cleaning, tidying, preparing.

And my husband would chill out in front of the TV.

Why won’t you help?! I would cry out, in anger.

Because I am tired, I need to rest. I’ll do it on the weekend. Leave it, chill out, we can do it on the weekend.

But I was not having it. And live in a messy house?! And leave dishes overnight?!

Oh, the abhorrent thought.

But soon I began to be stressed. It crept up on me, and poked its bony fingers down my throat and in my ears. I was surly all the time, constantly frowning, nursing a perpetual headache. When I visited my family, I was mean to them too, resenting them for stealing my personal time.

Finally, one day, I came home from work, got undressed, and flopped into bed, where I napped for a solid hour. What a glorious nap that was.

When I woke up, we had mashed potatoes and baked beans.

What a delicious, easy dinner that was.

I left the dishes soaking overnight. I didn’t even choose an outfit for work… no, I lounged about on my laptop and read people’s blogs.

And I felt so free.

And I thought, what was all the fuss about? Who cares?

So now, when my house is messy, when both of us lie like zombies on the sofa, I don’t care anymore.

Because the house WILL get clean, eventually.

It just doesn’t need to be cleaned everyday.

I don’t need to prep my work clothes or gym clothes the night before. I can grab whatever in the morning, if it saves my sanity. We can eat easy dinners, and wash up later. We can rest our minds and bodies after a gruelling day, because housework and all other work will always need doing, every single day, so why stress over it?

I stopped caring you see, and my mind and body are so grateful, even if my house is not.

You Made My Day

You made my day, I said.

I laughed.

To show

how happy she had made me.

And my cheeks hurt, because they were being forced to do what they would normally have done spontaneously.

Only this time,

My brain had ordered them to stretch,

against their will.

You made my day, I said, honestly.

And she smiled, because she made someone’s day.

You

made

my

day,

I lied through my teeth,

through my smile

which began to feel

stale

On my face.

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Image credit: River Darling

Tired Demon

You know those days when everything is a struggle?

I am having one of those days today.

I am ‘tuckered out’, as some would say. Shattered, as my parents would say. Burned out, done for, overtaxed, drained, fatigued and prostrated – as the thesaurus would say.

I had a lunchtime nap in my car, and woke up 20 minutes later than I ought to have, feeling groggy and jittery. I stumbled back into the office where the overpowering smell of onions smacked me in the face. Somebody was having an aromatic lunch. One that reeked, pungent and odoriferous, and added another irritated hindrance to the aching pulse in my head.

My head is now pounding, and there is a dull ache in my neck.

And my focus has been awful all through this long and toiling afternoon.

They say naps help when you’re tired! Well, mine certainly did not. It made me feel horrible!

What on earth has possessed me today?

A tired demon?

Well, begone, tired demon. I have work to do.

Calidity

Today is a real Monday of a day, folks.

Nobody in the office wants to talk. All conversation is terse and halted. Stumbling and awkward.

The air is heavy and thick, and breathing is difficult. The heat pounds outside on the glass, in that silent scheming way it has. Condensation forms a layer of sweat on the lips of windows, and the small puffs of air we get through the slim cracks, made so because this country is an infrastructure of Health and Safety, are few and far between.

Alex uses two screens, her hazel eyes scanning first one and then the other. Her long neck pulls her head sideways, almost like an inquisitive sparrow, but there is a look of tense determination on her face. I feel irritated every time I look in her direction, so I don’t.

She always has work to do, and when she doesn’t she actively seeks it. She is like a badger sniffing out of its set. A mouse tottering to and fro. A beaver stacking wood. A long neck waving here and there, alert and watching, snapping up a job the moment it comes through. Scavenging.  She is an honest working person but she drives me mental with her oblivious morality.

And the Woman Who Laughs is wearing jodhpurs today. Jodhpurs. And a waistcoat. And a cowboy hat. Indoors. She might as well have bells hanging from her hems.

The fields in the distance sizzle with heat. The sun shimmers on the green, a lazy haze over the slopes. Even the birds seem too tired to chirp. And minuscule cars on the distant hills glint brightly in the sun as they wind around the curling country roads. I contemplate drowsing in my car for half an hour, but the heat in there is ten times worse.

A yawn.

A clatter.

Keyboards clacking away.

A laugh, hushed.

A murmur.

A conversation in the far end of the office.

Hello. I have a query today.

Goddamnit these people never answer the phone!

I would like to go home now please.

An Uncomfortable Man

I warn you dear reader this post is a little sordid.

The earth is crawling with life. Simply heaving with it. Crawling to microcellular level. Even life is crawling with life. Our very infrastructure is bacteria.

If you get a telescope out and skim the surface of Mars, you would see no life. Remnants of what scientists say might have been, could have been life, but never life itself.

The Mars rover leads a lonely, long existence.

And in this life, we are often lonely. Some of us are. We seek connections with other people.

Some connections are entirely benign, and enrich our lives.

Others, not so.

There is a man at work. A tall man. And he makes me feel vastly uncomfortable.

I noticed it first one day when I was talking to him, and I saw his eyes meander down to my chest. Ok. That was weird. But ok. What made it more uncomfortable was that his eyes stayed there, glancing upwards into my own once or twice, but lingering there.

I brushed that encounter away. After all, it could have been anything. Maybe he didn’t realise what he was doing.

I hugged myself, crossing my arms over my chest.

I was making coffee, downstairs in the business centre news anchor on the flat screen TV hooked up to the wall droning away about something or other. I leafed through the newspaper on the countertop, the coffee machine gurgling as my coffee splattered into my cup. Then there was his voice next to me. So close it made me take a step back and clutch my neck in fright. There he was, standing so close to me I could feel his body heat radiating off him.

‘Alright?’ he said, as though nothing was wrong.

There were some Americans filing into one of the meeting rooms; they had flown over for some big event, and they were part of his agency.

‘Yeah,’ I replied, glancing at them, ‘aren’t you part of the meeting?’ I gestured. So uncomfortable, battling with my distaste.

‘It takes the piss,’ he murmured, ‘but yeah.’

Ok. So go then. And leave me alone.

When I looked at him, I was shocked at how close he was to me.

Then I began to notice it more and more. He was moved to the seat next to mine, and every so often he would lean over, too close for comfort, and whisper something conspiratorial. As though we were in this pessimism towards the company together. Something derogatory about someone or other. Some ridiculous complaint about the weather, because yes, we always talk of the weather, or some moan about the horrible traffic into work. Such normal conversations, so what is the problem?

I tried to be nice. I tried so hard, but I just didn’t want to.

It would have been easy, if I didn’t notice how he looked up every time I stood up. And he would think I couldn’t see but I could feel his eyes on me. And when I looked at him they would snap away, from my chest, from somewhere else.

I began to cross my arms when I stood up, and to scarper as quickly as I could, round the corner. When I saw him walking towards me I would pretend I hadn’t seen him, and turn the other way. Every time he caught me though, he would stand way too close. When he showed me something on my computer, I could feel his breath on my neck.

Once I went downstairs to the receptionist; we have a little repertoire, and I put my hands on the counter and leaned forward. Her eyes met mine.

‘What’s up?’

‘I really hate this man,’ I told her.

Her eyes melted a bit, they cleared as though some clouds shifted to show a sky of understanding within.

‘Go on,’ she said, grimly. And I knew she knew.

When I told her, she immediately understood. I felt validated, somehow, as though I wasn’t just imagining things. She nodded firmly at me, and then when I told her who it was she said she felt the same vibes from him. She told me to request to move desks, which I did. I only moved one seat away but it was much better.

A week later, his agency moved him to another building. I heaved a sigh of relief. I felt free again. I almost danced when I left my desk. The air in the office was cleaner, lighter. I no longer looked over my shoulder.

Another week passed, and I get an email. To my work email. Addressed to me only.

Hi Len!

What lovely weather we’ve been having! I hope you’re enjoying the sun, I certainly am!

Hope you’re doing well!

Cheers,

Name

Now, you might think I am crazy. That’s a perfectly normal email, right? Right?

And he never did anything physically inappropriate, right?

He didn’t touch me. He didn’t say anything. In fact, on the surface of it all, he was always rather nice. His email was rather nice too. So you could say I was making a mountain out of a molehill.

And I do think I might have overreacted in my mind sometimes. I have to email him back, because he is in my company, and as my colleague put it, what say he is moved back, and then he asks why I never replied to any of his emails? His new office is literally four minutes away, I can see it from my window.

But I know how I felt. I know how relieved I was when he left. I know how my guts twisted whenever he came in. I know how close he stood to me, how his hands would accidentally brush me, where his eyes would wander. That was real.

I am not complaining at all. I am just stating the fact. He was an uncomfortable man.

 

 

Love Letters #41

Dear Hana,

Do you know what a wastrel is? I didn’t either, until Master Jeffman called me one today. A wastrel of a boy, he said, shaking his meaty fist at me. What is a boy to do, when called a wastrel? What did I do? I fed the pigeons with his share of the corn, that’s what I did. I fed the pigeons and thought of new ways to become a worse wastrel than I already am. He missed his corn, at supper, and blamed the cook, who was beside herself. I felt truly a wastrel, then, and owned up to it. Suffice it to say that my revenge was short-lived, and I must be more resourceful in future when I decide to carry out acts of subtle retaliation.

On Saturday Twig and I stole some bread from the kitchen. It was for the ducks by Het’s Pond – they seem a little on the waify side lately. Twig reckons it might be because the pond has frozen over, and they have nowhere to fly to. If you’re really quiet of a frosty dawn, you can hear all the manner of bird calls. Jenny wrens, jack daws, tom tits and robin redbreasts. The ducks are quiet, then. You can see them just about waking up, stretching their wings and giving their feathers a sleepy shake. The world is beautiful at dawn; we swing our legs over the side of the bridge and yearn to fish – only we can’t break that stubborn, thick surface of the water.

Twig reckons they should have called it ‘Het’s Lake’, on account of the pond being 40 acres wide. I told him quite dismissively that the idea had already been put to the Council, but to no avail. Twig reckons he is a visionary. He has started wearing those glasses he’d squirrelled away last year, and introduces himself now to the others, the new ones, as ‘Dr Blackadder’. Never to the Masters, of course, they would whip him to a pulp. A prime fellow is my brother, I say, in utmost sarcasm.

In the morning, sometimes, the folk at the House bring their skates down and have a capital time of it. We watch from the bridge, they shout eloquently at each other and have snowball fights on the ice, twirling about and making quite a show of it, their valets and servants bringing them hot cocoa on silver trays, traipsing down the side of the slope as though summoned by magic, floating over the snow like angels of warmth and luxury.

The dawn is our time, though. Our own time, away from the Masters, away from the drudgery, away from the relentless hours of physical exertion. We fall asleep at night as soon as our heads hit the pillows, but we always wake up just before the first light of dawn, when the stars, bright and twinkling in the winter sky, are just starting to fade. We wake up and drag ourselves down to the side of the lake, we listen to the birdsong and saturate our souls in the still atmosphere of a waking world.

And I think of you, Hana, and how I am not truly a wastrel, unless I have wronged you in some way. I am not a wastrel, if the world welcomes me at dawn, and allows me to live in the miraculous time when the skin kisses our part of the globe, and turns night into day. The air shifts, the songs start, and the day stretches, yawns, and slowly embraces the earth.

Yours, always,

Seb