I went to church this morning, where I nearly fell asleep during the sermon--not out of boredom, rather because it got me really present and in my body--and my body's message was, "I'm tired!" When I went to pick up my kids from their Sunday school class, the teacher asked me how long I'd been living here, and if I'd managed to create a support network yet.
"Yes...sort of...well, not really," I said, shifting from knee-jerk optimistic brush-off to my inability to lie in the face of compassionate directness. "But it's all right. I'm used to being in isolation," I added, and then I felt like I'd made myself sound even more pathetic.
Weekends are harder, because my older son isn't in school and he is very demanding of my energy. By Sunday afternoon, when all I wanted to do was work a little on my writing, which actually energizes me--he was at me to go to the playground next to our apartment. I agreed, thinking I'd bring my Kindle and read through a manuscript to highlight places that need editing. Unfortunately, the last couple times we've gone there, we've run into this neighbor who seems to think she knows me, stands quite close and gibbers in words I understand but the meaning is often lost to me because she doesn't dialogue, she monologues.
So I guess that would lead me to the first step:
1. Make choices to avoid being drained. Okay, so I made an excuse to get away from the playground and took my sons biking to a real park instead, thus avoiding a person who drains me. I admit my older son also drains me, but since I don't really want to avoid him, I instead chose to put him in a school where I trust the teachers rather than homeschool him, which I really was considering but which I admit would have truly driven me insane. Now, I get a break from him and he's in a school he loves.
2. Take care of your body. This is actually the most important step and it's where I've been slacking. Primarily, I need to get more sleep, and avoid ingesting anything that's simply a temporary crutch because I'll pay for it the next day with additional fatigue--and I'm finding that this includes any caffeine or grains, especially wheat.
3. Don't use childcare aids that cave in to your exhaustion but ultimately just make you feel guilty. When I lived in Brazil, my main child-rearing argument with my husband was about television. He comes from a culture where most people have the TV on all day long, and he often can't sleep unless it's on as well. I personally believe that television isn't good for children. My husband's view was, more or less, that if I didn't want them watching TV the times he wanted to let them, I'd have to take care of them instead because he wouldn't help. So I caved in and let them watch movies at night, when I was most tired and wanted a break...but I always felt guilty doing so, especially when I saw the way they played during the day--rather than creating their own stories from their imaginations, what they did was reenact scenes from movies and repeat dialogue verbatim.
Anyway, now that they're in a Waldorf school, I've gotten all the external support I needed to wean them from watching movies and it was actually easier than I thought it would be. Now I can see them truly making up their own stories when they play--the movie influence is almost entirely gone--and they're sleeping more and better without staring at a screen keeping them out of touch with their bodies' clocks. Nights are easier, because bedtime is earlier, and the best thing is I no longer feel guilty. Guilt is one of the biggest wastes of energy of all.
4. Love makes it easier. So my fourth step is just to remind myself that when I get frazzled and crazy and annoyed and upset, it's less tiring if I can remember and embody my love for them--because even when I'm tired, that will make things easier to bear, and I'll also feel less guilty later on for being a bitch. As in #3, doing things so one doesn't feel guilty frees up more energy.
5. Write lists like these to put it all into perspective. I know I'm living the way I am out of choice, but at this time when I don't yet have a support network, it's good to find other outlets for organizing thoughts, remembering the big picture, and for catharsis.