Life is one long process of getting tired. (Samuel Butler, novelist)
If you see a whole thing, it seems that it’s always beautiful. Planets, lives… But up close a world’s all dirt and rocks. And day to day, life’s a hard job, you get tired, you lose the pattern. (Ursula K. LeGuin)
It isn’t the mountain ahead that wears you out; it’s the grain of sand in your shoe. (Robert W. Service)
What does exhaustion feel like? It changes, I think. When I was a child it was at the end of a day of playing, of sun or making snowmen. It was physical exhaustion of going full tilt with my brothers and sisters, and falling right to sleep. When I was a teenager, I remember the sudden quiet after an evening of being at a dance, the sound expanding, filling the spaces abandoned by guitar, drums and voice. This delicious quiet followed me home and I felt the weight of the blankets on me as I drifted off to dreams. Young mother exhaustion is every kind: mental, emotional, and physical. But instead of falling to sleep, you lay awake at night, worrying about all those things you can’t control, but want to: will they do well in school? will my husband finish his school? should we take the new job? should we move? will the children marry the right person? and sleep eludes you for hours and you wake up more exhausted than when the night began.
This week’s exhaustion is a continuation of the last four, but rooted in a day that began too early, sitting at the laptop composing the second essay assignment, then another assignment, and another as I make my way through a new class and prepare for that day’s evaluation by a colleague. It continues with a day-long-non-stop schedule that would not faze me if I were 40, but I’m not, and ends at a women’s gathering, getting hair tips from a lovely lass with lovely long hair, but all I can think about is that I’m tired and I need to go home. Sleep is interrupted, fitful, with the aches that come from that not-40 place, and with the worries about all your children and their young families, and your parents, and a family member or two, the remembered exhaustion piling on in dreams that encumber, all parts of you feeling the weight of some other-worldly place.
So after my husband left this morning, I opened a Flickr file, ignoring the 5″ stack of essays-to-grade in the bag behind me, and clicked through photo after photo, my mind unscripted, my interests wandering. I found a Flickr set of tiles from Portugal and wondered how our quilt blocks might have taken their cues from these ancient and oh-so-faraway constructions of mortar and glazed tile, pattern scrolling into pattern. (I have no idea.) But I liked looking at the grid-ness of it all, glimpsing some of our traditional and some of our modern patterns click into view.
And finally, I roused myself, delaying the grading for tomorrow to give me some space, for I took to heart the thought from Charles Haddon Spurgeon: There is no fatigue so wearisome as that which comes from lack of work.
Which in my world, today, needs to be quilt work.