I’m only out of windshield wiper fluid when I turn a corner. When I’m driving down the road straight, the fluid level is steady, the sensor is not triggered, the light’s not on. And I don’t have to worry about it.
I know how to fill up my windshield wiper fluid, of course, and I know that I can do it quickly and cheaply. But it is one of those things that I cannot be bothered to deal with. It’s just one more thing on the list that feels impossible to tackle right now.
Don’t tell my dad this.
Things haven’t been coming easily to me lately. It takes more effort to get out of bed, to brush my hair, to pack a lunch and drive to work, and that’s all before 8am. Then I sit at my desk and do a job I genuinely love but there are some days when I stare at a screen for hours without really accomplishing anything while my to-do list grows and grows. And I get home and all of my good intentions fly out the window and I sit until I fall asleep.
I work hard to keep myself healthy, but I also work hard to succeed at two jobs and maintain relationships and navigate a pandemic and stay active and improve at hobbies and read more books and help out around the house and grieve and address my innate bias and reduce my consumption and and and
I am so tired. I just want to take a nap for a week or so. Or more. I’m so close to burning out I can already feel the heat.
I tell myself and my friends all the time to “protect your peace.” To choose your battles and to forgive yourself when you can’t balance it all. But this isn’t a job for one person. Of course I’m tired. We’re all tired. We’re all driving in straight lines when suddenly a bend in the road alerts you of the fact that you’re missing something. And then you drive through a mud puddle of an attempted coup or a failing vaccine rollout or your friend getting sick or something and you lack the resources to clean your windshield off.
I’m not sure if this metaphor is tracking anymore but I don’t really care. What I’m trying to say is, this indicator light? Super important. Your car is telling you it needs something to run at its maximum capacity. So is your body. This urge to take a nap until things blow over is a way of protecting your health. I don’t think any of us have the privilege of sleeping for the next few months, but we probably all have some more space to listen to our own needs. To say “no” to obligations and forgive ourselves for not accomplishing enough on any given day. Just existing is more than enough.
I spent most of 2020 recovering from the fallout of ignoring my depleted resources. It was really hard and I’m really proud of myself. And I’m really proud now that I can see where I’m headed and take the necessary steps early enough that I don’t completely fall apart again. A lot of what I’m doing is fighting natural urges to sign up for things I can’t handle because I want to be supportive or appear valuable to others. I don’t think it’s a cultural norm, anymore, to admit that you’ve reached your limits. I still see a lot of people boasting about the crazy hours they work and all the things they’re juggling. I’d hate to see their dashboards. I have to remind myself constantly that my value is not inherently tied to my productiveness. Maybe you need to hear that too. There’s nothing in the world worth sacrificing your own mental wellbeing for.
Here’s a reminder for me and for whoever is reading this: it’s okay to be tired. Listen to yourself. Go take a nap. And fill your windshield wiper fluid.