I came home from work exhausted. Like, so exhausted that I didn’t even feel exhausted. I dropped my backpack and walked to the bathroom and poured a bath. I grabbed a protein bar for supper and sat in the bath and watched RuPaul’s Drag Race and ate my protein bar. I actually felt emotionally okay, but way too tired to process pretty much anything.
I’ve been giving max energy to work (a caring profession) and max energy to parenting and max energy to divorcing, and it’s all way too much energy. Plus there’s still Covid.
Sitting in the tub, I thought about how I’ve been doing a lot of emotional sprints— putting out a whole lot of energy to try to solve a huge problem (or a hundred). But then I thought, no– I’ve been running a marathon. I’ve been doing a super-long distance emotional run. But no to that too– in a marathon, you conserve your energy and use it judiciously. I’ve definitely been running at full speed. Then I hit on the reason I’m exhausted-beyond-exhausted: I’ve been sprinting a marathon.
Obviously that’s a silly thing to do, and if you tried to do it in a real marathon you’d die. As a professional carer and a single parent, the emotional effort feels like it never ends. And because I give a damn, phoning it in is not an option for me for anything ever.
So here I am: sprinting a marathon. There is an emotional water station up ahead, though. Maybe even a few small ones. And I will keep going, obviously. Because I have to. I know that as I keep going, I will feel stronger and more grounded. I’m already feeling stronger and more grounded than I was, which is why I can keep sprinting.
It’s all gonna be fine, and I know my exhaustion isn’t a personal failing. My verve will return with some rest.
Emotional labour is not seen as being important or valuable in society, and that effing sucks. But I can value it. And I can emphasize its importance with the people in my life. And when I need a break because I’ve been sprinting a marathon, I will not feel guilty about it (or at least try not to). Emotional work is work.
And I keep going.
Featured image was created by the author using elements from canva.com.