I woke up this morning at 4 am. My mind was whirling with thoughts and worries, none of which warranted such an early wakeup. After staring at the ceiling for half an hour, I surrendered to that maelstrom of neuronal activity. I ran on the treadmill, finished the newsletter for The Peanut's preschool, returned some emails, emptied the dishwasher, made JJ's lunch, and sauteed leeks to get a jump-start on dinner. When Jack staggered blearily out of the bedroom, I handed him a fresh cup of coffee and resumed straightening up the living room.
Like all objects, I exist in one of two states: at rest or in motion. When I'm at rest—inert—I can barely summon the energy to get out of bed. I'll go for days without a shower; it just seems like too much effort, and the thought of having to take another shower in a day or two makes me want to weep. What's the point, I wonder, when I'll just get sweaty and gross again? The simple activities of everyday life seem pointless and exhausting.
But when I'm in motion, I cannot rest. Sleep eludes me. I perform tasks at a frenzied pace. I revel in ticking off the most boring items on my to-do list. Shower? Check. Scrub the shower tiles with a tootbrush? Check. Make gigantic pot of vegetable soup? Check. I plow through my day at an inexorable pace, unable to pause to catch my breath.
I have wondered before if I have bipolar disorder, although my brilliant psychiatrist assures me that I don't. I trust her, she knows what she's talking about. But it's hard to come to terms with the thought that my "energetic periods" are most likely how most people feel and function on most days. Not the sleepless part, of course; I attribute that to anticipating the inevitable crash.
And that's partly what fuels my frenzy: the realization that my state of being in motion can't continue indefinitely. How long will I have this time before I stutter to a halt? If I can just cram in a few more things before I lapse back into inertia, our household can coast for a while on the fruits of my labors. Healthy meals prepared in advance and frozen in careful portions can be thawed and reheated—although sometimes just operating the microwave seems like a Herculean effort. Bills paid ahead of time won't haunt me when I don't have the energy to lick an envelope, let alone write a check.
These days my periods of total inertia seem to strike less often and last for days instead of weeks. But strike they still do, with the same crushing force. When that wave of exhaustion and hopelessness hits me, I have to give myself permission to do the best I can. And since love and attention can't be banked in neat portions along with healthy meals, that's where I have to focus my efforts. My kitchen sink overflows with dishes, the floor is littered with crumbs, my hair is a mess and I'm wearing the same yoga pants I've worn for the past two days. But JJ still makes it to school with a lovingly packed lunch; The Peanut gets to her dance class, and I'm there to watch her; we all snuggle on the couch and read book after book together. Love is the one thing I won't ever let slip through the cracks.
I just hope it's enough for them.