Tag Archives: tiredness

Some kind of gravitional collapse

I feel it is about time that I return to a theme that is a constant in my life: fatigue. Probably because I am too bloody tired to think about anything else, to be fair. Tiredness plagues me. It hangs round me like concrete balloons, slowing me down and making me stupid. The other day, I actually forgot the words ‘garden centre’. I know. Ridiculous. I was talking away to someone, having a fascinating conversation about places to take the kids (because what other conversations do I have these days?) and about two seconds before I was due to say ‘garden centre’ I became aware that there was just a little gap in my mind where those words used to reside. I opened my vocabulary filing cabinet at the letter G, riffled past gallop, gamble and gammon, only to find some bastard had nicked the garden centre.  Where did it go? I stood there, mouth agape, probably slightly dribbling, mid-sentence, conscious of the growing silence where my voice should have been,  until finally – ping – ‘garden centre’ returned. I was so relieved I said it way too loudly and enthusiastically and got some very weird looks from a passer-by.

I know when my tiredness levels have progressed from the usual run-of-the-mill tired – although there is scant running involved, as that takes far too much energy, to all-out, fall momentarily asleep standing up whilst waiting for the kettle to boil exhaustion (and don’t think for a moment that this hasn’t happened). It’s when friends (shortly to be reclassified, downgraded and struck off my Christmas card list) meet me and say: “God, you look tired.” This has happened to me twice in a week. As a fond greeting, I have heard better. As a conversational opener, it lacks a little finesse. As a way to make me feel even more tired, worn out, crap and generally fed up, it’s pretty much ticking those boxes like an examiner at a Mensa convention. I am not sure at what point they think that I need this to be pointed out to me, to be honest. I appreciate that often, what with the flurry of the morning routine to get B to nursery and to walk E to school, personal grooming is not first on my list. But I do look in the mirror before I leave the house. I wave the moisturising cream around in the general direction of my face. I acquaint my  hair with a brush. So I can see my dark eye bags, sucking the light and energy from the rest of my face like two black holes so large I am convinced I am only weeks away from some kind of gravitational collapse, leaving only two malevolent eye bags on a pair of legs. I do not need reminding of this fact.

“God, you look tired.”

“Really? Because I thought that after a few weeks of being woken up by my one year old twice a night, I was looking rather stunning. Blemished, pale skin and an inability to string coherent thought together are all the rage, don’t you know.”

The level of weariness that I, and I am sure, a whole slumber of other parents, operate from, is less about going into your lounge to get something, only to find when you get there you have forgotten what it is you wanted. It is more like forgetting where your sodding lounge is in the first place.

But let’s not be too churlish about it. Tiredness was part of the contract that I signed up for when I decided to become a parent. It was just tucked away in the eighty-sixth page of the terms and conditions, just below never being able to finish a conversation and slightly above the clause about always paying more for your children’s shoes that yours. Nah, let’s be churlish. This bit of parenting is utterly shit.

So for now, I take my leave, and head to the… the… you know… what’s it blood called…  that place where you can buy plants and bird feed and shit. Yeah. There.


Inevitably, I have returned to the perennial topic that consumes so many parents. The one on which we all compare notes. That takes up an unwarranted amount of brain space, just thinking about it. About how it feels to have some. About how to get more of it. No, not wine. Although that is a close second. Sleep.

Just thinking about sleep makes me both momentarily drowsy and claw-my-own-eye-bags-off-my-face irritable. Because (and please do pass me the prize for stating the bleeding obvious here) I do not get enough. Nowhere near enough. If I slept from now until Christmas, I would only make a small dent in the slumber deficit I have. Hmm. Perhaps there should actually be a Slumber Deficit Index, which tracks your lack of sleep. With four and a half years of not getting a good night’s sleep, I would be ranking somewhere around a seven out of ten, I would think. The SDI (that’s the Sleep Deficit Index, not some nasty sexually transmitted disease… please keep up, anyone would think you were tired or something) would work in conjunction with the Sleep Interruption Index. The SII would track the frequency of sleeps that are interrupted by your kids. On which I would be scoring a 2, as we have had a miraculous three-night stint of no interruptions. However, last week, in the throes of B having taken up Extreme Teething as his latest sport, my SII would  be a 9. At which point, I would be multiplying my SDI by my SII and scoring an alarming 63. I think parents should wear their sleep scores on a badge on their lapel. Anything over a 50 and you know not to ask them anything too taxing like how to divide up the lunch bill between three, not forgetting Jane didn’t have a pudding. Anything over a 65 and don’t even think about gently criticising their kid who is currently up-turning the tables in the cafe. Over 85? Just back away, throwing biscuits and compliments toward them like they are going out of fashion and get the fuck out of there.

See, I must be bloody tired, I think I attempted some multiplication in that last paragraph.

Fatigue does strange things to my brain. When I try to think, it’s like my brain is calling me long distance. There seems to be a three second delay before anything actually materialises. I am sitting at the table and glance down to the floor to see half a leaf that has been walked in from outside. I then see B, speed-crawling his way toward a tasty pre-lunch snack of muddy foliage. I look at the leaf again, thinking that I really must pick it up and do it soon. B gets closer. Okay, time to bend down and pick it up, I think. But my body is inert. B is slowing down as he reaches his prize. Any moment now, I muse, my brain will tell my arm to get the sodding leaf. B picks up the leaf and moves it to his open mouth. Finally I move, snatching the leaf, leaving only a few granules of mud on his bottom lip on which he happily sucks. Ah well, what doesn’t kill him makes him stronger, I think. then I looked at him again, just to make sure it hasn’t actually killed him.

I think that long term tiredness has just slightly broken my brain. Once, words were all stored up there in an efficient and tidy manner, and I could retrieve them in an instant. Not only that, they would appear out of my mouth in the right order. Some were even longer than two syllables. Now, my brain has decided to store my vocabulary in a slightly different way. Less highly effective filing system, more lottery balls bouncing around in utter chaos. I was having lunch with E the other day, and I said: “Pass the…” I knew what I wanted to say. After all, I was staring right at the bloody bottle of ketchup, it was not as if my brain was grappling with the complexities of string theory. The trouble was, no word came out. I thought a bit harder, probably frowning with the exertion of all that mental activity. But all I could imagine was thousands of tiny white balls, ricocheting around my skull, on one of which was the word that I was grappling for. But I was buggered if I knew what it was how to get it out.

“So, here comes the first ball on Word Lottery… good luck everyone… we are using Guinevere today and set of words number seventy-two… here it comes… and we have ‘table’.

“Pass the… table,” I eventually ask E, who looks at me, quite rightly, as if I have gone just a little bit mad. I think I have shocked myself. Pass the table? The table? What use is a table? Ooh, I could lie down beneath it for a kip…

“What did you say?” he asks.

“Err… nothing.” Ketchup with fishcakes is highly overrated, anyway.

Sleep deprivation also has a charming effect on my body. Particularly my face. Now, I never was much of a mirror gazer. For me, my face has always been more functional than aesthetic, containing as it does useful holes through which I can see, breathe and eat. But now, having had children and bog all sleep for over four years, I have been known to actually duck when walking past the bathroom mirror. I do not need to see my eye bags; I know they are there. Christ, there is practically a breeze on my lower eyeballs where the eyelid is being pulled away from the ball due to the weight of them. And I have a friend who helpfully mentions how tired I look pretty much every time I bump into her, which is nice. I would punch her, but I am just too sodding tired.

I spend a ridiculous amount of time thinking about sleeping, particularly given the little I actually do of it. This morning, I gave myself a break from thinking about sleeping and was thinking about the future, when the boys have left home. My first reaction to this thought? ‘Oh my god, I will actually be able to have a lie in whenever I want.’ So only another eighteen years to wait, then.