The pink sunrise reflects in the glass of my end table as I reach instinctively for my tea, the black surface brightened by coral tufts. I am aware of my own awakeness this morning and every morning, relishing the ability to write a simple to-do list for the hours before work.
Read book. Pack bag. Pick out necklace. Pour tea. Pack lunch. They are, of course, tasks I would have remembered to do anyway. Once routine, they hold new significance and reverence, maybe, quietly reminding me to relish the sustained energy and the awakeness of it all. To worship it, even, taking extra care to monitor the minutes my tea steeps, to line up the corners of my favorite blanket, to awaken without instantly wanting to sleep and sleep and sleep.
I shed the memory of chronic fatigue with almost rebellious abandon this past week. I danced and sang and drank wine at (and before) The Wombats and Drake in concert. I saw the U.S.A. gymnastics team (Simone Biles!) in a live showcase. I ran miles and played tennis and stayed up too late and read books. I wasn’t living nap to nap anymore, but I needed to convince myself of it, still.
At the height of my exhaustion, I did all of those things, too, I suppose, assuming that if I willed my body to be alive and awake, it would listen. It would let me go out two nights in a row. It would let me stay up and finish the chapter.
I’m better now, and I think I believe it.
Like awakeness, betterness takes a while to settle in again. Texts read, “I’m better, don’t worry about me so much,” for months, as exhaustion tugged me back to my bed. I resented my favorite blanket.
I mistrusted my own body and hated naps. It felt patronizing when “I’m tired” served as the default answer to “How are you?” from friends. Why couldn’t I describe chronic fatigue? “I’m tired” was insufficient to explain the sapping, all-consuming exhaustion.
Tea and naps masked fatigue for months; my brain silently convinced my body it was OK. I just needed another nap, another mug of tea, another quiet denial.
Yet I was most crippled by my inability to express my exhaustion. I’m tired. I’m tired. I’m tired. I’m tired. I couldn’t find the other words, the ones I’m inherently supposed to have as a writer.
But maybe these are the words I was looking for all along.