By Nidhi Chopra
I am tired. I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve said this to myself. I began saying it in my late 20s. At the time, it mostly meant that I was tired physically. I was working in the non-profit sector in Delhi. My first job was that of a resident psychologist at a halfway home for people suffering with schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. I affectionately called this place the “madhouse” because it often seemed to me that the residents of the house were far saner than all of us staff put together! It took me four years to realize I was burning out.
I decided that working with children would be a much better idea. So, I found myself working at the YWCA managing their project for children affected with HIV/AIDS. My life revolved around working in sex-worker and rag-picker communities in the outskirts of Delhi and Haryana. Although it was a fulfilling job, I quickly found myself tired, overweight and constantly broke! I showed up for drinks with college-mates in shapeless salwar-kameezes with a pencil in my hair and dirt under my nails.
I was tired AF: tired of trying to be independent while still thinking of how to secure myself financially on a laughable salary.
By the time the 30s rolled in, the exhaustion became mental in nature.
I was tired of trying to manage relationships – old and new. Of trying to understand new dynamics of in-laws, being a new mother to kids just 19 months apart, being a ‘good’ daughter and daughter-in law; and an effective homemaker. Constantly struggling with the baby weight, the hair fall and the breast-feeding. It took its toll.
I’m in my 40s now, living in Singapore, working with my husband in his fast-growing digital business that I knew nothing of five years ago. It started as “just helping out for a bit” to becoming my full-time day job along with my other full-time day and night job of being a parent to my eight- and 10-year-old girls. I feel I’ve come full circle in life.
Yes, I am still tired. But, I am also tired of telling myself that I am tired! I’ve realized that being tired can mean so many different things depending on where you are in your life. On the surface, it can mean that you’re ready to throw in the towel, give up and lay down your guns.
Or it can mean the exact opposite. That you are tired of giving up and giving in.
That you’re ready to fight back or shed unwanted layers. It’s important to identify what kind of tired you are. One kind wants you to simply curl up and sleep it off, and the other kind gears you up for bigger, more important fights.
For instance, I’m tired of people who lack empathy, who don’t care about other human beings or the environment. People who are quick to judge and don’t apply themselves to understanding things from someone else’s point of view. When I was younger, I would try to work my way around such people, giving them exactly one eye-roll and moving-on.
But, being a mother has taught me that my kids will eventually grow up to be who I can be. I want them to be adults who pay more attention to their environment, who always come from a point of understanding people and circumstances outside of themselves. I have begun to lead by example. I have accepted that I cannot change others. I can only change my own reactions to them. So instead of avoidance or annoyance, I try to employ my own empathy in such situations.
It’s not easy all the time, but I am not too tired to try and do it better!
I’ve begun to take a similar approach to my tiredness with 21st century consumerism. More clothes, more bags, more makeup, more food, more, more! It’s such a waste. Instead I’ve adopted and teach my children an alternative sense of achievement of “more”– more charity, more sharing, more understanding, more regard for the environment and more of “the less”.
Ever since I can remember, my pet peeve has been with pseudo-religious people who project their own beliefs upon others. Who consider themselves superior just because they were born into a particular religion or path. When I was younger, my reactions were emotional, loud, argumentative. Your truth can never be the only truth that Truth has to offer!
I’ve realized now that the only truth about Truth is that it is all-encompassing. I have accepted these people to be yet another manifestation (albeit an annoying one!) of that all-encompassing Truth.
As I’m growing older, I’m learning not to take my tiredness too seriously. Life will always give you lemons. And you don’t always have to come up with lemonade. An ice-cold pitcher of lemon tea spiked with a dollop of some beautiful Mongolian vodka never hurt anybody!
So, nowadays, instead of mourning, “I am tired”, I simply ask myself. “Am I tired yet?”
Nidhi Chopra is an in-the-closet (or toilet) writer based in Singapore, mother of two, wife of one, friend to many.