health, pain, reflections

on being tired of being tired

I’d love just one morning when I could wake up pain-free and well-rested, but it never comes—not when I sleep for 13 hours on my expensive mattress and definitely not when I’m crumpled into an IKEA chair for three fitful hours punctuated by bad dreams and rejection. Somehow, though, the elusive blissful morning doesn’t prevent its hope from being my last conscious thought, the last fleeting prayer fired from my synapses, each time I finally manage to fall asleep.


Two nights ago I dreamt that one of my ear plugs had come out of my ears. It was one of the new ones I’d just purchased, dark wood with sparrows, and it had somehow cracked in two and fallen out. I was puzzled, as getting the plugs in had been painful and difficult (I was going one size up, from 00g to 7/16″).

Dream dictionaries tell me earrings symbolize the quality of my intuitions; if a 20g post is fine-tuned intuition, what might a 7/16″ plug of wood be? A baseball bat across my subconscious? Are my intuitions broken, flawed, or merely in need of attention? And what is to be made of the sparrow, said to represent the ordinary but living parts of a person that are special? Or of the wood itself, which represents ideas, opinions, and habits that have become a fixed part of one’s nature? Could it be my fixed habits that have been broken and not my intuitions?

How is it possible to have parts both ordinary and special? How could something so painful to put in come out so easily, in two pieces no less? Was this dream a sign of growth or regression? Was it even a dream, or might it have been something on the verge of a nightmare?

When I awoke I’d been asleep for nearly 13 hours, and the first thing I did was check my earlobes to see if it had been real. But the first thing I noticed was the first thing I always notice: I was still exhausted, and the pain was still there.


I don’t quite recognize myself today; if I prayed as I fell asleep (as I always do) for things to be better than usual upon waking, what I received instead is the worst day I can remember for years (save for when I’ve been recovering from surgeries). My life is messy and scattered, literally, and I’m always in either too much pain or too preoccupied or too busy (or all of the above) to organize it into something workable. My living quarters are temporarily cramped, and I’m feeling both invisible among the excess and suffocated by the responsibility for cleaning it all up, as if I’m the only reason everything is out of sorts and as though I shouldn’t need (and/or don’t deserve) any help in figuring out how to make it all fit together. I’m so exhausted, in so much pain, in such a state of mental fatigue, that I don’t know whether to duck under the covers and cry like a baby who can’t be calmed or start tearing up everything in my room like a mad version of The Tasmanian Devil until it’s a complete disaster and the outsides of my life finally, perfectly match the insides.


People tell me I’m a go-getter, a hard worker, entrepreneurial, always out doing things. How could anyone know how impossibly lonely it is to wake up knowing the depths of my body’s failures, realizing anew each morning (and many more times throughout the day) with sadness that it may very well be that no one else will ever consistently remember I am the inverse of the warning label seen on a car’s mirrors: Objects may be smaller than they appear. After all, I do put on such a good show. I can see how it would be easy to forget. Even I do sometimes.


I don’t know why I keep going (or, more accurately, how), but I do. I’m of the suspicion that there isn’t any other option; the show must go on. I’ll shower and get dressed and make my way to the financial district this afternoon to see my neurologist (for a new migraine treatment) and then my physiatrist, who will likely tell me for the nth time that there’s not much to be done other than alleviate some (but not all) of my pain with (a possibly new) medication. (At times I feel as though I’m on the installment-plan version of hospice care; We can’t fix you but we can make your remaining time on Earth as comfortable as possible…) I’ll run some errands: check the mail, shop for groceries, make some phone calls, apply for some jobs, maybe throw in a load of laundry, do a 7-minute workout.

If I do it all just right, no one will know how much I’m hurting.