I was tired.
I was bone tired.
I was the kind of tired that results in blinks lasting about three seconds longer than they should after 8 pm.
The cause of this fatigue is the perfect storm of life–a new job with a fun, fast pace and a really long commute, the winter doldrums, a flailing relationship, and the ever-present Covid 19.
How It Began
Following an unfortunate furlough from a job I didn’t love, I did some consulting, did some great traveling, and made the best of a bad situation.
A terrific boyfriend entered the picture at summer’s end and I was totally in the “Claudia” mode of making the best of what’s on my plate. Bright spots were everywhere–more time to spend with my kids, a greater connection to many of my friends and family, extra time to plant a garden, to tend stuff in general.
I received my job offer right before Thanksgiving–it was right up my alley– it would provide new challenges, pull off of my past experiences and it would ramp up my professional life a bit with the expectation of high-speed assimilation–a real “hit the ground running” start.
And I did–I charted out the path to the NYC-borough office, I knew that I would have to drive and I made sure that I planned the route for every contingency.
Used to previous NYC commutes with public transportation, this new commute would not be a lazy, ear-pods, best-selling-book-in-my-lap kind of commute.
I wouldn’t wake up from an early morning doze on a bus winding its way into the helix of the Lincoln Tunnel.
This was a Mario Andretti, lane-changing, keep up with traffic at 80 mph commute, the end of which resulted in a 15-minute mindless drive around the borough neighborhood looking for a parking spot.
Once in, the day began in earnest with each of us trying to “make our bones” in the first few weeks.
This was a satellite office and after week one, we had no supervisor. As adults and properly motivated it meant we worked through lunch, pounded pods of coffee, and generally kept up a pace that gave us early momentum.
The no lunch thing was a problem. Nestled cozily in one of the classic ethnic neighborhoods where there are five, local delis and a bunch of bagel places, my healthy salad was nowhere to be found. The guys took a trek for over-stuffed yet inexpensive sandwiches, and although they offered, I always fell back on what I had.
I’d munch on snack packs of almonds and cashews, so that the carpet under my desk resembled the bottom of a hamster cage. Munching and typing required a flip-over of my keyboard somewhere mid-presentation to dislodge those little bits of almond skin. We were all so hyped up on coffee, it became a rare commodity. I hoarded a few pods from home just so I wouldn’t be “jonesing” by mid-afternoon.
Sometimes, with a 5:30 am wake up and little time to prep, my lunch might mean a cup of soup, nuked to an uncomfortable medium warmth with an icy cold center.
Coming in the house at 7:30 at night, I did what I have never done in my life and that was eat out of the refrigerator–two pieces of cheese, a handful of grapes, cold pasta. I was like a gremlin after dark. I would say “Hi” and “Bye” to the kids that are home and head upstairs, where I would change into pjs and fall asleep sitting up.
The gym, which was always a day’s end activity, was unattainable except on weekends. My tidy controlled self was starting to unravel.
Now I will say–there are plenty of people who do this, and do it without issue, but for me, 13 hours out of the house with a 1:45 hour commute each way was starting to do some damage.
I’m a social creature and the commutation time would have gone that much quicker if I was able to connect with my sister, or some of my friends. But, no one wants to talk at 6 am, I tried Podcasts, but I can’t talk back. I was lonely, feeling adrift from my life.
My boyfriend, who has international calls at 6 am would have been a likely choice, but then, he has calls at 6 am, and they are business, not chin wagging with me.
On the way home, I would reach out, but between two tunnels and various cellular coverage interruptions, I’d hear the frustration when a single call would go dead four or five times. So now there was isolation.
A Young Man (or Woman’s) Game
I am the least age aware individual I know. My husband used to say I acted like a 12-year old and instead of being insulted, I would take it as a compliment. I readily tell people my age, I don’t have a problem with it, for the simple reason that, quite frankly, I love this age and all that comes with it. Of course, we know that there are some physical manifestations of my age, but I’ve got to tell you, I haven’t let them creep into my consciousness…until now.
As I was dragging my ass at day’s end after making cold calls, warm calls, and preparing proposals, I allowed, for the first time ever, to think, “Is this a young person’s game?”
The commute, the work, the pace, the isolation, was it exacerbated by my age? I thought about it one night, long and hard.
I was pulling my weight and keeping up at work, my performance was not at issue, but what about how I felt? Was that the telltale? That the usually upbeat, up for a challenge, make lemonade out of lemons person, was literally physically and mentally exhausted?
I’ll be honest, the thought scared me a bit. I won’t sign up for an AARP membership because I don’t think I’m that age. I come by my lack of age awareness honestly. My father, God bless him would regularly make a muscle with his arm and say, “Can you believe I’m 75? Look at the shape I’m in.”
Although I don’t tend to boast, I can admit to getting a warm smile when someone says, “You are 58, I thought you were much younger.” Whether it was BS or not, it has always worked for me. I’ve always felt younger (read immature) than my years. But to be fair, that is why I never thought about age. For years, for some weird reason, I always say I am one year older than I am in reality. I project to the next birthday and give that as my age.
So this fatigue and brain drain bothered me big time.
Just The Facts Ma’am
It bothered me until I started to look at some real and hard facts.
Let’s take sleep, I”m not a big sleeper–6.5 hours is all I have ever gotten for most of my life. A 5:15 wake up means I should be getting to bed at 11:00 no later. That wasn’t happening–I’d be up until 12:00 at least, and then fret about an email I received at 9:30 (6:30 PST where my company is headquartered.) Thinking about this keeps me up later and further cuts into the already reduced sleep.
Then there is the coffee. At the height of my exhaustion, I was pounding somewhere about 5 cups, three more than is my norm. That, coupled with the fact that I was eating crap, or not eating at all, completely threw my energy off. Making me need more coffee.
My vitamins, which I used to keep in the top drawer of my desk at my old job, are thrown by the handful into the bottom of my bag. If I remember to take them, I am usually dusting them off, and trying to find a bottle of water to wash it down with.
And then there is water–walking in like a pack mule with all my stuff, and parking a few blocks away, means I was leaving my water bottle in the car. Not enough water, means coffee is the only source of hydration, and since caffeine dehydrates, there is another good reason for the exhaustion.
The commute is what it is, but it is all the adjustments that I have made that have made me so tired. It has nothing to do with age, it has everything to do with putting the oxygen mask on myself first. In deviating from all of my touchstones of health, I had inadvertently put myself in a situation where I was dragging my ass after a day of heightened and sometimes frenetic activity
And then there was my relationship. Great guy, loads in common, except communication. With distance and a connection issue, the likes of which the FCC couldn’t untangle, we were falling off the rails. For me, my lack of excess emotional bandwidth has made it easier to ignore, than repair. As with everything else, of late, that is on the calendar to address. Results may follow.
Let’s not forget about the ever-present threat of COVID19. In this trek of exhaustion, every little ache, pain, sniffle, clear of my throat made me wonder whether it had finally come for me. The only one of my siblings not to have gotten COVID, I can’t help but wonder, at every turn, if this is it. A bunch of negative tests have said “not yet,” but the threat is always there.
Garbage In, garbage out
Sleep, sleep, sleep-shut off everything, I mean everything
Get an antibody test to determine if I have had COVID, and have not known it.
One of the things I will say about being my age, is that I have learned what works for me and what does not. In not respecting that knowledge and being less self-aware than I am normally, I allowed myself to get into a place of utter exhaustion. And for me, exhaustion eats into the hope and promise of better days.
Claudia Lucey is a widowed mother of four, mostly adult children. Her “happy place” is the beach, where she spends every waking moment in the Summer. But spending time with her children is her greatest joy. Her philosophy is that laughter, even through tears, is the greatest emotional outlet. Nothing makes her happier than a good laugh, even at her own expense. She is a Director of Marketing for a construction company, yet she is a trained journalist who loves to write and photograph buildings of any size or shape.