Lack of sleep — it sounds so innocuous. How about sleep depravation — sounds a bit dramatic. As parents of two young kids, we hear both of these phrases spoken loudly, with pride, worn like a badge of honour, a competition over who has the worst life right now. Someone complains, someone nods knowingly, both secretly convinced that their own shit is the most annoying, the most exhausting, the most. THE most.

We ache in our heads, our fingertips, our backs and necks. Our eyes rasp under crackling lids, our teeth perched tenderly in tightly-bound jaws. There are snipped orders, snippy responses, half arsed pleas for forgiveness and underneath it all a perverse pleasure, knowing that we are fighting the good fight, being excellent parents, if not excellent partners. All this is based upon how much sleep we are NOT getting. The excellence in partnership awards will be handed out, with little glory, possibly in retrospect, when we realise we have survived. There is pride in knowing we haven’t already killed each other, to be honest. And perhaps, with badges gathering dust and memories fading, we will join the ranks of sympathetic cluckers who really can’t fathom the crushing weight of not being able to simply finish a task soon after starting.

Exhaustion is the thing which provides a framework for the rest of this story to reside in. A story about anger. Fury. Loathing (of self and others). Disbelief. But, the anger — it is a flash. A sickening fire from my belly to my heart, then straight back down again. It putters out. It rears back. It roars in my belly, burbling up from my gut, then my neck and out of my mouth like a long, colourful stream of a magician’s neverending kerchiefs. I haven’t felt such fury since the last time I was shocked to realise that despite my best efforts, somebody dared to be unhappy with me. It is so overwhelming that I can’t sleep. I find myself having fantasy conversations in the shower, imagining how three or four sentences will be heard, listened to and provide the magic little tweak, a creak which will be audible as their brain gets it: what I have offered is not a punishment, but a gift! How can you possibly see it any other way? Sigh. Poor me, right? Poor me. I don’t know the answer. I don’t know how to stop the ongoing diatribe in my head.

Actually, I do know. I know to take long deep breaths and notice those breaths. What they feel like, how they sound, how my nose twitches with the cold intake of breath, how my chest rises. For me, this is the answer. The only way to stop the claptrap in my over-thinking, over-scheming, over-dramatic head. Breathe until you notice a shift. And when it shifts back, breathe again*. And again. Remind myself that I am an adult. And, adults know that there is always an end, a new beginning, a way through the shit into a new moment, a new day and a new angle on a tired old relationship. My GP explained it beautifully the other day: when babies are sick, they don’t know it will end. They just feel miserable. At least as adults, when we feel miserable, we can hold onto the knowledge that at some point, even if that moment is imperceptible, there will come an end.

*May I add, this is really, really hard when you’re angry. 🙂 Much easier when you’re sad.