I had a bit of a revelation in the park the other morning a few weeks back.
My husband was away on another training weekend in the UK and I was TIRED, I was trying to put sunscreen on my five year old, while keeping half an eye on my toddler, who was climbing a baby staircase to a small slide – which he is capable of doing on his own now.. but, he fell and lay on the sand screaming. I ran to him thinking/praying/crying in my head, “Oh, no, not again, please I can’t do this again, not another trip to A and E, with the driving and the heat and the language and the parking and the cross-cultural stress, not today, not while daddy’s away, please.”
I know it comes with the territory, small kids, lots of things happen (and ours are “busy” kids). And I know I can’t wrap them up in cotton wool, but sometimes, like on this particular morning, when I’m tired, I wish I could guarantee myself a carefree hour or two with no mishaps.
After I picked the baby up, had him sit on my lap crying for a bit and fed him some snacks and he calmed down, I was standing in the shade (35 degree heat adding to tiredness) watching him play and having an in-my-head/half muttered aloud conversation with God. “You see, God, I don’t trust you, I’m exhausted and I can’t have a break, you can’t even protect me from these sorts of things. What’s the point of all of this?”
And it occurred to me, or God said to me:
“You know what? You’re supposed to get broken! You’re not supposed to be super-human.. Humans get tired and broken, and if you do too much for too long that’s what happens.”
I sort of actually understood: if I didn’t get tired from doing too much I’d be God, not human. And there wouldn’t be a “too much” that’s the finite/infinite distinction!
So, not being able to concentrate, and breaking things, and locking myself out of the house, and not feeling like I can take one more “toddler falling off something incident,” shows I’m overloaded and need rest and support.
I guess I know that really.
But my tendency is always to think “I’ll have one good night’s sleep and I’ll be fine.” Or “one hour off,” or “one girly evening with a friend.” But you know what? Fatigue doesn’t creep up from one night of bad sleep, or missing one hour off, or not having an occasional night with girl friends. It comes from lots of gaps over a long period of time.
I knew this two year period with my husband traveling regularly abroad with me at home with a five year old and then adding a baby into the mix was going to be hard. So I shouldn’t be surprised at the end of it if I feel frayed. I have tried to put things in place for support. But, with the best will in the world we can’t predict all the work and other stressors that will happen in any given time period. Things got more crazy than we could ever have expected. Maybe I “should” have taken more breaks, but I’m not sure how.
It’s okay to be broken. When things have been too much, when our cross cultural work burns us out, even when we’re trying for it not to, we’re supposed to get broken. I did what I knew how to do. Now there’s the long (accept it, accept it!) long, not short, process of trying to recuperate. Feed good stuff in, get good introvert time regularly, re-charge. It’s okay to be down and tired, to take time. To start this process again of “living life to the full”.
Where do you need permission to be broken?