The other day, at about 9:00 am, we discovered a leak in our kitchen sink and I suddenly realized why I’m so tired. It was not the leak.
One rainy day when I was about 9 my BFF and I were in her mother’s car, on the way somewhere, maybe to a party, maybe Sunday school, maybe just to take me home. I don’t know. When we pulled out of the driveway into the cul-de-sac (a street that still looms large in the memory of anyone who ever lived on or visited Deibel Court), we noticed that the dog had gotten into the the garbage cans and strewn trash across the driveway. Her mother told us to stay in the car. She got out and picked up the trash. I remember thinking then that being an adult meant you had to be the one to get out of the car and pick up the trash in the rain, and that it must suck.
I wasn’t wrong. It as good a definition of being an adult as any. Being an adult means being the one to pick up the trash, even in the rain. Usually. Don’t tell my husband, but one morning about 12 years ago I noticed that the toilet was about to overflow. It was my first day of a new job. I was dressed up and desperate to get out of the house before my babies woke up to complain about me leaving. I noticed that toilet on the brink and I walked out of the bathroom without doing a thing, leaving him to handle the impending doom later. Sometimes, even as an adult, you can let someone else handle the soggy trash.
But not right now. Right now there’s just too much soggy trash. By the time we discovered that the kitchen sink was leaking, I had already spent an hour fixing the Internet. With two adults working and two kids attending high school, all online from home, you cannot leave Internet issues for later. After we fixed the leak, we had 30 minutes to walk the dogs before my husband’s first meeting and the kids’ two-hour lunch break. I had promised my daughter a trip to a recently-discovered juice bar during her break.
This is what it feels like all the time now, in the time of Corona. A constant parade of crises and obligations, but even that isn’t the full reason everything is so exhausting. I think it is the interruptions and the lack of privacy. The interruptions that come from having 4 people and 2 dogs in the same space all the time. Even sitting down to write this at 7:30 on a Saturday morning, I have already been interrupted twice by kids and dogs. When I finish this draft, I will go downstairs for breakfast and … Narrator: She did not finish writing the sentence, let alone the draft.
There was a dog who needed to go out, and a kid who needed to talk about the death of a beloved actor. So, instead of whatever fantasy breakfast I was thinking about before, instead I ate some toast and emptied the dishwasher and talked to my son. Then, my husband and son decided to go fishing, so there were supplies to gather. It is now, once again, 9:00 am and I am once again exhausted.
When the kids were little we used to say being a parent was like the old Army ad, “We do more before 9:00 am then you do all day.” Somehow, Corona has put us back in that place of constant movement and interruption, a place where getting a foothold is impossible. We have also gone back to the days where a child cannot be left alone. Only now, it is that a parent cannot be left alone. There is no errand too mundane for someone to want to join me on it. I am grateful that my teenagers want to be with me, but I have not chosen the radio station in my car since Corona started. In this time of supposed isolation, I am constantly around other people. I have started trying to get in bed at 9:00 pm both because I’m tired, and because that might give me a full hour when someone else’s needs or mood are not part of my calculation.
In literature and songs, 3:00 am is the magic hour. Insomnia happens at 3:00 am, people leave bars and get into trouble at 3:00 am. But now, 9:00 am is the magic time. There is something about having your day go off the rails before it’s truly started. Whatever that thing is, it’s exhausting.