Today, I'd like you all to help me with a little experiment.
First, clear your minds, take a few deep breaths and prepare for a quiz that is likely to challenge your powers of memory and concentration.
OK. Here it is, a test with just one question: When was the last time you didn't feel tired?
Have you got your answer?
Excellent. Now it's time to do a little analysis by asking some simple follow-up questions. Was it easy for you to picture in your mind the most recent moment at which you felt truly rested? Was that moment within the last few hours, days or weeks? Or did you have to think back for months, or even years?
I hope most of you were able to quickly remember a recent time at which you were not feeling exhausted. However, I'm guessing that some of you struggled to think of that restful moment. Maybe you weren't able to come up with one at all.
I had to really think about it when this question popped into my head the other day. Naturally, the thought came to me at a time when I felt especially tired.
Then again, it seems like I almost always feel at least a little bit tired. And I'm getting tired of that feeling.
Before you accuse me of being a whiner (which I am), I realize I really have no right to complain. I know that my seemingly constant tiredness is completely the result of my own choices in life.
For example, I chose to pursue a challenging career that would require me to expend much mental energy each day, even if it's not physically taxing. I chose to marry and have a fairly large family. I choose every day to try to be involved in my family's activities and help as much as possible with chores around the house. I even choose to watch a few select television programs each week and to wake up early to exercise most mornings.
In other words, I can easily diagnose the reasons why I'm tired. What I can't seem to do is figure out a way to change my schedule, habits or activities in such a way that I can beat the tiredness bug.
After all, there's always more to do, right? Every time I take a moment to ponder my schedule, whether at work or at home, I see a seemingly infinite to-do list stretching out before me. It's really a bit daunting at times.
Am I alone in these thoughts, or are any of you in a similar situation? I think you are. I see people every day who look like they're constantly exhausted, and I talk to plenty of friends and coworkers who comment often about how tired they are.
But even when they make such statements, they usually seem resigned to the situation, much like I am. Some even wear their tiredness as a badge of honor, the bags under their eyes giving evidence of their commitment to work hard and do whatever it takes to accomplish all of the tasks set before them.
For me, those bags are simply a sign of too little sleep.
I remember talking to my parents about this problem shortly after our last child was born. The older kids were in school by then, and we were just starting to experience the scheduling craziness that has only grown more challenging over time.
"I just keep wondering when everything is going to slow down so I can catch my breath and relax a little bit," I said.
And then I received parental words of wisdom, if not comfort. It was something along the lines of, "It's never going to slow down. With four children, you'll always be busy."
That counsel has proven to be accurate. But I still want to believe it's possible to be a hard-working, successful employee, spouse and parent AND to have time to rest every now and then.
When I asked my wife about this — and yes, I think she's even more tired than I am on a routine basis — she basically told me that my dream is not achievable. Her advice is to accept the fact that I'm always going to be tired, at least until the last of the children is out of the house, buck up and deal with it.
I have a sneaking suspicion she's right, but I want a larger sample size. So, if you're willing to keep serving as subjects of my experiment, I'd like your take on this.
Do you feel like you're always tired? If so, are you simply resigned to the fact, or have you tried to find ways to be more rested? If not, to what do you attribute your ability to avoid constant tiredness? What tips could you give to those of us who sometimes feel like we're sleepwalking through life?
Let me know your thoughts and ideas, and I'll share them in a future column.