EXPERT IN TIREDNESS

It is common wisdom that the Eskimos have twenty words for snow. They are experts on snow. My husband frequently points out that Jews are experts on joy. Look at the number of ways we describe our happiness during a wedding:

  • sasson (joy)
  • simcha (happiness)
  • gila (gladness)
  • reena (jubilation)
  • deetza (cheer)
  • hedva (delight).

Since the joy of my wedding day, I have become an expert in tiredness. I need at least nineteen more words to express all its different aspects. At the end of the day saying "I'm tired" doesn't do justice to the depth of weariness I feel. Just as "painful" is a weak description for the pangs of labor, "tired" does not come close to capturing my experience.

I've made nine lunches and driven nine children to and from school, on varying schedules ... I've shopped for and cooked dinner ... I've met with two people to teach them and called two more to get them interested in learning about Judaism ... I've counseled a couple approaching their wedding, and ordered my son a jacket from Lands' End ... I've read 15 "Little Critter" books, walked on the treadmill, and called a friend in need ... I've sent out a flier for a cooking class and tried to unplug the shower drain ...

Is it time to put my feet up? Can I coast now? I think so, but then I think of a billboard I've seen advertising kickboxing: "You'll rest when you're dead." I'm exhausted, and I keep pushing.

USING EVERY MINUTE

It says in the Torah that when our forefather Abraham got older, he "came with his days." This awkward language is meant to teach us an important idea -- that he used all his time productively. He was conscious of the value of time and he didn't want to waste a moment. He certainly wouldn't have stooped to "killing" time.

When I'm tired because I made the most of every minute, there is exhilaration even in the fatigue. I imagine it is like a farmer after a long day of harvesting the crops –- bone weary but also filled with a sense of pleasure and accomplishment. But when I'm tired because I merely endured the day -- I went through the motions, I remained on automatic pilot -- then I'm left feeling empty and depressed.

And I vow anew to try to use my time to its fullest with a sense of joy and enthusiasm.

EACH MOMENT A NEW CHANCE

When I'm driving in my car, I'm conscious of an opportunity. I could put on a tape on Jewish wisdom, to learn and be spiritually uplifted or, I could miss that opportunity and turn on the radio, listen to the news again.

I wanted a life full of meaning and being tired is a small price to pay.

When I'm waiting in line, I could let my mind wander, fantasizing about my next shopping trip, or I could think about character traits I want to work on, people I want to help. I could get frustrated or work on my patience. The day is full of moments that could be used more productively, more joyously.

I am so tired. But all this effort is life-giving and life-affirming. I had this fantasy that now that all my children are in school (after 15 years!) I would spend my time relaxing at Starbucks reading the newspaper. But instead each moment seems to be choreographed. How did that happen? I realize that it's because of the choices I made -- I wanted a life full of meaning and being tired is a small price to pay.

THE PRICE OF GIVING

We have to combat the advertisements that are constantly telling us that vacations are the goal, that retirement is life's ultimate pleasure. The older, successful men my husband learns with tell him all the time: "We don't want to play golf all day. We want to work. We want to feel useful." It is a big blessing to be productive.

At the funeral of a close friend a few years ago, it was brought home to me how privileged I am to be in the position of giving. I prayed that the Almighty should continue to send me opportunities to give to others. And my prayers were answered!

I'm tired. But I feel blessed. So for now I'll ignore all those ads for Club Med, and I'll keep pushing. I will get the renewal of sleep and wake up with the excitement and energy of a new day.