Chacos column: Why am I always so tired?
Enjoy the Ride
I asked Google to answer my chronic fatigue problem after signing up for a marathon I never intended to run. One formal-looking site that may or may not employ an actual human said, “Lack of sleep, too much sleep, not enough exercise, too much exercise, heavy exertion, jetlag, or aging.” The last word tripped me up.
Frustrated with the faceless platform that enjoys jousting with people’s earnest questions, I had no choice but to eliminate things from my routine if I ever wanted an answer. I needed an absolute, like those allergy doctors solemnly give when they inform you that your digestive system can no longer tolerate dairy, even though the person sharing office space with you could have confirmed the same years earlier.
My first step was to adjust my evening routine because simple logic states that more sleep combats fatigue. My kids started tucking me in at the Damn-Mom-That’s-So-Early hour of 8 p.m. Cleverly, I also stopped hydrating midday, eliminating the need to wake for late-night pee breaks. My flawed logic allowed me a few consecutive REM cycles for the first time in years, but I felt like an expired box of generic raisins.
Next, I decided to avoid heavy exertion and refused to carry anything weightier than a cup of coffee until a Zappos delivery arrived at my doorstep a few hours later. I reluctantly brought the package in myself and discarded the evidence because I didn’t want to give a lengthy explanation to my husband as to why I needed two new pairs of spring sandals. I remembered my grandmother dragging groceries up her stairs well into her 80s until she broke her hip, but I reasoned that always having to explain my purchases to my spouse was part of my constant exhaustion, not heavy exertion, nor my family’s stubborn streak.
Lastly, I tried one of those vegan cleanses knowing I was getting closer to the source of my fatigue. Sure, I felt clear in the head and strong like a stallion; however, I was demoralized for having to eat with such intention and wiped out talking about the benefits of eating organic every night at the dinner table. After some intense soul-searching, I concluded that I ultimately find my Zen when fueled by fries and a chocolate Frosty.
My elimination plan thus far had been nothing more than a zero-sum game. The things that gave me energy had some consequences that left me back where I started. My doctor finally confirmed the reason for my overall middle-aged malaise, and she brazenly called it “normal aging.”
Dismissing her professional assessment as fast as she uttered those ghastly words, I smartly asked, “Could it be from the jetlag from a flight I took last summer?”
My doctor laughed, in the white-collar way of letting me know she’s the expert and I shouldn’t buy into the garbage Google sells. She gave me a gentle look and told me I may not get the same results from the things that once gave me vitality and confidence, like running or mountain biking. As sadness creeped up my spider veined legs, I knew it was time to finally try pickleball.
I came home from the doctor’s office with a newly acquired, positive outlook and a pair of orthopedic shoes that made my feet feel amazing. My kids confirmed they are beyond ugly, and I finally accepted my new life is now going to be a series of small trade-offs made daily.
As for the marathon? Let’s be real. The only reason I would entertain a 26-mile run is if I was being chased with a chainsaw. Through a cornfield. At night. Under a new moon.
Andrea Chacos lives in Carbondale, balancing work and happily raising three children with her husband. She strives to dodge curveballs life likes to throw with a bit of passion, humor and some flair.
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