I Am Tired: Notes from the Middle of the Night

It is a serious thing, just to be alive on this fresh morning in this broken world.

Mary Oliver

It is just past five o’clock in the morning, and I am sitting in the dark. I am staying in this strange guesthouse off the beaten path in Ao Nang, Thailand. I am not sure why we chose to stay here instead of one of the various trendy hostels, but I digress. The bedroom with its scarlet bed linens and wooded walls feels like the sleeping quarters on a ship. The long hallway with various doors and curtains drawn, feels part ship, part opium den.

I could not tell you why I have been awake since three o’clock in the morning, or is that the night? Maybe it’s the time difference, or the unfamiliarity of this place, or the dreams that I awake from with anxiety rising in the pit of my stomach, or the strange sounds in the night or the chicken outside my window.

I woke for an hour and scrolled through various social media apps and news articles and websites and didn’t really care about any of it. I checked my messages to see if the people I am missing had reached out and was disappointed to have received nothing. Maybe it’s the time difference, I tell myself.

Around four o’clock, I set my phone down and closed my eyes and hoped that sleep would come again. Instead, I lie in bed, joined only by the seemingly never-ending reel of thoughts my mind turns to these days. I remind myself that I am in Thailand. I consider what that means, what it means to no longer be in Tanzania. I feel anxious about how far I am from Tanzania. I tell myself I am going to be in America a month from today. The most turbulent mixture of fear and excitement both turns my stomach and fills me with butterflies.

I am spending days walking around beautiful beachside towns. I am laughing with my best friend. Swimming in the salty water. I have sandy toes and sunny skin. I am exercising daily. Drinking actual coffee and espresso, with almond milk no less. Drinking smoothies and juices and buckets filled with mai thai. I am sending emails out into the ether to network with people back stateside. I am waking up early and going to bed early. I’m stretching and calling my mom and making to-do lists.

But I am anxious. Sometime after four o’clock when I attempted to find sleep again, I lie in bed thinking about nothing and everything.

I shouldn’t be drinking every day. And what about the smoking? I know I keep telling myself that I only started smoking again because the stress over the last few months, and I know I’ve been able to stop easily for weeks at a time, but how many did I smoke yesterday? And is that why my throat kind of feels dry? Or am I not drinking enough water? But I really hate that I have to use so many plastic water bottles. I hate that the bartenders keep giving me plastic straws. And what about that belt I bought yesterday? Did I really need to buy that? Do I have enough money to be on this trip? I should be journaling more. Writing more. Being alone more. Resting more. Drinking less and thinking more. Why haven’t I found a job yet? I should have just gone home. Yes, if I would have just gone straight back to America it would be okay.

I stop myself.

The thought of sitting in my mother’s home in South Carolina, writing in the dark because I cannot sleep brings about just as much uncertainty and anxiety and shoulds as this moment. There is no blueprint for how to navigate this situation. Hell, there’s no blueprint to navigate any part of our lives.

Almost a week ago I boarded a plane and left Tanzania, the country that gave me the gift of community, self-reflection, and discovery, friendship, purpose, and connection with myself and the world around me. Tanzania gave me my first home all to myself, the first place I planted my roots. The other day I was speaking with a dear friend of mine who is currently learning about horticulture, and she told me how she’s been learning about repotting plants. She told me that when seeds are planted in the soil and they grow their roots, we must be very tender and gentle when repotting. These roots are so delicate. So fresh. And when they are taken from their soil and placed in an entirely new soil, no matter how nourishing, they are in shock.

She tells me, woman — you’re just a little plant with fresh little roots, care for your roots, be tender, be gentle, it will take some time to trust this soil to nourish you.

I need to be gentle with myself. I need to be clear with myself. Clarity, my word. Truth is, I am exhausted. I have never felt this tired in my entire life. I feel tired in my bones. I feel tired in my roots. I am caring for my body, while, yes, also indulging in some drinking and smoking, but I am caring for my body. I am finding pleasure in the taste of a perfect cocktail. And the perfect cup of ice cream or coffee. The beautiful plates of food with flavors I haven’t had in a year. I am prioritizing my physical fitness daily. And I have this ongoing mental monologue about how I need to also prioritize my writing and journaling and meditation and yoga. And of course, I am doing these things, but somehow, I must not think it’s enough. And yet, I say to myself, you’re on vacation, be gentle, relax. I’m not sure I know how to relax and just be on vacation. I have spent the last year in a constant state of being. At all times engaged, turned on, in the moment, doing deep self-reflection and major spiritual heavy lifting. And I am exhausted. Maybe I need a break? But what does a break look like? Does it look like drinking mai thais on the beach?

January 29, 2020 Ao Nang, Thailand

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Pastimes include playing with words, using my passport, and eating croissants. A writer of all things gender, culture, and travel.

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Tyler A. Donohue

Tyler A. Donohue

Pastimes include playing with words, using my passport, and eating croissants. A writer of all things gender, culture, and travel.

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