Got Empty Cup Syndrome?

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I see you, sis. You’ve spent so much of your life giving yourself to other people that when you do anything for yourself, it feels like you’re stealing. You feel so unsettled when you can’t respond to a text message immediately or take a call because you’ve been so available for so long. And now when you’re too busy to attend to someone else’s needs, or too tired, not only are they taken aback…you are surprised by how guilty you feel.

Surely everyone gets to take a break sometimes, right? Then why does it feel like you’ve abandoned the ones who need you? Why does it feel like when you take time out for yourself, you’re taking something that belongs to someone else?

“Has everyone been served?” is your constant unspoken refrain. You before me. Please, I insist. “I’m fine,” you respond every time you’re asked how you are, even though the honest answer would be “I’m holding on by a thread, and I haven’t had a solid night’s uninterrupted sleep in God knows how long and I’m sick of my family, but I love my family, and I hate that I’m sick of my family, and I feel terrible for saying that.”

But that would take up too much time and energy that you already don’t have. So you just say, “I’m fine.” And you paste on a pretty smile. And everyone wonders how you do it. How do you keep it all together? How is your house so spotless all the time? How do you get your kids to be so well-behaved all the time? You and your husband are total couple goals! Your carefully curated Instagram posts are the stuff of dreams! But there’s no pretty filter on your real life. There’s no makeup or concealer that will hide the bags under your exhausted soul.

Does anyone know how you collapse into yourself at 11 p.m. when everybody who needs you has finally drifted off into a content sleep? You have a few hours between now and when the alarm clock violently startles you out of your restless sleep, and you become everybody else’s property again. So you have to use that time wisely. Will you watch that TV series you’ve been hearing about on ads in between shows on Disney Junior? Will you read the book that’s been collecting dust by your bedside table for months? Will you do your nails? (HA! Laugh)

And while you sit there contemplating what to do with your few hours of freedom, down the stairs staggers a little human rubbing her eyes, unable to sleep because the monster from her nightmare is hiding under her bed.

And so your night is decided. You fall asleep cuddling your baby.

I don’t have the answers for you, sis. All I can tell you is you’re not alone. It’s odd and feels slightly ungrateful to be tired of a life that you know is also extremely blessed. But it’s not odd. And you’re not ungrateful. You’re human. And humans get tired sometimes. Be kind to the human in the mirror. Allow her some selfishness sometimes! The world will adjust, I promise. Besides, you know what they say…you can’t pour from an empty cup.

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