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Calm • Perspective

When Our Battery is Running Low

A most basic fact about a child: it never knows when it’s tired. It just grows convinced that it now hates mummy, that little brother should die, that the button falling off the cardigan is a catastrophe, that its self-respect depends on being allowed to throw the bread knife out of the window sharp end first. And it’s the role of the parent to notice what is being overlooked – and say very gently but with deep conviction: Enough, we need to get you to bed, fast.

We do ourselves no such service. We pay no such heed to how our bodies work and when our minds have ceased to do so. 

It’s past 7pm; we might have had six hours of patchy sleep, been awake since 6.30 a.m, had four cups of coffee, answered 67 emails, crossed town twice, had four meetings, given two presentations, eaten four slices of pizza, watched 45 short viral films, read about fifteen conflicts and twelve scandals – and now, unbeknownst to us, we have entered a perilous zone in which we need to exercise extraordinary care to have any chance of managing a safe landing.

We need to sense how much danger we are in; the danger of seeing only the idiocies of others as opposed to the reasons they might have committed them; the danger of perceiving accidents as intentions; the danger of being drawn to wound someone close to us to alleviate our rage at what the world in general has done to us; the danger of thinking that shouting might every now and then solve something.

We’re in danger of forgetting how much the day has gradually depleted our sense of perspective. We didn’t do anything momentous or heroic, we didn’t climb a mountain or perform heart surgery – and that is some of the problem. What will kill us in the end will not be one big obvious thing but many decades of invisible minor aggravations and low grade frictions.

There is so much that we mustn’t do. Talk about the need to tidy the upstairs cupboard. Bring up what we might do for the holidays; ask why we no longer have any fun. Pick this moment to go through the finances. We must insist to our passionate minds that our mounting anger about the chip in the wall, the missing sellotape and the way the partner said ‘really’ must be about something else – and this we will have to address at another time.

We need to flag up to those we care about that, though this doesn’t read on our faces, we have slipped into a hugely fragile state. With a mild smile, we can confess that we have, to all intents, gone mad.

We need to show our love by escaping, we need to give ourselves a long bath and put ourselves in bed not much past nine, early for an adult but a very good time for an exhausted small bunny who has been very active since just after dawn. As kind people have been telling us from the start, it will all seem a lot more bearable in the morning. 

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