If you’ve ever been sick, you know the feeling. The exhaustion that sweeps in when your body is trying to fight something. For a few days, maybe even a week, you wake up feeling like you’ve been up all night. And no matter how much you sleep, you want more. More sleep, you can feel your body shouting, even demanding.
We all know how important sleep is to us. Not getting enough sleep can sometimes feel like spinning in a store filled with glass and porcelain with your arms fully stretched out. Everything becomes fragile and can easily break. Our immune system weakens so we get sick a lot. We get irritable and snappy, which you’ve probably noticed, is not great for the relationships in your life. It becomes hard to focus. To think clearly. When we’re too tired to even figure out what to eat for dinner–– how are we supposed to find the answers and solutions we’re looking for in life?
Sleep is crucial so that we can have enough energy to take care of ourselves, our families, and our communities.
Here’s the thing. When our bodies fight off a bug- or whatever made us sick and we heal- we get our energy back. But for some people, like myself about 10-15 years ago, your energy doesn’t come back no matter how much you rest and sleep.
Back in my twenties, no matter how much I slept through the night, in the parking lot outside the math building, slumped over in the far back corner of the stock room of the store where I worked, in between binge-watching tv shows––I still felt like I could never catch up. I was so exhausted that my body felt too heavy to move. Almost nothing could get me out of bed. It wasn’t a shock or surprise when my friends stopped including me in their plans altogether. I had no social life and didn’t feel like I was living my life either, and that was the crazy part. No matter how little I did in a day. No matter how much I missed out on because I felt like I needed to rest and sleep–– I can’t remember ever waking up feeling rested.
There are different ways to look at why this happens, and the why is important because 20-something-year-old-me was not unique to this problem. Over the years, with the work that I do with my online school SLG, I see people who are just where I was: stuck somewhere in between self-care lists and diagnoses coupled with medications. Or both. And no matter how much they try these things, they are still tired, still exhausted, and still not living their lives. Unfortunately, the way we are seen and understood in this society is not through the eyes of nature, which is what we are, but through the eyes of industry. Back then, when I was busy sleeping my life away, I wish someone had been there to tell me what was actually going on.
In our families and communities, no one forgets. Our grandparents, elders, the forest… they are all there to remind us that we are energy. All of us. We learn the importance of listening to shifts and signs that let us know if nge is in balance or not. But not here. In the dominant culture, with its responsibilities of urban living and so-called progress, we forget. There are too many distractions. Too many voices tell us we’re something we’re not. And with time, we believe them.
Remember how we talked about being sick? How it makes you tired but once it’s over you wake up and have your energy back? Did you know that every time you go through something stressful or traumatic, your energy changes into a state of survival to take care of you? It follows a cycle, just like when you have a cold. When it’s “done” your energy starts to focus on healing you, and after that, it comes back to equilibrium, balance. But when we live in a society and culture created for an industry, not for beings with natural responses, instead of learning how to listen and understand your energy, you’re taught to control and stop its responses.
If you need a visual, think of a deer trying to escape a hunter. Their energy is only focused on surviving, right? In a natural state, the deer would have the option to escape, and after finding safety, their energy would change back to balance because there wouldn’t be a need for survival anymore. But this deer is not living in a natural state. Instead of open meadows and deep forests, there’s a fence all around. The deer can’t escape. All they can do is run along the borders of the fence, trying desperately to find a way out. But no one can stay in survival forever. So what happens? Eventually, the deer becomes too tired to run anymore.
Longer than I ever should have. I was like that deer, trapped, trying to survive. And if you’re always feeling tired, you might be like that deer too. No matter how strong and resilient you are, your energy can only do so much at a time. When you go to sleep, that’s when it’s supposed to take care of you, get you rested, and recovered for a new day. But if it still has to survive what you went through in your past, it can’t do that. No amount of bubble baths, journaling, Tempur-Pedic pillows, medications, or talks with a therapist can replace the cycle your body has to go through.
There’s a lot of arrogance and delusion when Western-proclaimed experts speak with conviction that their inventions and ideas can do better, even replace, nature. I know it’s only because the separation happened so long ago, they have forgotten. But when their voices are all we hear, we forget too. We forget who we are and what we’re capable of.
Just like land and water, our bodies come with powerful abilities that today, only Indigenous knowledge can help us remember and return to. Not just for a good night’s sleep, but for all the things we miss when we’re never feeling rested and too tired to live our lives.
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