Notes from the Pandemic: Exhaustion

Jen Bradbury
May 31 · 5 min read

This week has broken me.

George Floyd.

The protests.

The looting.

The pandemic.

It’s left me feeling exhausted.

And I’m someone who knows what exhaustion feels like.

I’ve felt the complete and utter exhaustion that defines a first trimester pregnancy  not once, not twice, but three times.

I’ve known the exhaustion that follows the death of a loved one; How once you’ve finished dealing with the business of death and the house clears, you just want to sleep for weeks.

I’ve experienced the exhaustion of chasing after a very active 10-month old and a 5-year old who never sits still… And I’ve now experienced how compounded that exhaustion feels when you’re in the house 24/7 during a pandemic.

I’ve known exhaustion.

And yet this exhaustion feels different.

Yesterday morning, I texted my husband, Doug, as I was nursing Kendall, asking him to come to my room. When he did, I simply burst into tears.

The news was too much. I had no words; Only raw emotions. The tears came, fast and freely.

Then last night, I watched the national news in horror and sobbed through the local news as I saw all too familiar places in Chicago looted and ransacked. By the time Kendall finished eating, I felt weary to my core. I honestly wondered if it was safe for me to leave the couch and walk up two flights of steps with Kendall.

All this because I was frustrated… Heartbroken… And exhausted.

Even though I’ve known exhaustion before, I’ve never experienced exhaustion like this.

And all I’ve done this week is consume the news from my place of privilege, from my community that has been untouched by the protests and lootings and who can, if they so choose, ignore the racism that killed George Floyd and continue to ignore the white privilege that benefits us.

If this is how I’m feeling after a week like this one, I can’t even begin to imagine how my black brothers & sisters must be feeling right now; How exhausted they must be.

I’ve been exhausted by racism and white privilege for six days.

Black people have dealt with these twin sins for hundreds of years.

It’s almost incomprehensible.

I can’t even imagine their exhaustion.

Tonight, I’ll lay down in my bed, safe in my house in the Chicago suburbs.

When I’ve had enough of the news, I’ll simply turn it off.

Because I can.

That, too, is a privilege. I can choose when to tune in and out of this week’s mayhem.

Since I can, the rest I crave will eventually come.

But I wonder, will my black brothers and sisters ever receive that same rest?

Will they ever be able to stop fighting for equality? Will they ever be able to stop protesting inequality?

Will they ever NOT be exhausted by my ignorance?

I fear they won’t; But I pray they will.

And so, as we enter into what's likely to be another tumultuous week, my commitment is this: 

I will listen to the voices of the oppressed.

I will learn from those who have been exhausted by racism and white privilege for decades.

I will pay attention to the things I don’t understand as well as those that make me uncomfortable.

I won’t run from my exhaustion.

Instead, I’ll lean into it and as I do, I’ll remember those who have been perpetually exhausted and harmed by racism.

I’ll continue to do the work of dismantling my own white privilege… And I’ll teach my girls to do the same.

Because if more white people do this, then maybe just maybe, one day we can all rest.