avatarJenn M. Wilson


No One Tells You Self-Improvement Is Exhausting

It’s hard when you barely have the energy to function.

Photo by Luz Fuertes on Unsplash

I wrote a piece about not seeking happiness and aiming for the low bar of Not Miserable.

It resonated with readers. I appreciate knowing that I’m not alone despite feeling isolated in the oxygenated haze of life.

There was a time when I was a Married Single Mom, meaning I had my kids all the time and my ex-husband was never around. When I pushed for divorce, I assumed that because I spent more time with my kids than most working parents, I’d be okay not always having them.

Until…I stopped always having them.

I had my kids this weekend. When I have my kids, even when they drive me nuts, my world feels complete. I’m still sad and I’m fueled with anxiety but I feel complete.

But today they went with their dad and here I am, alone, on the couch, feeling the hollowness again. It’s jarring. I hate Mondays after they leave. People say that it gets easier over time. It’s been two years and it’s not easier. And I don’t want it to ever get easier.

Before I started my work (procrastination at its finest, I leave things to the night before and get them done in a panic-filled rush), I sat down and watched the latest episode of Lessons in Chemistry. I thought it would be another episode about the main character’s cooking show. Instead, it was about the sad back story of her male love interest.

When a story resonates with you, it hits you like a truck.

I don’t think I’ll ever find “my” person. It’s not hard to find random guys to date or even pledge their loyalty. I keep them at the surface level. Rarely do I find someone who I feel could be “my” person but in the end, I’m not “their” person.

I could say that my ex-husband was “my” person, but that means I should have stayed in a miserable marriage. It hurts if I’m forced to believe that one of the few people who truly knew me also treated me poorly. (No, I was not innocent either. I’m certainly not saying I was “his” person.) I had one shot at marriage with kids and I blew it on someone who put fists in the wall in the early years and left me feeling depleted of any love I had left.

When my brain needs additional voices to add to my Generalized Anxiety party, I think of the Toothpaste Genie book I read as a kid. The genie grants one wish a day and he follows the request with explicit precision. You can’t say, “I want perfect hair” because it’ll remain perfectly coiffed, even when showering.

I imagine asking to go back in time knowing what I know now. I’d ask for a husband who is good-natured and won’t yell at me. I’d even settle for going back in time and having a do-over on the divorce; I can suck it up for a few more years (or so I think since it’ll never happen).

But spending hours wishing to change the past is the opposite of what I need. What I need is some hardcore Radical Acceptance.

Big sigh.

I’m tired of making over myself.

It’s Thanksgiving Weekend. My ex-husband, his girlfriend, her dogs, and my kids are off sledding in the California mountains for the weekend. I think this is the second time my ex-husband has been sledding in his life and my kids are doing that with him instead of their Canadian-born mother.

The girlfriend has a cabin up there. I sure as fuck can’t afford to take them for a weekend to Big Bear or Mammoth.

I forced myself to be social today because as much as I loathe people, I know it’s necessary to ward off the Depression Beast inside me. Lunch was with a friend-of-a-friend; the dude was super nice but it’s hard to form a friendship when all we have in common is my girlfriend who lives in another state.

I briefly swung by another friend’s jewelry pop-up shop. Jasmine is one of the most gorgeous women on earth and her heart is ginormous. I want to hate her because she’s utterly perfect. I love her jewelry but as soon as I walked in, I told her “Girl, I’m on Shein pricing so I can’t buy anything”.

There was a time when I could afford to buy a pretty $50 necklace and support a friend’s business. Those days are over. Now I buy jewelry off Temu because if it’s under $4 and you try to return it, Temu lets you keep the item.

Tonight I’ve got a date which I’m dying to cancel. I was excited, agreed to go out, and then discovered he’s kind of a douchebag. I justified the date by thinking that I should get dressed up and go out rather than stay at home crying.

Typically, I’d slather on fake tanner and eat light all day to look lean in my outfit. I have zero fucks to give. No self-tanner and I’m chugging a bottle of diet soda because I couldn’t care less if I look bloated. The thought of getting to know someone new is daunting, not exciting.

It feels like I’m in a perpetual state of mourning over the life I won’t have. Yet it wasn’t a life that I enjoyed when I was in it, which means the life I had and the life I have are both shitty. Where is the third option, where life is moderately tolerable?

It feels like even making the tiniest dent in achieving a life of non-misery takes the same effort as climbing Mount Everest. It’s so much work. It takes so much time. It takes money. (For anyone who wants to come after me on that last one, I’ve written dozens of articles on this. It takes money where I live. Period.)

I barely have enough mental and physical stamina to get through a 45-minute lunch and ten minutes for a jewelry pop-up. I’m depleted for the day. How am I supposed to make any meaningful change when my body is screaming to crawl into bed and take a nap?



Enough with the whining and crying. Or at least, knock it down a notch.

I’m in my late forties and while I feel older than dirt, I don’t have it in me to do another forty years of living like this. I’m too tired to get out of bed but I’m too lazy to be homeless looking for work. So I need to get my shit together or else I’ll have to really haul ass just to find warmth and food.

There are 33 days left in 2023. This is a call to myself and you: we are making a plan to improve life in 2024.

Mental Health
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