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This post is part of my 2022 Word Project. You can read what that’s about here.

Wednesday, February 9, 2022

Today’s word chose itself.

It slid so nicely into the cracks in my brain that all I could do was agree to write about it.

At the time, I was obsessively focused on how tired I am. You ever get that bone-deep tired where your body is just done, and lifting the mug of tea is too much work? The kind of tired where you want to read the last paragraph of the last chapter of the book, but you get about three words in and your eyelids fall down, but you’re determined to finish, so you exert every muscle in your body to lift them again even though they weigh about 400 pounds each. Then for the next half hour you read the same three words even though it feels like you’ve read about ten thousand without getting any closer to finishing the book.

That kind of tired.

The kind where you wonder, whose idea it was to do a word project, anyway?

I felt worn out.

That’s the phrase. Worn out, like parts of you have been rubbed off to reveal the stuffing beneath.

There’s a mental component to that, too.

Being physically worn out is actually a little easier. You put on your Hello Kitty eye mask, pile on four blankets and dream strange things that you will bore someone with tomorrow when you tell them you were in this castle, but it was really your house, and your parents were there, but they weren’t really your parents.

Being mentally worn out takes a lot more effort to fix, because you always dream about tsunamis.

The point is that all the parts of me felt frayed.

I wasn’t even planning on talking about all that. Everyone is worn out lately, it seems, whether they are literally tired from being overworked and underslept, or tired in that “I’m tired of it all” kind of way.

The point of this project is not to remind myself and everyone else about the boring, monotonous parts of life but to break free of them by pulling on the narrative threads and seeing what happens.

I called my mother tonight. Between tired, and brother visiting, and work, it’s been over a week since we spoke. That’s a long time to go without speaking to my mother. Most of the time I talk to her every few days, if not every day.

So we settled into a nice, banter-y conversation tonight, which somehow meandered into talking about comfortable clothes. Not inherently comfortable, but worn into comfort.

You know what I mean. The pajamas that you won’t admit you still own because you’ve probably had them since college and there is a hole in the butt and the knees are completely threadbare but they are so comfortable that you can’t bring yourself to get rid of them. You probably have nice pajamas, too, and they stay nice because you hardly wear them.

In my mother’s case, it’s a pair of jeans two sizes too big, with frayed cuffs, that have been worn down to a practically velvet texture.

In my case, it’s a sweatshirt that Ralph never wore, three sizes too big, worn to ragged sleeves and hem. If you have ever seen me, or even seen pictures of me, you have surely seen this sweatshirt. Ralph dies a little inside every time I wear it. I adore it.

The word, as it turns out, is worn.

Like me, like my favorite sweatshirt.

Something about that word and the way it popped up with its multiple meanings tickled my fancy.

One minute I was feeling a little sorry for myself for being all worn out, and the next I was celebrating a ridiculously worn out sweatshirt.

I can’t quite explain why the idea amuses me so much. Maybe because it’s a stark contrast in perspective. Maybe because it proves, once again, how mindset matters. Maybe because there was a nice synergy between feeling worn out, and reacting to it by cuddling up in a worn out shirt.

Maybe I’m a little punchy and just need to go to bed.

I have a bear, his name is Theodore. He is 48 years old, has no fur, and is missing the black center of both eyes. He would have been 52 years old except when I was four, I lost him in a department store.

Here is what I remember: I cried. A lot. My parents looked high and low for Theodore, ransacked that department store. Finally they found him. But his fur was just a little too shiny. Even at four I knew this.

It reminds me of the story of the Velveteen Rabbit. He started out beautiful and shiny but it wasn’t until his fur was worn right off by love that he was really alive.

So maybe there’s something noble in the idea of having a little wear and tear on your body and soul. Maybe it means you’re that much more loved.

If that’s the case, then I, and my frayed old sweatshirt, are very loved. And you can bet your holey slippers that I’m going to put on that sweatshirt, go to bed, and dream… quite likely about tsunamis in castles.

Photo: my favorite old sweatshirt.