Too Tired to Dream?

Over tea with a friend I love and who lives far away, after catching up on our kids and partners and parents, we got to the yummy stuf of talking about our dreams, our “bright shinies” as we call them, the new creative inklings beckoning to our hearts.

I sipped my lemon ginger tea and I waited for my friend to tell me her bright shinies… and I waited.

Sure, she said the right words about what she was excited about creating, about how she wants to serve, but it was like when the DVD skips, and then starts again, but the actor’s lips and voices aren’t quite in sync.  Or when the guy you love turns into a zombie and tries to eat you.

In other words, something wasn’t quite right.

I put my cup down and looked at her for a long moment before I said:

I don’t believe you want any of that.

She made some noises about how she certainly did. I raised an eyebrow. She made some more noises. I raised the other eyebrow.

Silence settled. We eyed each other.

Then, in a very small voice, she said,

I think I’m too tired to want.

Oh that was it. That was it.

Now here is where things take a very interesting turn. Maybe you’re thinking my friend is too tired to dream because she’s working too hard or taking care of aging parents or pursing too many ideas at one time.


What we discovered as we talked into the afternoon was the reason she feels too weary to dream is she isn’t willing to truly spend herself. 

She is holding back some of her considerable heart and energy, keeping one foot on the brake even as the other pumps the gas.

What is even wilder is why.

She’s holding back because she’s afraid of getting exhausted.

But the holding back is what is exhausting her!

Now please, do not think I am saying you must exhaust yourself so that you can serve, dream, create. That is absurd. But what I’m so curious about and am so eager to discuss is do you ever hold yourself back – for whatever reason – and does that holding back make you then too tired to go for what you really want?

Does not going for what you really want result in a far deeper exhaustion, one that no naps or vacation can quite relieve?

Does this make any sense? What do you think?


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Affluent Healers » Can We Put Off Procrastinating for Just a Moment? - July 14, 2011

[…] Louden wrote a great post this week called Are You Too Tired to Dream?, which doesn’t realllly relate to procrastination except to say that when your image of what […]

Beth Morey - July 14, 2011

Wow.  Powerful and provocative.  Time to do some thinking . . .

    florentine - August 7, 2011

    it makes so much sense…holding back on writing…acting the story in my head..then feeling as if it has already happened. all my ‘energy’ gone into the ‘imaginary’ writing, and nothing on paper to show for my wonderful work…
    standing in my own way!!!!
    how do i get out of this repetition????? 

      jenniferlouden - August 11, 2011

      Keep bringing yourself back here to this moment and ask “What am I doing right now?” I find that wakes me up from dreaming about writing / exercising / connecting and then I can take one baby step toward actually DOING SOMETHING. I will try to write a longer post about this.

Beth Morey - July 14, 2011

Wow.  Powerful and provocative.  Time to do some thinking . . .

Lisa Delzer - July 14, 2011

Totally makes sense..  I get it…  I can see how easy it is for me to dive into the safe stuff.. the survival stuff vs. the things that are risky, that mean more to my heart..  and all that being safe makes me tired, whereas the yummy stuff wakes me up. 

Jennifer Mackerras - July 14, 2011

Oh, this absolutely makes sense!

I see it a lot as an Alexander Technique teacher. My students want to experience the freedom and excitement of the new, but still want to hold onto some element of the old. So they try to do both at once, exhausting themselves with a complicated form of doublethink.

Often, just pointing out that the doublethink is there is a big help. We can be so close to our own problems, running around in our own thoughts, that we need the wisdom and guidance of a friend or mentor to help us gain some perspective. Once we have that, we can begin to unravel what it is that we *really* want.

Thanks for such a thought-provoking post.

AnneMelnyk - July 14, 2011

I love how honest this post is, because haven’t we all felt that way?  It’s so culturally ingrained in us that we have to be engaged, and excited and chasing a dream at all times, that we hesitate to be honest with ourselves and the world about what we really want and need.

I wonder what would happen if we all collectively stood up and screamed “I’m tired and I don’t want to fake it any more!”  Would we liberate ourselves and start a tsunami of change?  That’s a revolution I’d love to be a part of!

Renee @ Get Innergized! - July 14, 2011

this is AMAZING! and SO true!  I spent 2 and 1/2 years trying to gain clarity on HOW i wanted to move forward, instead of just taking one little step at a time…i had to have it figured out…i was going back and forth on ideas forever and with that, made me SO tired…SO depleted and SO full of doubts.  Once I finally took action on just one small step…that’s when the, what I like to call, INNERGY began…i was literally doing what you said…trying to go one way, but then having the breaks on…amazing, when you say it like that.  

thanks for this post!  a great reminder that we are the only one’s who can allow ourselves to move forward and take action. :):) 

Jacque Small - July 14, 2011

This makes perfect sense and I lived in this place for a long time. My brakes were:
*  having to do things perfectly — what would people think of me?
* if I was successful I wouldn’t have time to play and have fun
* if I was successful I might loose my partner or friends
* I had a fear around committing because I knew deep down my life would change. 

Here’s what happened.
* My husband decided that he wanted to leave — worst fear my life occured
* I felt into all the emotional trauma and dissolved my fears
* I committed to writing a book, Divine Divorce 
* I decided to no longer control the direction of my life, I would let the Universe guide me and I would follow this path.
* I am living the life of my dreams. 

The transition period was difficult, but dropping off my emotional baggage by learning how to feel is allowing me to actually live my dreams without any sense of fear.  

My dream is to have a virtual business, be of service to clients anywhere in the world and have a house on the ocean in Belize.  And all of this is in the process of becoming reality. 

Thanks for sharing this story.

    Amyseybrown - August 8, 2011

    I wish I had more to add than this but suffice to say I know exactly what this is like. I make myself tired with constant busy work and agitated idleness in between. Yet when I actually make a moment to do someting truly productive and creative, I AM ENERGIZED. Too soon afterwards I ain convince myself that it’s too hard, too tiring, unrewarding, and backslide.

    I need to find was to remind myself of what I can accomplish and how good it feels!

      jenniferlouden - August 11, 2011

      How will you remind yourself my dear?

Carmen Taggart - July 14, 2011

Thank you for sharing ~ I can completely relate and reading it I realized it is why I haven’t thrown myself further in to the projects that I have that I love and want to see flourish.  I could feel myself holding back but couldn’t put a finger on why not!  I was there, I was exhausted before and my life fell apart ~ I am afraid that if I become that consumed again with ME, that the life I have put back together could fall back apart . . . recognizing my fear will help me to move past it, I hope.  Thank you. 

Mary Montanye - July 14, 2011

This was incredible, Jen.  I wish I was that friend sitting with you.  How perceptive and wise you are!  I could have been that woman.  You nailed me just as you were able to be so clear with what was going on with her.

Danielle Cornelius - July 14, 2011

*slaps forehead*

Yes! This makes complete sense. I’ve been doing this dance with myself for the last two years and didn’t even realize this is what it was. But of course. Especially once you’ve gone down the road of giving a lot of yourself in an environment that is not sustainable and have dealt with exhaustion before ~ like grad school for me ~ that fear can be sneaky.

Major epiphany for me and something internally just shifted a little more. THANK YOU! 🙂

Tara Gentile - July 14, 2011

Jen, this makes complete sense. And I get have a notion that this is really common. For people like you & I who enjoy the pleasant exhaustion of exercising your passion & service, it seems like a paradox but it’s just reality.

I also think this type of exhaustion creeps up when you’re approaching a threshold – when something new & completely outside your experience is creeping ever closer. That’s when I start to feel this sense of “too exhausted to dream.”

To that end, I’m working consciously to create a support system that will take away the work that exhausts me so that I can DREAM up what the other side of the threshold looks like!

    Liz Schneider - July 20, 2011

    very powerful solution, Tara, to create the support system for yourself.  I had an opportunity to get a very energetic mentor on my team (so to speak) and all I had to do was “enroll her”, to show her what my plans were and enable her to see that my dreams were of value. I shrank from the opportunity and physically left, fearing that I wouldn’t be able to describe it well and that she would say no.

Christy - July 14, 2011

Jen, the reason some of us [I] do this is perhaps due to the fact that if we give ourselves fully to the dream and fail … then what? What comes next? Is there anything left after a dream fails so utterly? 

Somehow, standing on the brake and the gas simultaneously is less exhausting than the exhaustion that comes from truly living into the dream.

It’s all about the conundrum; the contradiction; the paradox of living versus Living.

Maeve - July 14, 2011

When you are a woman in charge of EVERYTHING (finances, scheduling, juggling two jobs, dinner, remembering when your period is going to start so you have tampons in your purse) exhaustion is THE demon you must exhaust yourself to avoid at all costs.  You must not become exhausted or you will definitely go mad and who will remember to pay the mortgage and hire the carpenter-ant-exterminator when YOU ARE IN A STRAIGHTJACKET?!  

Jackie Walker - July 14, 2011

Oh boy I can so relate to your friend … if I take the brakes off and really dream and really go for it, how will I find time to live, to love, to be part of my life – hell, I am my life, it comes with me doesn’t it!! 

I even got to the stage where I felt that dreaming was too much of an effort.I put out for a wake up call, this is it – thank you Jen.

Anne Scott - July 14, 2011

It certainly makes sense – along with all that one foot on the accelerator (I am British 🙂 and one foot on the brake come the stories and thoughts and feelings, emotions and other peoples opinions about it all.  It makes me exhausted just writing this……
Love Anne (met you on Supercoach Academy call) xx

Marcela - July 14, 2011

Conformity exhausts me, and dries me from the inside. I tried to conform to what people (my father, mainly) expected from me as a professional, but my heart wasn’t there. It reached a point where I felt I couldn’t breathe (literally, I was breathing in small chunks, holding back from fully inhaling). So I changed and followed my heart and it was great. But now that I have children and priorities have shifted, I feel that I am confused. I don’t know whether I should still dream the dreams I dreamt, I don’t know whether I still want them or not. This implies a major crisis for me, because this is one thing that had always been clear in my life…but I also know that sometimes one has to stop acting and listen to what the universe is trying to tell us, so that’s what I’m trying to do…not easy…

Bobbye Middendorf - July 14, 2011

This so deeply resonated just now that I’m weeping. So close to the bone. It’s the holding myself back that’s exhausting, yes. And it’s not seeing exactly what it is that’s the goal or even the trajectory to move along, or sensing that it’s  something so big, I’m hitting the brakes. “Holding back some of her considerable heart and energy…” So resonates with how I feel so much of the time. And not able or willing to access the answers somehow.  I realize that additional wisdom and insights shared…
When @
@5672912499607e233c57351adc8fd44d:disqus said, “I also think this type of exhaustion creeps up when you’re approaching a
threshold – when something new & completely outside your experience
is creeping ever closer. That’s when I start to feel this sense of “too
exhausted to dream.”” >I totally relate. I think it’s big and transformative and overwhelming. Thank you Jen and all for the community and insights.

    Liz Schneider - July 20, 2011

    in a way, this seems like we exhaust ourselves trying to figure out “how” it will all come together or trying to identify the divine messages that surely are there to guide us but we are somehow how recognizing them or understanding what they mean.

michelle - July 14, 2011

Love this!! I TOTALLY exhaust myself trying to figure out what is next, what job I should get, what I love to do by reading blogs and books and taking classes and ultimately stay stuck and this in and of itself is SO exhausting.  I am totally holding myself back by staying in this vicious cycle.  When I do take even baby steps forward, it is actually energizing especially when the steps are couple with service. 

penny - July 14, 2011

Why? Why are we at this place?  I’m so tired of being here,and angry with myself for not moving.  Not even moving in a wrong direction, or is there a wrong direction to move?  Confused, angry, tired and depleted.  What to do?  I don’t know, but at least I do know that I don’t know.  That’s a step in one direction, is it not?

Isabel - July 14, 2011

I think this is a close cousin to the hopelessness I struggle with. It’s about having some resource that feels very fragile and vulnerable. For me, more than “energy,” it’s “positive mood.” In order to move in the direction of my bright shinies (the term does not seem appropriate for mine — maybe flickering stars? what’s something that gets further away as you move towards it?) I have to go into (and hopefully through) some dark places, but there’s always the fear that I’ll sink beneath the surface of those dark waters, and not have enough oomph to get back out. 

Viviane Ephraimson-Abt - July 14, 2011

thanks for this post Jen.  It is amazing what a cup of tea and a caring friend, who really listens and asks the inportant questions, can do to change our life and by that changing the world.  Thank you for writing about this moment and letting us all think about what holds us back and what pumps us up.  🙂 

Anonymous - July 14, 2011

THIS. IS. MY. LIFE.  That’s all I can say about it right now.

MJ - July 14, 2011

This post made me realize that I have been doing this – holding myself back from doing what I really want to do, and then feeling really lethargic.   I hold back because I’m scared, and I justify it by thinking I’m protecting myself, but really I’m just draining my own energy.  It really is quite a leap to trust that you can give something your all, fail, and then pick yourself up and start again without being crushed.  Or maybe it’s really trusting that you can feel crushed at the failure, and then move through that and back to joy.

Marli - July 14, 2011

I wonder if not ‘having enough’ (energy) is the outcome of the ever-insidious notion of not ‘being enough’.  Don’t so many of us face this fear when we want to step into something that asks more of us in a new and uncomfortable way..

    Liz Schneider - July 20, 2011

    great idea, Marli. I can easily see where I may feel that what I provide is not enough for someone and if I spend a lot of energy trying to make it be “more”, I am draining myself, even before someone has said that I didn’t meet their needs.

Ang Wilson - July 14, 2011

Wow wee that is gold!  Your honesty and openness is such a gift, thank you.    So many of us get pulled away from ‘our’ journey and purpose by the stuff that is called life, and maybe we can use this ‘tiredness’ as a sign to pull back and check in with ourselves and get back on our path again so we can get back into the fun stuff of feeling the joy.  Thank you for putting it into words and making it crystal clear!  

Roxanne - July 14, 2011

Jen, this post spoke deeply to me. I think there is a series of too _____ to dream responses and they are all different kinds of “wiped.” Too tired, too heartbroken, too traumatized to dream. When I was working with female ex-combatants in Colombia, there was an exercise that asked them to list some of their dreams for the next week, month, year and ten years of their lives (no pressure…..) They stared blankly at me. These were women whose capacity to dream had been completely obliterated by conflict, trauma and memories of pain.

Paying attention to what is stopping me from dreaming and what I am  like when I am unable to imagine, look forward, anticipate and dream is, for me, one of the biggest indicators of when I need radical change in my life. Thank you for summarizing the issue so elegantly and insightfully.

    Liz Schneider - July 20, 2011

    Roxanne, I’d love to hear what type of things you do when this radical changing is needed. How to get our foot off the brake and let FLOW happen.

Deborah - July 14, 2011

I totally understand your friend’s predicament!  I’ve been noticing the same in myself.  Noticing but not moving much beyond – though the guilt over this being the reason is equally troubling (and exhausting!!)

Rebecca - July 14, 2011

Wow did this make me sit up and take notice. It reminds me of the meaning behind the following quote:

“The feeling of being hurried is  not usually the result of living a full life and having no time. It is on the contrary born of a vague fear that we are wasting our life. When we do not do the one thing we ought to do, we have no time for anything else–we are the busiest people in the world.” –Eric Hoffer, philosopher and author (1902-1983)

We could substitute “busiest people” with “most exhausted people” don’t you think?

I don’t participate in the discussions much, Jennifer, because I live in one of the last pockets in the country (world maybe?) where we can only get dialup internet access , but I will take this opportunity to say that these ‘aha moments’ happen over and over again with so many of your posts, essays, thoughts, etc. Thank you for your authenticity that makes it possible for such wisdoms to pass through and then for your sharing them with us. Blessings to you and all the good souls who participate in the cafe.
oxoxo Becky (in VT)

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Jennifer - July 14, 2011

I love what Marli mentioned “I wonder if not ‘having enough’ (energy) is the outcome of the ever-insidious notion of not ‘being enough’.”

Because I know I stop myself – all the time, constantly, every minute of every day.  I watch myself do it and go “Why are you doing this? You are holding yourself back.”  Yet, I continue on because well because…I don’t have it figured out, I don’t know the end and if it’s “not enough”…then is it worth it?  Is it worth it to take even a step?

But I also know that living without the bright shinies, is not living my life.  They are there because I’m supposed to live them and I have to get through all my junk and go do them.

I figure if I can get myself to ease off the brake pedal even just a little bit – I’m making progress. 

Jo Bassett - July 15, 2011

Great question Jen and one that I check in with frequently.  What am I holding myself back for ….What am I saving myself for.  I also think about this when I am exercising and know that I am keeping something left in the tank – What am I holding back? What would it feel like to run until I burst? ……and when I let go and have a REAL go and push hard it feels exhilerating. 

Jo Bassett - July 15, 2011

A question I check in with frequently – what am I holding myself back for? The for has a couple of meaning what am I protecting myself from is one angle to look at this question or from an opportunity perspective what am I saving myself for.  I often think about this when I am exercising and know that I am leaving something in the tank and wonder what for.  When I let go and not hold anything back in a it feels exhilerating.  Now I am off to yoga to “dance with my edges” which is a lovely way of saying not holding back.   

Anonymous - July 15, 2011

This makes so much sense! Thank you! 

Yes, epiphany, the exhaustion & overwhelm is due to holding myself back. I love how things shift for me upon recognition of the truth – thanks for holding up the mirror for your friend and the rest of us who will benefit today. 

Patty - July 15, 2011

It makes sense to me, but then I think wanting is tricky. I know you say she’s holding back from wanting because she’s afraid of becoming exhausted, yet she also proclaims right away that she’s too tired to want. I’ve been there before, and usually when I have dreaming/wanting fatigue, it’s about more than resistance to wanting + fear of being spent = more fatigue. For me, it’s actually been an invitation to look deeper into the nature of wanting and dreaming, and to honor the tiredness that’s showing up and trust that it’s there for a reason (which is really hard!). Sometimes it has to do with timing, sometimes with the need for a space of sitting out or going inward. Sometimes something else altogether.

Susan Gallacher-Turner - July 15, 2011

Yup.  Makes perfect sense to me.  Been there…done that…and still do from time to time.
I’m trying to see it when I do, but many times, fear makes it hard to see straight.
I’ve always made my mantra small steps get you there…and they do…but now, I’m wondering if small steps are my version of gas and brake pedal pushing.  I’m wondering, if, I could take a big step?  And what would that step be?

Irene Farmer - July 15, 2011

Not going for what you really want results in far deeper exhaustion, frustration and the feeling of being unfulfilled.
I am afraid of showing up because of how people react. They tend to pull you down, so I stay low so as not to attract their resentment and bad energy. How do you get unstuck?

    Liz Schneider - July 20, 2011

    I need to know this as well, Irene, others reactions impact me, even though I know that I am here for a unique and wonderful purpose.  Part of what helps me is the “do not cast pearls before swine” idea, there are folks who will just not “get us” no matter what,  so I choose different explanations of my vision/dream based on who I speak with by listening to them first, THEN telling my lifeview if it feels appropriate.

Cpoetess53 - July 15, 2011

That is where I am, too tired. Tried the praying thing, the meditating thing, the positive thinking thing and the  “The Secret” affirmation thing. Just too doggone tired.

Sarah Twichell - July 16, 2011

It makes total sense, but it took me until very recently to figure this one out, because it is Sneaky McSneakypants.  One of the very sneakiest ways it works for me is that I invest a lot of energy in the story about how unpleasant the things I’m holding back from will be, which makes them even more unpleasant and makes my shadow comforts even more appealing.

Tara Sophia Mohr - July 16, 2011

Shit. You just called me out on the past 10 years of my life.
Good news: Now I have some language for what has been happening. 

I hold back because of fear of failure, with some fear of success mixed in, and it’s hugely draining. Also the resulting frustration of not being where I want to be is hugely draining. 

Thanks as always my friend. This one particularly hit home.

Christa - July 16, 2011

I agree, makes all the sense in the world.

I think that tending to and braking for the “shoulds” is the most exhausting thing for me.  And it has led to rather unpleasant consequences. 

Focusing on the being rather than the doing going forward, and that seems to even out the speed…

Thanks, Jen…

Uzma - July 16, 2011

Absolutely.  Can understand how being caught up in our heads , and thoughts and not acting, can cause fatigue. Or worrying too much about what will happen, or how we can’t do this etc, can tire us. Dreams have to lived, acted upon , else fatigue can result. Totally agree to that. 

Liz Schneider - July 20, 2011

I am not certain that it is fear of exhaustion that keeps me from moving forward freely all the time and yet I am certainly one of those “energy warriors” who is always watching how and where I expend and gain energy, in order to keep enough flowing so that I can live life fully.

Where I think that i have blinders is in the things I do to myself that block or drain energy (because I am certainly very aware and protective of energy vampires in my external environment).  I’d love to be faster at identifying how I am keeping myself from the ever-replenishing well of energetic flow, and then to break those thought patterns and behaviors what make me feel stuck and parched for relief.

Sally - July 23, 2011

I was told by my vedic astrologer that due to the planetary influences in my life, that situation is normal for me.  I live my life with one foot on the gas and one foot on the brake.  It makes accomplishing things difficult.  I do as much as I can toward a goal and then at the end it feels as though I have to throw myself over a cliff to actually get it done.

Kathryn at Good Life Road - July 27, 2011

That makes complete sense! In my world I name it self sabotage because I think that was it for me. That was what was behind my behavior of this ilk. I did it a little different then your friend though, rather than holding back my energy I was making myself tired so I didn’t have to face the doing. Which I think I was just afraid of. Period. I wasn’t afraid of being tired I was afraid of sucking. The irony of course is that  all around I sucked a whole lot more because of this approach. I wasn’t as kind to others because I wasn’t kind to myself. As soon as I took my foot off the brakes (and believe me it’s still kind of hovering there over the pedal) the sky looked bluer. Now my practice is not to let myself dwell on ‘what it all means’ just go, just do, just be, and let it unfold.

    jenniferlouden - July 28, 2011

    Kathryn, so well said. I completely get it. I love that sky looks bluer now – let us celebrate that!

Chris Stewart - August 9, 2011

Yes, yes, yes. Atrophy is exhausting. Holding in energy is tiring. You have to expend energy to make some, to make more. That’s why exercise gives you energy. It’s the same thing with all kinds of energy. It’s easy to forget. I’m in the middle of forgetting it right now! But have lately been forcing myself to go play in my Create Space as I’m now calling my home office (because office sounds horrible and Create Space has a double meaning, a place to create and a place to create space – in my mind, heart, spirit, body, world).  I’m making a housewarming gift for my sister and her husband and it is very gently increasing the flame on the inner pilot light of creativity and energy. I’m now wanting more, which feels great.

    jenniferlouden - August 11, 2011

    Create Space, love that. I call my space a studio instead of an office. May your inner pilot light flame bright!

CJ - August 10, 2011

Jen!!  So needed to hear this now.  Thank you.

    jenniferlouden - August 11, 2011

    you are so welcome!

Susan House - August 12, 2011

Isn’t it strange how many of us are aware of this- or is it a good thing? Maybe it’s like the proverbial “eating an elephant”- we just have to DO it one bite at a time. I think my exhaustion comes from all the roadblocks I throw up between myself and what I really want. It’s like looking over a wall at your goals- being able to see them, but all of this clutter is blocking you. We all know it- we want to write, but watch tv instead, we want  to read, but talk on the phone, we want to paint, but slog through email, etc. Then we become grouchy about not persuing the dream. That causes the exhaustion. Mental clutter, inaction, fear of failure (or success?)- this road leads nowhere, just in a tiring, tiring circle. Thanks for bringing this to our awareness- that’s the first step out!

    jenniferlouden - August 12, 2011

    well said Susan! Awareness and following our pleasure to create what we want does shift things!

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Phyllis Franklin - November 3, 2019

And I just don’t feel up to another failure. Better to stick to the safe same old. Exhausted is the new me.

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