Over the past couple of years my brother Graham and I often discuss “the good tired feeling” in our email correspondences. Both of us had a similar realization after we stopped cycling, that we would have a hard time going to sleep because we were never tired anymore. For the better part of a decade our lives were spent flogging ourselves, which made sleeping rather easy because we were so tired. But then we stopped and the feeling of being tired stopped too.
Every once in a while, though, we would do something that would make us exhausted and we started emailing each other describing instances of having “the good tired feeling.” It’s the feeling you get when you do a good solid session of work or physically exert yourself to the point where you feel tired down in your bones but it’s a good feeling. You feel that you’ve done something positive with yourself and the tiredness is almost taking pride in your accomplishments. I believe we gave it this name because we imagined it is how Hemingway would have described the feeling: We awoke and we drank our coffee and the morning was cold and dark and the coffee was hot. After work we roasted potatoes in the fire and ate them and were tired from the long day of work and felt good and together with the potatoes in the evening and feeling tired.
I just visited Graham in Oregon for a few weeks this past August. While I was there I did a lot of things that I don’t really have the opportunity to do living in Istanbul. We went on a lot of bike rides and I didn’t have to deal with horrendous traffic (although I never deal with cyclist hating drivers in Istanbul), went on mountain bike rides and I climbed a mountain. I also did some work – we did a job where we dug out the crawl space of a house and replaced all the rotten beams. While I didn’t do any of the real dirty work, I did carry bucketfulls of dirt up stairs and dump them into a trailer for the better part of 8 hours. Another friend and I cut up a dead tree with a dull chainsaw and I chopped a bunch firewood.
Most of the things I did in Oregon resulted in the good tired feeling. But I also realized that the good tired feeling is great but to really appreciate it, you need to cultivate a lifestyle around it. I live in Istanbul and spend my days commuting through seas of traffic and people and in my down time usually hang out with friends in bars and complain about the traffic and all of the people and noise and annoyance of living in Istanbul. It’s not a life that prepares me for the good tired feeling, so when I was in Oregon, I was rather uncomfortable.
One day Graham and I went for a bike ride in the morning and came back and had a homemade breakfast of biscuits and jam. Around lunchtime Graham’s neighbor was going out for a bike ride and wondered if we were keen to go with him, so I went out again. We didn’t ride hard, but we rode a steady pace, and after an hour or so I realized that I was suffering and needed to stop imminently. All of this exercise was a bit of a shock to the system. I got back, slightly lightheaded and unsteady on my feet, but still standing. Back at the house Graham wanted to play ping pong, and I tried, but I had to go lay down because I felt like I was going to fall over. I had to have a big snack and take a nap before I felt like I could move around. It’s not really a great feeling when you want to do something but can’t really get up to do it but you need to do it, or your stomach will be stomach will be so worked over that you just want to curl up in a ball and stop being.
So while I was in Oregon I had a great time doing all sorts of things to give myself the good tired feeling, but I also realized that I need to cultivate a lifestyle around the good tired feeling. But for now it’s back to the chaos that is Istanbul.