We all do it. We are required to do it.
We give a f**k about so many things in the world. We extend a f**k about our families, our planet, our jobs, our friends… we are called on so much and so often to invest our f**ks (feelings) in everything around us until one day, maybe unexpectedly, we find we have no more f**ks to give.
It snuck up on us, this lack of f**ks. We often think that our supply of f**ks is somehow endless, inexhaustible. We are socially programmed to be endlessly performing f**k-producing machines. Weird thing, that’s not how humans work.
See, we aren’t meant to be engaged with each other all the time. We’re supposed to have downtime, and we can’t possibly be good at or even interested in all the things. We act like we do, but the reality is that we’re not designed that way.
You need to be conservative with your f**ks. You need to realize that you only have a finite number of f**ks at any given time, and that while they are technically replenish-able, replenishing them takes time. If someone wants your f**ks now, you have to provide them with an answer now, but if you’re out, what do you say?
Take the f**k you just bought out of your pocket or touch it as it hangs from your neck. Turn it over in your hands, feel its weight, and know that it represents your ability to invest emotionally. You picked out this f**k precisely because it’s your style, and it’s acting as your inner voice. It reminds you that your emotional investment in a real thing. While you’re looking at your f**k, ask yourself if you would feel comfortable, satisfied, giving this specific f**k to the person immediately demanding it.
The answer will be immediate. Either you will freely want to give your f**k, or you will hesitate and withdraw. Listen to your reaction. Do with your f**k what you will, but know that no one can make you give up that f**k. You have to choose to do it.
It doesn’t even have to be your last f**k for you to think this through. You may be full up on f**ks, or maybe you’ve only spent a few. The point is, all your f**ks are valuable, and you should not just give them out willy-nilly.
What happens if you do end up giving all your f**ks? Well, it’s a little different for each person, but sometimes you feel like you’ve lost a pint of blood. Sometimes you’re bone-tired, even though you got plenty of sleep and haven’t done much physical work. In general, you feel depleted, defeated, maybe a little grumpy. You feel taken advantage of, which makes you feel guilty sometimes because you shouldn’t feel that way, you chose to invest time and energy in that situation, right?
Maybe people end up so depleted because they don’t realize that they have those choices for emotional investment and labor. Maybe they don’t know explicitly that they have the right to consciously choose when, how, and for whom to spend their f**ks. If you had a physical representation of your store of emotional energy, would it help you make better choices with your time and energy?
So, here it is, a Permanent F**k. You don’t have to give it away, and in fact, you should always have at least one with you. That way, you can never truly be out of f**ks. When you know you’re running low, think about how much you want to keep the f**ks you’ve got and beg off more emotional work until later.
F**k no, you’re not mean. If someone is asking you for help, they’re not asking for your shitty, half-assed reluctant help. They want your full-on shiny all-in-with-all-the-f**ks help. By declining involvement when you’re low on f**ks, you’re keeping the standard of f**ks that people can expect from you nice and high. You don’t give second-rate f**ks if you can help it, right? Who does that?
Keep your Permanent F**k forever, or give it to someone who truly deserves it. When you decide to give that f**k, make it count.
Other Resources on Emotional Work, Labor, and Depletion:
- “Cognitive Exhaustion: Resting Your Mental Muscle,” from Farnham Street (February 25, 2015)
- “Effects of mental fatigue on attention: an ERP study,” by MA Boksem, TF Maijman, and MM Lorist, at the University of Gronigen, the Netherlands (September 25, 2005)
- “Mental Fatigue Affects Visual Selective Attention,” by Leon G Faber, Natasha M Maurits, and Monicque M Lorist, at University of Gronigen, the Netherlands (October 31, 2012)
- “Why Women Are Tired: The Price of Unpaid Emotional Labor,” by Psyched in San Francisco, on Huffington Post (April 6, 2016)
- “50 Ways People Expect Constant Emotional Labor from Women and Femmes,” by Suzannah Weiss, from Everyday Feminism (August 15, 2016)
- “4 Ways Men Can Take On More Emotional Labor In Relationships (And Why We Should),” by Philippe Leonard Fradet, from The Body Is Not An Apology (June 8, 2017)
- “Women’s Work is Still Work,” by Gaby Del Valle, from The Outline (October 3, 2017)