Yawning doesn’t mean I’m bored

Basset hound yawning

Sometimes yawning doesn’t mean we’re disinterested

I used to go out often on weeknights but I’ve struggled with exhaustion for a long time, and by evening, especially after a long day’s work, I’m bushed. Even now that I’m barely working, I’m pretty tired by afternoon, let alone evening. Naps are almost a daily event, even on a not-especially-productive day. I look back and wonder how I got through the day when I was working full time.

It shouldn’t surprise you, then, that I rarely go out after dinner these days. Friends know not to ask me to join them for evening outings, or, if they do, to expect me to decline. I have adapted to my fatigue by hanging out with the old folks at matinees and meeting friends for lunch or coffee instead of dinner.

Despite my fatigue, especially after dinner, I recently attended an evening class that interested me. Class start time: 6:30 p.m. Yawning start time: 7:30 p.m. When I’m tired, my yawning is persistent, repeated, and wide mouthed. Not the kind you can fight, only to have your efforts not to yawn–the trembling lips, the flaring nostrils–give you away. Yawning isn’t really a problem when I’m going through my day, but it can be disruptive in some settings. Over dinner with friends, for example, or during yoga. (Covering my mouth is hard during certain yoga poses, so not only am I distracting, I’m rude.) We all want to exude good energy, but I’m first to admit I often don’t.

I wasn’t surprised to be tired during this evening class, but my yawning was absolutely relentless. My classmates may not have noticed as much as I had feared, but the teacher certainly did. (Sorry, Lea.)

I feel worst about yawning when I’m with a client. I’ve yawned with clients as long as I’ve battled fatigue–for years–but doing so is awkward and makes me feel awful. How can a client trust I’m engaged and interested and genuinely care about what I’m hearing when I’m yawning through heartfelt disclosures? I’ve made many excuses to clients over the years, such as a bad night’s sleep or an early-awakening dog, but still I worry the client might assume I’m absent. Do my clients ask friends if their psychologist yawns during sessions? I know of a psychiatrist who fell asleep with clients, and that I have never done, so I guess my behaviour could be worse.

If you see a counsellor of some kind, and that counsellor yawns while you’re sharing your soul, please don’t assume he or she is bored or disinterested. I guess the counsellor might be bored (hopefully not!), but it’s more likely her kids didn’t sleep last night, or she watched a great movie into the wee hours, or she ran a marathon on the weekend. Or maybe, like me, she’s sick, but since it’s your hour, she’s not going to talk to you about that. You don’t have to worry about her; just trust she is listening.


3 thoughts on “Yawning doesn’t mean I’m bored

  1. so beautiful – especially the entry about Scott. Yawning can also be a sign of a heroin addiction – you know my mind for trivia. You are such a wonderful writer. Funny how you keep missing someone so much even after a long time- not as painful but you still miss them so much – especially when you have something you want to tell them. Love Melanie


  2. Good to know I’m not the only one yawning to clients! Years ago, it even came up in my internship evaluation. “Drink coffee, or something. Just stop. It’s not very motivating.” 8)


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