This is an old one of mine. I forgot about it, and it’s oddly comforting right now… Like I’m talking to, warning/encouraging, my future self and others who feel the same. I thought like this at 21, and surprise, surprise I’m now 24, and I’m even more tired. But the nice part is I’m not as afraid anymore. So that’s new. This has no bells and whistles, but it once said what it needed to say, and it what it will say again.
Fear of Exhaustion
I’m tired. That’s about a quarter of the way to exhaustion.
I imagine exhaustion feels like those dreams — the ones in which you don’t know you are dreaming. You just know that each step you take is weighted. Each move requires more concentration, more energy, like moving through water. You can always feel that resistance working against your body, slowing it down.
Sometimes in these dreams I am running from something — a dark figure, a malicious bully, a sort of monster baring its teeth and reaching out its limbs to get me. I never understand why it is so difficult for me to run. What is stopping me? Why can’t I get away? Fucking run! I can feel a hot breath grazing my neck hairs, and fingertips prying closer at my sweaty skin.
But I can’t run anymore. My legs and arms seem to be draining, running out of power, shutting down. I can’t yell. My throat is raw and working overtime to emit a faint whisper that should have been a solid scream.
So I give up because I am so tired. Then the dream is over, and I realize I was only dreaming. I look back on my dream self’s exhaustion and dread that I will ever feel like that again… that I will ever be that tired.
In conscious life, I am only a quarter of the way there. Others are much closer. I can see it in their faces — not necessarily through crinkled foreheads and crows’ feet. It creeps in silently behind the whites of the eyes. And we try to shake it off or clench it in. Some are more successful at it than others.
What I imagine wears people the most is a lot like those dreams. They aren’t getting anywhere. Something is using force against them. It’s keeping them where they are.
It’s keeping them locked in kitchens serving chicken and green beans to kids who only open their pale little palms when it is time to get money they haven’t slaved so hard to earn — who only open their mouths to retort when they have been shorted.
It’s keeping them scraping away through Philosophy and Bio just to realize that at the end of the academic tunnel, there is no light because there are no jobs. Or at least because “be whatever you want to be” does not always apply in this godforsaken world.
It’s keeping them In greasy old grinds that manhandle their brains and muscle, and leave them preferring beer and television to family time, making them seem so far away from the people in their lives.
It’s keeping them in robotic routines or in the same monotonous relationships because they are too tired to look elsewhere. To leave abuse. To leave indifference. And then you hear things like “I’m too old for love, anyway.”
I imagine that is why some people decide to end things early. Pull the plug prematurely. They aren’t sad. They are just sick of the wear and tear bullshit. They are exhausted. Exhaustion that only eternal sleep could cure. Because in the end if there is nothing I’m sure sleep would do just dandy for many.
Death does not scare me. It is exhaustion. It is the resistance in life that intimidates me. The endless pits and circles. It is all the swimming. The seven days of treading water. The keeping your head above the surface.
At least I am aware of it. I know I am only a quarter of the way to exhaustion. It is hard to fight exhaustion, I assume. I haven’t really had to fight hard yet. But I am crouched and ready. If you are aware, I hope you are too.