Monday, June 20, 2005


As I've gotten older, I've finally figured out that there's a difference between being tired and being fatigued, perhaps one not recognized by the standard dictionary definition.

To me, being "tired" is a physical state, one usually brought on by hard work or lack of sleep. I'm familiar with being tired, having rowed a canoe with a pretty full load as a six-foot, 15-year old partnered up with two sub-five and a half foot 12-year olds rowing on the same side to counter-balance my stroke, up and down a few rivers in Florida and in Canada as a Boy Scout. Being tired was a way of life in law school, with late night library sessions and hours everyday trying to sort through hornbooks for legal arguments to respond to professors with if they decided to torture me in class. I remember being awakened many nights to the cries of my infant daughters, hungry or needing diaper changes, or having to go our and rock them back to sleep after my wife had fed them, then having to get up at the usual time in the morning to go to work. Being "tired" is a pretty easy concept to figure out and solve most of the time.

Being "fatigued" to me is a bit different; I tend to associate fatigue with a mental weariness brought on by stress and worry over things I usually don't have a lot of control over. The older I get, the more I get fatigued; the more I worry about being fatigued, the more fatigued I feel. There are days that I don't feel like doing anything, when it seems that all I'm doing is putting my finger in the dyke of life's struggles. I suspect most of the folks who are considered "depressed" are probably covered under my very scientific definition of fatigue. It doesn't mean I've got any answers for them, no more than I do for my own, but at least I can sympathize with them.

What makes me fatigued? Take your pick; the economy, the national leadership, the increasing death toll in Iraq, bills, a case load at work that never seems to stop, people who call for immediate answers that usually don't exist, mistakes I've made in the past that come back to haunt me, mistakes family members make that haunt me, worrying if I'm going to make it to my thirty years in the State Retirement System and if I can go another five years beyond that for the other retirement benefit program the State has provided for us underpaid employees, worrying about whether or not the other retirement benefit program will be there at the end of my thirty years, taxes, health issues for myself, my wife and the rest of our family, wondering if I'm really a walking-around moron who got really lucky in getting a job well suited for a walking-around moron, worrying about whether or not my cars will last a few more years, trying to find a new house to move into, worrying about whether or not the dream house we find we'll be able to afford in this era of sky-high real estate and, on top of everything else (since this is obviously not an exhaustive list), wondering if dementia or Alzheimers will affect me like it has a number of other relatives in my immediate family.

The nasty thing about being fatigued is that there really isn't much you can do about it. "Take a vacation" say the experts; sure, sure, there's that, but then I start worrying about where to go and whether or not the car will last to get us there without breaking down and how much it'll put us in the hole to go somewhere worth going to. "Trust modern pharmecuticals" say others, but that'll take away the edge I need to do my job. "Get a hobby", but where to put everything? The piece of advice I most enjoy? "Relax"; relax and do what? Worry some more? It's when I'm alone and things are quiet that I worry the most; conversely, it is when I'm busiest that I don't have as much time to think about all the stuff waiting for me in the wings like the guy with the big hook in Vaudeville.

It reminds me of the old silent movie with Lon Cheney, Sr. as this great clown who made everyone laugh during his performances. He's really depressed, so he goes to the doctor to tell him his troubles and see if something can be done for him. He has no other real relationships, romantic or otherwise. The doctor, not knowing whom he's really talking to, advises him to "Go see the clown at the Circus; he's great and will take your mind off of your troubles!". This, needless to say, doesn't do poor old Lon a whole lot of good. Sometimes, despite your troubles and the accompanying fatigue, you just have to muddle your way through things and remember that everyone else is probably in the same boat you are. Maybe you'll be just a little less fatigued and a little sharper on a particular day and you can stomp the other guy flat when you need to.

I'd say more, but I'm getting kinda tired....

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