Monday, May 21, 2012


Everyone I know is exhausted; an overwhelming tiredness is scything young and old alike. A 20-something editor tells me she wakes up feeling as if she hasn’t slept at all; a 40-year-old librarian complains of nodding out at her desk each afternoon at the same time; a long-standing friend now in his 60s tells me he begins to think of bedtime at five in the afternoon. There doesn’t appear to be a white- or blue-collar difference here and gender plays no role. Butchers and bakers and candlestick-makers, computer wizards, real estate agents and day traders are all struck by the same lassitude. And, they all say, it has nothing to do with the intensity of the work they’re involved in. The weariness strikes during the weekends and holidays and vacations. It doesn’t respect age, sexual affinity or occupation.

I can’t help but notice that a multi-billion dollar industry of energy drinks was born at about the same time as the general exhaustion set in, and I wonder how that came to be. When did the mid-afternoon cup of coffee (or tea) give way to the tiny bottle promising a five-hour energy boost? There are shelves of such potions in convenient stores and I’ve watched young men and women buy these products by the handful. One told me he drank four bottles of assorted energy enhancers a day, and TV ads suggest we switch from our morning coffee to the far-easier-to-gulp-down little bottles that require no brewing, no heating and no sweetening. That these concoctions have no soul, no spirit or history to them is overlooked. We’re no longer looking for taste, we’re seeking a form of artificial alertness; legal uppers, as it were.

Something is going on, is What I Think.  So I spoke to friends whose opinions I value and this is their reports.

From Dani, who maintains a fiendishly tough training regimen and has among the cleanest diet of anyone I know. We have to be constantly on. With IM, email, texts, tweets and all the other methods of instant communications, there’s not a moment’s rest. Also, our food is processed and loaded with sugar, which really is a poison.

From Iben, who works for an environmental NGO. We are never satisfied with what we have and are always yearning for more. Our egos are out of control and living in a constant state of want is exhausting.

From Lisa, a special ed teacher. We are actually working harder than ever. People routinely skip lunch, work after hours or come in on weekends. Since there is no job security anymore, an average worker will put in longer, unpaid hours just to stay employed.

From Terry, who spends most of his days on the road. People drive more then ever and with increased traffic and increased speeds, we have to be more aware. That’s tiring. Also, he adds without a smirk, there are now tens of thousands of Asian women drivers putting the lives of other drivers at risk.  Watching out for them and avoiding their onslaught is in and of itself exhausting.

I have my own theory, which includes all of the above, as well the belief that by polluting, indeed poisoning, our surroundings, we have created a chemically dangerous environment 
that saps our strength. The daily noise of living—the trucks, the backup beeps of earthmoving equipment, the clatter of plates in restaurants, the Muzak, iPods, the sheer loudness of our daily existence is both dangerous to us and exhausting. I also think that living as we do in an electronic miasma of beta, gamma, and God-knows-what-other-Greek-named rays and emanations can’t possibly be good for us. Cell phones have been more or less exonerated, but what about all the other invisible emissions—radio, television, microwave, X-rays, ultraviolets and infrareds?

It’s all too strenuous to think about and I’m going to go take a nap.

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