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On Fatigue

August 1, 2012

“Actually, I think I need to go home, like, right now.”

We were in a record store with my stepdaughter.  I’d vetoed the mall because I was overwhelmed when I imagined stepping into that onslaught of cascading stimuli. But after about ten minutes of record browsing– feeling mildly dizzy– I knew I had to go home, and that it was going to take most of my draining energy to get there.  As soon as we arrived, I made a stumbling bee-line to the couch, becoming animated only to get mad at my dog when he knocked over my glass of Gatorade. Because that meant I had to find a way to get up, walk to the kitchen, get paper towels, and wipe the floor, a task that seemed as overwhelming as running the last 3 miles of a 17-miler.

Shortly afterwards, my husband nodded sympathetically as I announced that I’d likely be on the couch the rest of the evening. He is used to these days. The ones that end, for me, at 6pm.  Or 5pm. Or, as soon as I can get home from work.  If push myself too hard, or eat too poorly, or, in this case, (I think?) it rains too much, I succumb to overwhelming fatigue.

Fatigue is different from exhaustion. Exhaustion is satisfying. And boy, my bosses have always loved my chasing down exhaustion; it’s made it possible for me to be successful. And, of course, I have always loved exercising until exhausted.  Muscles tight and tired, going to bed and quickly falling into a deep sleep where my body gets to work repairing and rebuilding a healthier and stronger me. It’s gratifying, and while I don’t think I’ve ever gotten a true runner’s high, this is as good as any drug.

But fatigue usually hits me suddenly, and with little effort on my part. In fact, it’s usually a result of too little effort on my part–  too little work spent keeping my life in balance. And it does mirror the feeling of sinking into a couch after a long day of work or play.  In fact, laying down, body completely relaxed, feels amazing when fatigue hits me, like a balm my body’s craved for hours. And I guess there is a silver lining to fatigue: being able to completely shut out the world.  As someone with a restless spirit, there is a sense of relief in lying down and knowing nothing will usurp my need to rest- no email, no schoolwork, no essential item on my to-do list. Instead, there is a certain sweetness to turning everything off completely, and just…giving in.  At least for one night.

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