Wednesday, June 9, 2010


I’ve been thinking lately about fatigue.

When we were at orientation at the beginning of the whole JET adventure of mine, there was a seminar on “Culture Shock” which is now called “Cultural Fatigue.” The speaker kind of made a joke about how the “fatigue” term is harder for people to understand, and sort of elicits the response just take a nap, whereas “shock” seems a lot more dramatic.

But not to me. Shock is something that is short-lived, intense but momentary. Personally, I’m okay with crisis. My mind is much more geared to dealing with things like intensity-in-the-moment. In my naivety, I believe that there is no great shock I cannot stomach for that one horrible moment in time.

It’s the moments that come after that really scare me. It’s the prospect of the time that will go on and on. This is what makes a thing like loss difficult for me. It’s the way loss means it’s going to be gone for a long time, the way the future stretches out before you suddenly lacking something. I’m not scared of having a bad day – I’m scared of real lingering unhappiness.

So the long-term-ness of the strain implied by fatigue is, to me, much scarier than shock, culture or otherwise. It’s not the moment of holy shit, there is corn and mayo on this pizza but no pepperoni, but rather the months and months you will go before you have decent pizza. But even that is fully bearable because, heck, what’s six months (and this example is just pizza—there are far less unhealthy, trivial things to deal with) of bad or no pizza? Really, what’s the rest of my life with no pizza? I’d say it’s pretty tragic, but in all seriousness, I wouldn’t care that much.

What’s scary about cultural fatigue is having to do things in a way that doesn’t fit with your own desires or ideas. It’s exhausting to want to make a difference and to feel that you don’t. In more general terms, it’s fatiguing to want something and not get it.

The scary side of fatigue is facing the prospect that it doesn’t get easier or better with time, it gets worse. Shock is something that happens, and sucks, and then slowly mends, like any old wound. Fatigue, to me, sounds more like a deteriorative disease.

The problem is not that you had a fight with your sig-O. Fights are good in a lot of ways.. and very often, they are pushes to progress that wouldn’t otherwise be made (in that way, they can keep you from stagnating). The problem is not a fight. The problem is when you have fights all the time. About the same damn thing. And progress never seems to get made. The problem is stagnation.

I never worry about a cough, or a cold, or a sore throat, even when it’s particularly painful or shitty. I only worry when it’s been three or four weeks, even if the cough is minor.

I don’t care that the kids are wild/incapable of attention for English class on the last period of the day on a Friday afternoon. But I do care if they are like that every week and I only ever get that time slot for the rest of forever, or they turn out that way in my class no matter what time of day I go. It will take three weeks for me to figure this out/admit that there is something I need to see about fixing.(Then I sigh and feel tired because of the prospect of the way I now know I have to do something ‘bout it, as opposed to being tired because of all I’ve done.. I get tired in advance.

But actually, the ironic thing is, sometimes you really do just need to take a nap or something. Sometimes you just need a little something to allow you to turn around on the way you look at a thing. Sometimes you just need a figurative breath of fresh air. It can start with something as simple as getting a better handle on your own physical health.. making sure you get enough sleep, eat well (I’m telling you, spinach has serious vitamins happening), get a bit of exercise (swear to goodness it helps with sanity), brush yo teeth, etc… well being on top of one thing leads at least me to feel better about trying to get atop another.

I’m writing this now.. from a point of view of being scared of fatigue, not really being mired in it. I’ve said that I fear or dislike change. But I also greatly fear lack of change (as a component of fatigue)—which is a logically flawed fear to have, since change is impossible to prevent.

I guess it’s like they say, though, the more things change, the more they stay the same. The overarching things don’t change. The atomic things don’t change. Stuff in between never stops changing. Shocking.


  1. "I get tired in advance."
    Yes. I think I just figured out why I'm a miserable person every pre-elementary Friday morning.


  3. you and i must be on the same wavelength this week, cousin. knowing it's not just me, is relief in itself.

  4. Fatigue is an animal that zaps your strength Emi - give in to it and it will be better in the morning!! You reach a point where it's better to skip something you have planned and just sleep.