I usually start writing by thinking of a question I want to research. I try to make the question something of relatively broad applicability and/or interest because, hey, this is more about you than it is about me, right? Honestly, though, the biggest question I have right now is: does everyone feel this tired?
Initially I thought it was just me. Having spent the better part of the last six months mostly housebound experiencing visceral nerve pain severe enough to fully convince me of my impending death, I know I’m not at 100% yet. However I’ve been trying to resume some social activities as I regain health and, amidst the cross-section of people I encounter, a deep, unrelenting exhaustion seems to be the common thread.
The increases in cost of living without corresponding growth in wages have certainly worn a lot of people out. I’m sure it’s not helped by every business under the sun dealing with staffing shortages. Then again: who has the energy to keep up with multiple jobs when we’re all waiting in longer lines for fewer goods at higher prices? And we still can’t pay the rent?
Still, even people with comparatively fewer financial worries are tired. Maybe it’s because Southern Maine doesn’t have any Dunkin’ stores open after 8PM anymore?
Then again, it’s not just nighttime-tired.
I wondered if it might just be that I’m approaching the latter half of my thirties. I realize aging can sap energy, but it doesn’t seem limited to people in the over-35 bracket, either. The kids – friends’ kids, school-age family members – are tired and nauseated and anxious. The adults are, too.
It’s also not just people who, like me, remain gaping aghast as COVID-19 continues killing an average of over 400 people in the US every day. Never mind that 1 in 5 cases results in long term illness. There is a peculiar horror in hearing the US claim to have won a battle that continues to compare to 9/11’s casualty count on a weekly basis.
But even people who aren’t horrified are very, very tired.
I just can’t shake the feeling we’re all walking through a thick miasma that’s slowly depleting our ability to connect and respond to the world in any meaningful way. It’s like a slow motion zombie apocalypse. It’s the shift of balances towards the dread of initiating a task and away from the ever-shrinking satisfaction of completion. The feeling of relief that comes when a good friend cancels plans and you realize you didn’t want to leave the house after all.
I was describing my year of bodily dysfunction to someone I hadn’t talked with in a while and I laughed loudly as I told him I really thought I was going to die for a few months there. Having finally reached a point where things are improving, it seems easier to laugh at the melodrama of my past self’s fear.
It surprised me when he was jarred by my laughter. He pointed out how traumatic that level of fear must have been over such a long period of time. I laughed again, saying: “Well, we’ve survived the plague thus far, haven’t we?”
He replied: “Sure, but what comes after that?”
Trauma and history share a love of repeating themselves in the absence of proper examination, so I googled it.
After the Black Plague, the peasantry thrived as the nobility were forced to pay more for increasingly scarce laborers. Some historians blame the poor people’s newfound economic security for the peasant uprisings and thinly veiled resource wars that followed. Nobility demanded increasing extravagance from limited resources and the resulting class struggle ultimately overthrew the feudal system.
My limited research didn’t turn up much about how people felt during those times, but it’s not hard to imagine they’d have been exhausted. As I look at the problems of 2022, there’s a body keeping the score around every corner.
Maybe it’s a good thing we’re all so tired. I don’t know about you, but I’m gonna need a nap before the next part kicks off.
Bre Kidman is an artist, activist, and attorney (in that order), and the first openly non-binary person in history to run for the U.S. Senate. They would be delighted to hear your thoughts on the political industrial complex at [email protected].