Fatigue

Fatigue
Hercules Fighting Death to Save Alcestis by Frederic Lord Leighton (1869-71)


" … when Fatigue wins, everyone loses."


The front line personnel complain of Fatigue, the constant mind-numbing companion of prolonged engagement. The Fatigue enters unnoticed, while the host focuses upon tasks at hand. Standing back, though, a wave of exhaustion washes over, astounding. How could I not have noticed? Fatigue brings no excuses, though, for even more of the same awaits and relievers seem just as scarce as does time. Diving back into the fray, distinctions like night and day lose meaning. Like an engine, one seems to run much longer on empty than when nearer full. A definite pull discourages disengagement. Beyond tired, fresh space appears where energy and fear forfeit their former influence. One becomes a machine repeating practiced motion and preconscious skill. Someone's likely to have to pull you off your work. Only then might real weariness settle in.

Doctors, nurses, and EMTs know Fatigue better than do you and I.
Soldiers have always battled it, so much so that Nazi Storm Troopers ate amphetamines like M&Ms, and maintained engagement for weeks at a time with little sleep or refreshment, other than another popped pill. These allowed them to rampage and kill without hardly experiencing horror, for they were out of their freaking minds with Fatigue. They seemed superhuman to opponents fighting their own Fatigue with cold cups of Joe. The crashes after these engagement became almost as legendary as the engagements themselves, as whole battalions froze, exposed, crashing for more than a week after.

Our Damned Pandemic has been characterized as a war, and like all wars, it's neither an offensive nor defensive action, but ultimately one of simple attrition. Who's left standing with any will to continue fighting? Front lines, overused, potential reinforcements logistically isolated and so rendered unusable. More experience numbing idleness than overwork, wasted resources abound while urgently-needed ones utterly disappear. I hear from the political class that we, the people, are tired of continuing counteractions. We've seen no actual action, but sat idly, sheltering in place, covering our faces for our rare forays out into the world. We reportedly ache to return back to the way it was before, even when fully acknowledging that before was far from perfect. Before seems more perfect now than it ever did before. One group's weary from endless engagement while the other's tired of equally endless disengagement.

A fresh call to action emerges. They insist that we engage in a spirited round of Let's Pretend. Let's, for instance, pretend that we probably will not infect our friends should be slip out for a beer or two with a few hundred other fatigued partisans. We, after all, deserve some relief from numbing sameness. We could furlough with little danger if we could only pretend together. Let's Pretend that our Fatigue deserves the respite our front line heroes deny themselves, because there's nobody else to fight their Fatigue for them. We, you and me, could feel free at last from our own numbing, but we must actively pretend. Fatigue might make our pretenses seem necessary, though they seem clear evidence that we're losing the war of attrition by losing focused attention upon winning it. We defect into pretension while the untiring enemy soldiers on.

I think it myth that our forebears were more self-disciplined than us, for they, too, grew weary of numbing sameness and openly discussed Let's Pretends. Why not make peace with the Nazis? They seemed superhuman and we seem so human in comparison. Could we not simply co-exist with this virus, gain herd immunity by showing absolute impunity when facing it? If we sued for peace, at least we wouldn't need to live with this devil we seem to know too well. Our Fatigue has feature written all over it, for it's not ours to vanquish. We learn to live with it's numbing presence or we forfeit life itself, for Fatigue, like the poor, has always been with us and likely always will be. Fatigue unavoidably accompanies greatness, and the dream of rest and respite mere fantasies. While there's work needing doing, we might seem to simply be screwing ourselves, but we're saving ourselves instead. Even if you've made the bulk of your personal contribution with idle dread, when Fatigue wins, everyone loses.

©2020 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved








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