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In Our Words: On fatigue, slowing down and getting selfish

I’ve been exhausted lately. It’s that kind of tiredness that sleep just can’t seem to fix, that nagging inkling of obligation combined with feeling like the cogs and gears in your mind just can’t move the same way anymore.

I’ve been exhausted lately.

It’s that kind of tiredness that sleep just can’t seem to fix, that nagging inkling of obligation combined with feeling like the cogs and gears in your mind just can’t move the same way anymore. I’m not functioning at my best these days and I’m sure if you’ve looked carefully at the paper lately, you can tell. Not like it’s easy to hide.

We’re at the tail end of another pandemic wave, with another one apparently on the way now in the fall, with the forests on fire in all directions and roads being closed off. There isn’t much good news to share these days, I'm afraid - if there was, I’d be sharing it. The contained fires aren’t the only thing burnt out these days.

Whenever I get like this, I’m often surprised at the things that just linger in my head - old song lyrics, random images and memories, sometimes of better times, sometimes of worse ones. It almost never makes sense, but it’s happened again this time, and it sort of does now. One phrase keeps popping up in my mind lately, from John Lennon - from the White Album, which is odd, because I’ve never been much of a fan of his or the Beatles.

“I’m so tired, I haven’t slept a wink. I’m so tired, my mind is on the blink.”

Now of course, it goes without saying that a man who was part of the biggest band of its time - arguably, the biggest rock band of all time - at a time when it was just about to implode saying he was exhausted is different from a small-town newspaper hack whining about being tired. That’s fine. Totally different scales and duties. I certainly wouldn’t want to swap jobs with John Lennon and I’m not trying to make fatigue into a competition.

Reading that passage back though, I can see where he’s coming from.

It’s been over a year now since I’ve become The Reminder’s sole full-time writer. I’d be lying if I told you it’s been easy. It’s one man show time, every hour, every day. I’ve written, filed or shot well over 1,100 unique items since then, either photographs, articles, columns, streeters, submitted pieces that I’ve edited, whatever it may be - the equivalent of more than three items a day, every day, including weekends.

I get finished with my work for a day, only to immediately think about what other work I have to get done next. It feels like the synapses in my brain have all snapped apart and come together in a way that values being productive more than feeling good or being happy. Goalposts feel like they get moved several times a day and that wears on you after a while. It gets to a point where, in order to just keep your head above water, you feel like you need to work every hour of the day. I’ve filed items in literally every single hour of the day during the pandemic, including the wee hours of the morning - that wasn’t a goal, it’s just the way it happened.

I’m sure I’m far from the only person who feels burnt out these days. I bet there’s a lot of health workers who feel that way right now, pulling 12 hour shifts every day with little help. I bet there’s a lot of firefighters who feel that way right now for similar reasons. I bet there’s.... well, everybody. We’re all kind of in that same boat.

Studies have shown that indeed, the pandemic and the non-stop feeling of tension and stress is having a psychological impact. Many people I know have already felt like this for a while. Others are just now getting this, possibly not for the first time. It’s not the first time during the pandemic where I’ve felt completely burnt, but so far, it is the worst.

Whether or not we feel like we’re almost on the other end of COVID-19 isn’t the point. It’s the impact that seeing this, again and again, can have - and the knowledge that while the information is disturbing and upsetting, it’s also something we all need to know, every day.

I need to pull back a bit off the throttle and act like a stupid 20-something for a while. Two of my closest friends said it to me bluntly, “You need to stop being a martyr and be selfish.” That stress needs to dissipate.

In a hockey game, if you’re tired - or even if you think you’re about to be tired - you head to the bench and you get a change. Thing is, as anyone who has ever played adult rec hockey will know, sometimes you don’t have enough guys for a change. Sometimes you have five skaters and a goalie and even if your tank is empty, you’ve gotta stay out there and do your best. At that point, you’re not even trying to score - you’re just trying to hang on and not lose.

I haven’t been doing a lot of scoring lately. I’ve been trying to just hang on and that’s no way to play. It isn’t fun, nor is it particularly enlightening. It’s just a drag and no matter what you do, you lose ground fast.

So, for the rest of the summer, it’s time for Jack to stop being such a dull boy and mixing some more play into life. I need to take some time away, nothing too long, but some time anyway. Knowing my luck, the biggest story will always break on what’s supposed to be my days off - as it typically does - but we’ll deal with that as it happens.

In the meantime, me carrying on like everything is fine is doing a disservice to you, the reader, to the other employees and people who make the Reminder the special thing it is, to the community at large, to my friends and family and to myself. It’s time to actually try and make it fine again.

I’m so tired, my mind is on the blink. Time to fix the damn thing and come back in sync.