I am repeatedly grateful for the CBC and the information it brings into my little attic hideaway. This morning they featured a show about the book Exhaustion: A History.
The concept of exhaustion being a contemporary post-modern experience is one held far and wide in today’s culture. The exhaustion that takes contemporary focus is the Chronic form of psychological fatigue triggered by bio-chemicals in a fight or flight syndrome. Or that is what contemporary specialist believe it to be. So we buy into this definition.
However, Anna Katharina Schaffner, the author points out that the pervasiveness of weariness is nothing new.
Galen writes about it in antiquity. The Medieval period called it acidia or an excess of acid in the body which created a condition called melancholia. It was considered a sin and sloth was the result.
Hans Seyle who is the father of the research on stress and resultant depression was stressed himself when he could find nothing measurable about energy. He came to a standstill when he asked, “What is energy?” The only answer that has presented itself in the scientific field in Western science is the measure of calories.
What has been woven into the psyche of the modern cultural Akashi record belief is that there is ‘something out there that will steal our energy’.
The bottom line of the historical focus on the depletion of energy is, according to Schaffner, a belief in the waning of efficacy; a falling away of energy and vitality as we age.
But the real anxiety is about the approach of death.
So historically philosophers, medical scientists, social scientists, psychologists have danced around the changing presentation of exhaustion. For medieval times it was thought to be the humours; during the Victorian Era a blanket of lassitude was the result of invention, modernization and education of women.
Certain periods in history allowed only leisure classes the luxury of exhaustion and depression. However, today the world wide sense that this is the first time, this is the worst time for exhaustion with a sense of personal powerlessness is in error.
The fear of diminishment has been a constant in Western Culture since the age of Antiquity.
A big difference between Western Culture and Eastern Culture is the concept of a mechanistic “battery of energy” that loses its charge. In contrast to Eastern belief that Prana or Qi are replenishable sources.
The person who is feeling a diminishment can go to a practitioner and reconnect with source. Or the individual can go to a movement/breath practice mode which revitalizes the body and mind.
For me, the most interesting concept in the interview is that each person; each decade; each cultural moment is so intensified that we lose perspective.
The issue of facing one’s death, of having a healthy supportive connection to one’s body and of knowing we are not unique means that we can release the victim mode. We can see how connected we are to all who are alive on the earth and to all who have lived.
Once we understand that, we are able to move in the world with more compassion for ourselves and for others.
Thank you, CBC.
I read in one of the many how to save your marriage books, while I was still hopeful, some interesting advice. (Obviously the methodology requires two so THAT didn’t work.) The coach-therapist suggested that the couple store up good feelings so that they could draw on them when it was necessary in times of stormy weather.
Coupled with my reading on discipline fatigue, I was thinking about designing a life strategy. As I did my daily five loads of laundry, hanging the purple sheet, I thought of how edgy and irritable I get when I stick to my check list, and work with a total focus on building new habits.
I kick like a four year old… “don’t want to”. The promise land of supportive habits is mapped out on my giant calendar check list pasted above my reading chair.
“But what happens when I am just plain tired of making myself do better, be better, push for bigger goals,” I thought as I hung the golden colored bed sheet.
It was then it hit me. I have a less than peaceful relationship with myself. There is tension between me, myself and I.
Basically, she is always dissatisfied and reaching for more. I make a plan… and the vast stretch of the day with undulating hours like some ocean or desert spreads before me. I am both overwhelmed and bored..
“What I need,” I advised myself, “what I need is more treasure in my treasure chest of good feelings.”
Bingo, bazat. There it is. That could help my primary relationship.
Instead of only allowing myself a beggar’s hoard of joyous moments, what if I went after them with intention in order to help out when I was just so done.
“But not just indulgences, “I remind myself. “You need to stick to the habit building plan.
I stood back and looked at the purple, golden, yellow and hot pink sheets waving on the line. Beautiful. So simply beautiful. I start with that image. I start now.
Life for me has been such an experience of making progress, lurching forward and then falling back into old habits of thinking and action. Trying to be patient with the process is like everything else: Sometimes quite easy and at other times just a condemnation to some caves of Hell volcanic spewing in a limitless black pit.
Today, it was cooler which always causes a rise in my optimism. When it is 30 + Celsius I am like a Newfoundland dog locked in a room with no AC. I become dispirited, lacking the urge to run. I can push my self for a while in the morning and then I am just laid flat sweating out of the side of my face.
Always, my mind wants me to prove that I have been working toward my goals. Not one goal, six goals or nine goals. Too much, too fast gives me a high.
It is cooler today and so I can feel that there is something possible between the two walls of night. I awake and my thoughts turn to my goals again.
And then, and then comes the questioning: What is it that I am not asking?
Like a small bore drill, what repetitions of digging into the hard wood knot of my life are going on? I want to bite into something. I want to see something become easy and reward me for the tenacity of holding on. I want to sink into this new place of keeping a grip, of holding out.
And so I ask: What is it that I am not asking? What is it that I am not seeing?
But, as always, as I walk my guests to their car, it is the mundane that calls me. It is the next thing that engages my taking action. I stand bare foot, bare faced in the garden and pull out weeds that have grown in the garden bed. I load the dishwasher. I strip the bed and begin the laundry.
I turn my mind away from the grandiose promises I have made to myself. Soothingly, I murmur, “Patience. Go back to intention, woman.”
And as I piled up the weeds along the walk way, I pile up the yearning and the frustrations and the sense of being outside. I rip out the old stories of not deserving, of being somehow inherently wrong. I tear out the old, habitual feelings about who I am as I move through the world.
I am right here, standing with slightly earth colored bare feet on the ground. And this now, this now is who I am. The questions, ultimately, are irrelevant. The day is cool. Time will pass. And each breath fills me up. I trust that I am growing, that what I cannot see is moving toward me. The questions, ultimately, are irrelevant.
In 1997 when I visited Rome, I had a transformative, informative experience. In the center of one section of town there was a stone well. It was at the heart of the neighbourhood. And it was here that the women came together to work the stains, dust and dirt out of their family’s garments. It was here that women used the narrative woven by wagging tongues which maintained civil order. Women warned one another what would happen should the undisciplined urges be followed. A tongue lashing was not trivial.
Gossip is a powerful manner of structuring mores and habits which are the foundation of any society. The cultural threads that make the fabric of society were woven, mended and attended while the women worked together on their laundry.
Side by side, they rewarded or castigated certain forms of behavior. While a woman repeatedly rinsed, and twisted her husband’s clothes, she could hear what would happen if she dared to indulge the secret flirtation she felt toward another man.
Alliances were formed. Problems were worked out. Questions could be asked and answered by those with more life experience. The repetitive actions of the hands, arms and backs were strenuous and soothing. There was a place where connection was customary and expected.
Today, we have lost the power of the women at the well. All too frequently the closest we get to one another is via text or sitting without speaking next to another in a coffee shop.
Or it is an artificially arranged, special occasion when women plan a networking meeting for some pre determined goal. But the habit of the women meeting at the river or at the public laundry allowed for the comfort of contact in a way we no longer experience today.
Women do better in all aspects of their lives when they are in contact with other women. The terms ‘connectivity’ and ‘social capital’ are used in sociological studies which show the benefit of women having frequent, anticipated interaction with other women. These women are healthier. They live longer. They are more cheerful. They are more likely to discover alternative methods of solving problems and thus thrive more easily. They meet challenges with a more relaxed, creative mind because they know they can seek advice.
And last of all, they are more light spirited. Because who doesn’t like to tell outrageous stories while doing repetitive, necessary daily drudgery!!
And, lasty, when society is mirrored back to us from advertising and media, women feel overwhelmed with choices, confused about the very manner of being a woman, a wife, a mother, a friend and a sister. The background anxiety is like the sound of violins in a scary movie.
How do I fit in? Where is my place in the world? Who am I as a woman?
The old, restricted cultural choices are rapidly disappearing; however, women still need their sisters to mirror back to them who they are to be in the changing world. We need to work it out at the well, or the river. We need support and advice.
I think society is much the poorer since the central meeting place for women is no longer a feature of daily life. But thank goodness, we no longer have to do laundry by hand. In addition, we have made progress by allowing greater choice and freedom in discovering what it means to move into the world as a woman. And for that I am deeply appreciative.
I just wish there were some middle ground upon which women could meet face to face in order to bond and prosper. Meeting at the well is no longer for the purpose of restricting our choices and locking us into a place in society. Now it would be an occasion to discuss and expand our individual version of who we wish to be. The companionship, advice, feedback and habitual contact is still necessary, however the world changes.