Here's Why You're Tired
You Weren't Made to Live Like This... But There's Something That Can Help
If you’re anything like me right now, you’re tired.
Physically. Emotionally. Mentally.
You know, Soul-tired.
And I’m going to tell you what I myself needed to hear last week: the tiredness you’re experiencing right now makes so much sense.
Pandemic aside (which obviously is intensifying all of life’s normal stressors) this modern life we live—especially here in America—is vastly different from the life our species spent most of its existence evolving within.
To put it plainly, your body and mind were not designed to work this hard, this much, with little-to-no rest and relaxation.
Here’s one way to think of it…
Your Body as an iPhone
Imagine the following…
Let’s say it took 2 years and 11 months to design, develop, and create the original iPhone. Then finally, on December 1st of the final year, Apple unveils the iPhone to the world, and everyone gets one for free.
It is, in a word, glorious. The hardware inside these devices is magical and mysterious, and meticulously designed over the course of 35 months to just… work.
That first afternoon in December we rejoice at how impeccably the hardware integrates with the software. The swiping. The tapping. It’s a marvel.
Then on December 3rd, not 48 hours into our new phones, Apple releases a software update. “Improving” functionality here, tweaking efficiency there. It’s automatic, of course, you don’t get a choice in it. But still, this phone far exceeds anything you’ve had before it. So you shrug it off and move on.
Another week goes by and you wake up to an alert that your phone updated again, to yet another operating system. This new software claims to be faster and more effective at doing tasks. On one hand you agree—it does seem to load this new program better—but on the other hand you notice now that when you type out a text there’s an obnoxious delay between tapping and seeing the letter on the screen.
And you swear the battery is dying a bit faster, too.
Now it’s the middle of December and again Apple gleefully declares another software update. They regale you with stories of how this new operating system will make your life better as it more efficiently handles day to day tasks.
You’re a bit surprised that while it took them more than 1,000 days to make the hardware, in the first 14 days of its release they’ve now cranked out three new software “upgrades.”
This newest version is supposed to be better, yet, as with the update just last week, you’re not convinced. Has your phone always been this slow? You swear it was fast and zippy and smooth on that first day. But now the lag is definitely noticeable.
It’s a couple days before Christmas and Apple announces that come the morning of the 25th they have a new update that will blow your mind! A gift for all! You quickly search the settings to see if you can prevent the update because by now you’re convinced that the hardware of your phone is no longer equipped to handle these new software upgrades.
But alas, you can’t stop it. The evolution of the operating system is like Thanos.
The day after Christmas you’re now a teensy bit sad that you didn’t ask Santa for a new, non-Apple phone, because at this point, after three weeks and five updates, you’re brand new $1000 phone is essentially a glorified pocket watch. It takes forever to turn on, apps are slow as gravy, and no matter what you do the phone is dead by noon.
Finally, it’s New Year’s Eve. You hold your once precious iPhone in your hand that, only a month before, captivated you with its complexity, its power, its speed. The joy it once brought in spades is now replaced by sadness.
The poor thing just looks… tired.
It can’t keep up anymore.
The hardware the phone had spent months preparing, perfecting, slowly adapting and making minor tweaks and upgrades here and there, inching itself toward a piece of technology so sophisticated, so advanced, it sat at the top of the phone pyramid, master of its domain… now, the hardware buckles under the exhausting weight of the newest operating system.
Apple swore to you these new changes were for your good, to help make your life more spacious, more enjoyable. Yet you spend your hours frustrated, annoyed, and underwhelmed.
I submit to you that our human bodies are like an original iPhone trying to run the latest and greatest operating system, aka, our modern, American way of life. The new software promises to make life better, yet we only ever end up disappointed because there’s simply no way our hardware can keep up.
It wasn’t designed for it.
WE were not designed for THIS.
That Tired Ache is Telling You
that ache you sometimes feel deep in your bones that life has to be more than this… more than overtime and multiple jobs and the constant hustle to make ends meet…
that sense that lingers just outside your consciousness that suggests to you this way of living doesn’t seem right…
that tiredness in your soul because you feel like you work so hard (too hard) and yet still never have enough…
all of that makes so much sense.
Those tired aches are telling you—it is telling ME—something, and we would do well to listen to that something.
The Designing of the Human Species
For 300,000 years (give or take ten millennia) homo-sapiens did the slow evolutionary work of moving from an ape-like mammal to something more akin to you and me today. These were our most formative years in terms of brain development.
During this time (according to Yuval Noah Harrari’s masterpiece, “Sapiens”) a typical tribe of hunter-gatherers would spend a few hours in the morning hunting and gathering (aka, “working,”) and then be home around noon to spend the rest of the day and evening (especially once the sun went down) being more chill. More relaxed. Enjoying family and friends.
Some experts in the field suggest this time in our history was the original affluent society.
Fast forward to the agrarian societies of 400 BC to about 1600 AD, and for these 2,000 years “work” was confined to the rhythms of nature coupled with the allotment of religious feasts and holy-days. One estimate suggests that your typical medieval farmer in the 16th century would’ve only “worked” about 1/3rd of the year, with almost 2/3rds being “off days” for religious festivals, holidays, Sundays, and nature’s calendar.
All of this tells me that, at the dawn of capitalism in the 17th century, just as the idea of the “wage-earner” became a thing, humans had spent the previous thousands upon thousands of years in a particular relational balance to “work.”
Now, however, we live in a world where the norm is something like:
working 40-60 hours a week,
usually at a job we don’t love,
for wages that aren’t livable, and
in an industry that doesn’t really need or value us.
Such a routine, prior to 300 years ago, would’ve been totally foreign to most people.
These past three centuries have brought unprecedented advances in technology that, combined with new economic models (such as capitalism), have amounted to a sort of blazing fast operating system of efficiency and productivity, yet forced upon hardware—we the human being—who are wholly unprepared and unequipped for such programs.
Therefore, instead of working a very specific and contained amount of time, to ensure that our basic needs are met, and then enjoying the rest of what life has to offer—like our ancestors and ancestors before that—we now work our freaking butts off to earn money, hoping that we can acquire enough to meet out needs, all with almost little to no time or energy left for non-work enjoyment.
Like I said, we’re tired.
Sabbath as Gift
Which is where the ancient Jewish practice of Sabbath comes in.
I grew up thinking “sabbath” just meant “go to church on Sundays, then come home and nap.” At best it was a way to talk about Sunday being different than other days, at worst it was an antiquated afterthought.
But the Hebrew people, wandering in the desert after being freed from their years of slavery in Egypt, were attempting to imagine a new way to be human.
One that wasn’t defined by how many bricks you could make in a day.
Key to their program for returning humans back to a healthier, more whole rhythm of life, was implementing sabbath rest. One whole day to not work. To not DO.
My favorite definition for Sabbath: Divine permission to accomplish nothing.
Sabbath rest shouldn’t just be something we wave away as religious tomfoolery. Nor should it be ignored as something to do if you’re bored. Sabbath rest should be an intentional resetting of our internal hardware, to remind ourselves that we are not meant to
work work work,
do do do,
produce produce produce.
If we are ancient phones struggling under the strain of hyper modern software, then Sabbath is the Ctl-Alt-Delete that gifts us the recalibration our bodies and minds need.
You quite literally were not designed to live like this.
Yet we are stuck in a world, stuck in a system, rigged against us.
It is designed to turn us in to workers.
Human doings, instead of human beings.
And you can feel it, I know you can. You strain under its weight just like I do. Your bones ache, your mind slogs, because you’re trying to run iOS 14 on an original iPhone.
I’ve been trying to reintegrate Sabbath into my life. Intentionally looking for moments to value what the world wants me to ignore (aka, rest, solitude, silence, stillness, non-productivity, non-money spending) and ignore what the world wants me to value (money, productivity, hurriedness, work, buying shit).
It’s not easy—as an Enneagram 3, I very much find my worth and value in producing and accomplishing, thankyouverymuch!
So I guess I’m saying, if even I can do it (or at least, practice doing it), then you can, too.
In summary, my hope with this article is to:
Normalize that sense of tiredness you feel.
Suggest that such tiredness is pointing to something real.
Naming that this “something” is how we are not designed to work so much.
Inviting us to consider practicing Sabbath.
Perhaps I’ll write more on this later, but right now I’ve already typed 1700 words.
And I’m tired.
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Share Your Thoughts
How did this article land with you?
Do you agree? Disagree?
Are you feeling tired? Like you work too much and are out of balance?
It sucks, huh.
Let me know!