I’m a teacher, and I’m also a pretty efficient person. My lunch breaks should be renamed “Granola Bar and Grading” time or “Simultaneous Stapling, Sorting, and Sucking Down Yogurt” period. I can pass out papers, assign homework, and subtly stomp out side-conversations in the first thirty seconds of class, with high heels on and a cup of hot tea in one hand. I wake up at five in the morning and am showered, dressed, fed, finished crying and out the door by 5:25.
And I never fucking sleep, but I’m still alive. That’s the definition of efficiency, right?
Like, according to this TED podcast that I listened to on NPR while maneuvering my stick-shift through the daily 90 minutes of trauma I call my afternoon commute, fish farms can be entirely self-sufficient.
(Bear with the puns and the tangential connection to my own efficiency. I’m running on 2% of my intellectual capacities.)
These fish farms, though, require no chickenmeal feed pellets. The habitats need never be cleaned, and the water flows clean yet never runs through a manmade filter. In turn, the fish harvested from these farms are so delicious that I guess Dan Barber – the speaker in the TED Talk – decided to marry one or something.
Apropos: That’s actually Paul Ryan, but he’s both fishy and sustained by excrement.
Again, my brain is slightly stewed in exhaustion and it’s possible I misinterpreted the conclusion of this particular Talk. What I did gather from Barber’s anecdote about self-sufficient fish is that efficiency is bred from shit. The habitat where these fish were bred was home to rich algae, which served to pull impurities, like fish feces – or fisces, which is not to be confused with the astrological sign Pisces, although both are fish-related so the mix-up wouldn’t be catastrophic, except that the former is poop and the latter is conjecture for lonely 38-year-olds to post on Facebook – out of the water. The algae also produced the fish’s food source, thus completing the cycle of a magical fish farm where the world’s most delicious and efficient fish are bred and harvested, I guess.
As I listened to this podcast, inching forward in second gear, it grew more apparent with every tedious mile that I am more or less functioning in an environment parallel to these fishes, although the fertilizer is metaphorical and manifests itself as my lack of sleep. But just like these fish are busy fertilizing their own food which they then feast on and crap back out again, I keep myself constantly in physical and intellectual motion so that I can excrete ideas that then grow into concepts and get later drawn back into my brain to be reprocessed and made better…
Because they were crappy in the first place. I know this. But just like those hyper-efficient fish are trapped in a cycle of feeding on what their feces fertilizes, I’m stuck functioning on no sleep because I can’t get my brain to shut off and recharge.
Recently, I’ve found myself consistently fixated on the notion that if I could just get SOME sleep – not even a greedy eight consecutive hours, just, like, four in a row, once! – I’d be a much more healthy / intellectual / charming / friendly / coherent / attractive / funny / alive person. But insomnia, like Fight Club, is something you can’t talk about.
If you do, humans in general roll their eyes and suggest you “Drink some tea or take a hot bath. Have you tried Benadryl? You likely need to just exercise more or watch television less or just relax.”
I’m blessed not only with chronic insomnia, but panic attacks stemming from general anxiety. So, I’m all too familiar with the consolation, “Just try to relax.” I’m also female, so I’m likewise accustomed to the question, “Is it your ‘time of the month’?” whenever I’m overcome by any kind of intense emotion.
In reaction to both snippets of intended solace, I find myself at a loss for all words aside from the earnest query:
Even my doctor, who’s taken an oath to help ease suffering responded that I should probably try doing yoga and cut caffeine out of my diet… and “call 9-1-1 if it feels like a real emergency.” I guess it was my foolish assumption that not sleeping for eight consecutive days was a “real emergency,” or at least the surest indicator that physical or mental tragedy was on the horizon.
But maybe I’m just too tired to understand how emergencies work. I might really just not understand how efficiency works. Or fish farming. I certainly do understand one thing, though, and that is the simple fact that running on exhaust might be clean, but it won’t get you out of the fish farm.