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Lives of 95 Percent Boredom, 5 percent Terror

I saw a troubling quote today. I was reading a news story about an NYPD detective named James Zadroga who had died from lung problems. Following 9/11, he had worked for months at Ground Zero and breathed in a lot of contaminated air. He was a hero.

Later, though, it was discovered that he might have been injecting drugs—ground up pills—that contributed to his lung disease.

Commenting on the story, Dr. Terence Keane, who heads the behavioral science division of the Department of Veterans Affairs' National Center for Posttraumatic Stress Disorder, said: "We might think of [emergency workers] as stress resilient, but the reality is that the on-the-job pressure for these emergency service workers can be overwhelming."

Then Keane made the statement that really caught my attention: "Their job is 95 percent boredom and 5 percent terror."

What a terrible way to live, I thought. They live lives marked by two emotions no one wants: long stretches of boredom broken up unpredictably by short stretches of terror. What a grinding toll that would take on your soul.

Emergency workers are not the only ones whose daily lives may involve a regular swing between two troubling emotions. Some of you who are in deep financial debt might describe your lives as 95 percent pressure and 5 percent despair. You who are in a broken marriage might describe your life as 95 percent anger and 5 percent depression. You who have a life-threatening disease might describe your life as 95 percent fear and 5 percent resignation.

Whatever your situation, the painful mix of emotions can be taking a terrible toll on your soul.

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