We can’t help but be touched by it.
The information finds us, seems to seek us out.
It seeps into our homes and conversations, becomes part of our bloodstream, just like every other particle of air and food we absorb throughout the day.
We often don’t choose this – to know grief and suffering – to feel it rise and thicken in our throats.
But as shocking events in our greater world unfold around us, as our intimate relationships disclose their frailty and failings, as our bodies age and those of our loved ones become ill, inept and old, we are forced to face it.
For all our achievements and successes, for all our struggles and wins, for all our times of overcoming and the relief we feel as we reach the end of that particular place of strain, we are always aware that there is more to come.
Many times we can manage these these feelings and events.
Often we can find ways and resources to move on and through.
Our friends, particularly our female friends, can be great sources of sustenance, they can keep our spirits buoyed throughout these times.
But in so many conversations – with clients, colleagues and friends – I am hearing more and more stories of Great Fatigue. Unending Exhaustion.
And words, spoken through tears like,
‘I just want to rest’.
No day spa visit will rectify this.
No regular coffee with friends will help.
This feeling is beyond tired.
It feels terminal.
It presents like spiritual flu – all energy is sucked out and leaves us lying sapped and flat on the sofa bereft of our deep inner life and true work.
It removes motivation, moment by moment, and mirrors to us an appalling apathy that is unrecognisable as our own.
It haunts our dreams and long term visions, our longed for accomplishments and achievements, and moves the goalposts so far away that we don’t even see the point in playing the game anymore.
Our nervous systems are in overdrive, our minds are hyper-vigilant, but our spirit and souls are left straggling behind in the desert of our deeply neglected self care.
This tiredness in itself feels lethal.
But beneath the fatigue sits an even greater threat.
Fear that if we don’t continue to push, achieve and manage everything, our life will fall apart.
Fear that if we admit to our fatigue, we have failed ourselves, our families and the greater expectations of society.
Fear that if we stop and really rest, we may completely unravel and never return again.
Let me repeat that.
We fear that if we stop and allow ourselves to really rest, we may completely unravel and never return again.
This is the big fear.
And it’s constancy, it’s unspoken power, creates such incredible tension in the quiet recesses of our minds, that it alone becomes exhausting.
There is no quick fix for this – the fear or the fatigue.
There is no simple remedy to find new ways to rest or recover.
We can try to push over the top.
We can resist our inner voice and the warning signs our bodies give that tell us we are at capacity.
We can continue to play out the pretence that we are unstoppable and carry on.
Until we can’t.
Enter accident, illness, breakdown.
Let’s not wait for that.
Let us find ways to be kind to ourselves.
In a culture obsessed with achievements and in giving accolades for outstanding competitiveness, let us gift ourselves with time off that treadmill.
Let us pause and listen to our inner needs. Heed the small voice we don’t have time for, the one breathless and buried beneath,
“Oh, I’m exhausted, but I can’t stop now because…”
The demands of our life will not cease.
The news and suffering of others will continue to reach our ears and into our hearts.
We know this because as women, as humans, our responsibilities are endless and great.
Let us acknowledge the fear, our fear, that sits under the surface and stops us from resting into the space of our unravelling.
For hidden beneath the habits of a lifetime of pushing hard (either in our outside worldly need to achieve, or on the inside, by criticising ourself and others), are new soft ways to live and to be.
We can learn to listen – to our intuition and our hearts.
We can unlearn the habits of avoiding our truth and create new ways to interact with our lives and meet our needs.
We can soften. We can slowly surrender to a place of faith and trust that allows us to rest and yet not seem to fail at everything else.
It can be messy and painful.
It takes time.
It takes love and compassion.
It takes commitment – to honour daily our deepest needs.
We are rewriting our stories, we are re-wiring our systems.
Let’s us go gently.
And in the same way a nurse or parent gingerly removes a bandage from a healing wound, let us unravel our old ways with the gift of tenderness.
Let us tend ourselves and each other with great love, attention and care.
(C) Chandu Bickford 2019
Beautiful art by Sarah Naqvi