On the Ninth Day of Xmas: Exhaustion

When the rhythm of the heart becomes hectic,
Time takes on the strain until it breaks;
Then all the unattended stress falls in
On the mind like an endless, increasing weight.

The light in the mind becomes dim.
Things you could take in your stride before
Now become laborsome events of will.

Weariness invades your spirit.
Gravity begins falling inside you,
Dragging down every bone.

The tide you never valued has gone out.
And you are marooned on unsure ground.
Something within you has closed down;
And you cannot push yourself back to life.

You have been forced to enter empty time.
The desire that drove you has relinquished.
There is nothing else to do now but rest
And patiently learn to receive the self
You have forsaken in the race of days.

At first your thinking will darken
And sadness take over like listless weather.
The flow of unwept tears will frighten you.

You have traveled too fast over false ground;
Now your soul has come to take you back.

Take refuge in your senses, open up
To all the small miracles you rushed through.

Become inclined to watch the way of rain
When it falls slow and free.

Imitate the habit of twilight,
Taking time to open the well of color
That fostered the brightness of day.

Draw alongside the silence of stone
Until its calmness can claim you.
Be excessively gentle with yourself.

Stay clear of those vexed in spirit.
Learn to linger around someone of ease
Who feels they have all the time in the world.

Gradually, you will return to yourself,
Having learned a new respect for your heart
And the joy that dwells far within slow time.
– John O’Donohue,
For One Who Is Exhausted
(from the book Benedictus)

If there is one word that sums up the entire year for me emotionally, mentally, physically, financially, politically, socially: EXHAUSTED. When I first shared this prayer poem of John O’Donohue back in 2018 I was struggling to adjust to life in Germany, in the final stages of a divorce, and basically a mess. I thought then that life couldn’t possibly be more draining and taxing on the soul. Ha! Never say never. And along came 2020.

It is absolutely superfluous to point out to anyone on this planet that 2020 has been a bizarre roller coaster. On the personal front it has taken me through several spin cycles, that had me questioning a lot about life and myself. Between heavy losses, traumatic but very educational experiences, being boxed out of my comfort zone, and camping out within my own home, it’s been a hell of a ride. And it’s far from over. On the professional front, social distancing has also put so many things under the microscope, pushing me from one limit to another and over edges I never knew I had, and then some.

It’s been a rough year, no, let me be blunt, it’s been a horrible year, and I lost track already of which reserve energy and soul fuel I am on now. I feel like one of those balls in Newton’s Cradle, incessantly crashing back and forth. You know that corkscrew roller coaster that we all avoid at the amusement parks because it makes your stomach and brain exchange places? That’s what the last 24 hours feel like. The death of my aunt has dragged me down, much more than I anticipated. Then I got up today and congratulated another aunt on her 80th birthday. The circle of life is indeed mysterious, but damn it is an unbelievably exhausting one.

Here in Europe we awoke to the latest nasty surprise related to the COVID-19 pandemic. As if the situation in Germany wasn’t bad enough, here comes then new mutant virus outbreak in the UK. So much for a joyful Fourth Sunday of Advent. When will it all stop? Everywhere I turn things seem to be spiralling out of control. 12 hours later, Germany joined The Netherlands, France, Belgium, Ireland and Italy in blocking all incoming and outgoing flights from the UK. I’m on tenterhooks as to what the world will transmogrify into tomorrow.

Are your Christmas Eve plans also as strange as ours? My daughter and I are a party of two this year, well, four if we count the cats, but we will dress up to the nines, refusing to give in to the recommended jogging pants and bunny slippers alternative. But we will have cocktails via zoom with family across the country.

So it was with great pleasure that I listened to an presentation this morning about essential oils. We received a lovely little bag of samples from the various products the day before, including a special mix of lavender and cedar, which came with the instructions to rub on the soles of my feet before going to bed to help me sleep. I have been battling insomnia for the past 14 months, and I knew a lot of it had to do with all the trouble I am going / went through. Sleep was elusive and it has been getting worse. Last night was revolutionary though, and I slept through the night like a baby. So I am about to undergo a major (but gradual) lifestyle change over the next few months by replacing a lot of vitamins and pills with these essential oils.

In the meantime, I am going to wallow in my exhaustion, rub more of that lavender and cedar oil on my feet, and catch up on my sleep before anything else goes wrong. Pass the gingerbread cookies please!

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