My heart raced. My breath shortened. The thought of going back ten years struck terror in my heart.
I did not end 2009 full of energy and optimism. I was exhausted. Earlier that year my mother had entered the hospital with atrial fibrillation and never left. She died there 9 weeks later. Along with grieving, I took up the task, along with a sister, of cleaning out the house she had lived in for 55 years. I made 13 trips to Chattanooga that year.
In December 2009 I had four teenagers. In case you've ever wondered, four teenagers means that there is never a 24-hour period without a crisis. Four teenagers means exhaustion.
And still. And still. And still....the hardest was yet to come.
I struggle to find the words that describe the decade from December 31, 2009 to December 31, 2019. Perhaps because much of the hard of those years is tender and private. Much of the hard involves people I care about.
And while there is much good that came out of the hard of the past decade, and I so want to take an inventory of all that I have learned and all that has changed in the lives of those I love dearly and of the beauty that has come from the ashes, right now I am just tired. Really, really tired.
It seems the past couple of years or so people have added to, or replaced, the New Year's resolution with a word for the year. I do like this idea. Instead of just a goal for self-improvement, such as dropping 15 pounds or running every day or even, in my case, reading 25 books a year, a word is a reminder to focus on some aspect of life. Last year my word was "acknowledge."
I have been so exhausted and cast down I hadn't even considered a word for 2020. But in God's providence, I recently came across a poem by John O'Donahoe:
A Blessing For One Who Is Exhausted
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 laboursome 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 for 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 travelled 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 colour
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.
"Be excessively gentle with yourself." Be excessively gentle with myself? I have never even been remotely gentle with myself. I have probably hated myself for as long as I can remember, always comparing myself to others and coming up short and wishing I could be something more. Something different. Something better.
My husband says I would never talk to a friend the way I talk to myself. I would never hold anyone else up to the same standards. I would never dare break out such a cruel yardstick for anyone else.
We live in a world of push, push, push. Challenge yourself. Discipline yourself. Reach for higher goals. Do the hard things. Set impressive goals and seek to attain them. Whether in professional life or parenthood or whipping your body into shape. I can't do it. I. can't. do. it. any. more.
My soul is so very weary. I need to slow down. I need to take time to ponder. To think. Or to do nothing at all. Like I said in my last post, perhaps this is just a season. But it is something I need so badly. I need to take time to be excessively gentle with myself.
And maybe this is what I would tell my past self a decade ago: buckle your seatbelt. You are in for a wild ride. Life is hard. Oh, so hard. Be excessively gentle with yourself.
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