Everyone I know is tired.
My friends and family and complete strangers that don’t even notice I walk by them are overwhelmed and overstimulated. I have fallen victim to it as well. The tiredness. Like a plague over this city. The exhaustion is bone-deep and spirit-bound.
It worsens when I watch the news that reminds me of the children in cages, the mendacious demagogues who put them there and how Mother Nature continues to wail for relief. Of the injustice that runs with such abundance around me. Or when I switch in between applications in search of a hit, a new notification, something, anything to distract me from the work I should be doing. Or when I think about my school debt and what it will take, how much longer it will be before I can clear it. Or when I watch my parents still working and worry about their retirement or lament over how I thought the degree that got me into debt would have worked it’s magic by now. I’m supposed to be taking care of them. I expect that of myself even if they don’t expect of me because they have sacrificed so much.
Sometimes the exhaustion comes not from avoiding the work, but from doing the work that needs to be done. From sitting across from my therapist and picking through Dan Allender’s The Wounded Heart: Hope for Adult Victims of Childhood Sexual Abuse and awkwardly digging into my workbook responses. From the fact that it has been over two years since we started this intentional, tedious work and I’m still only halfway through the book. From the breaking of my heart when I think about statistics and all the other women and men who suffer the same wound and do not have access to the resources to start to heal and put themselves back together. The tiredness is here too, in the journey of healing. So that even when I’m doing what I’m supposed to be doing, I’m still spent and praying for the strength to get through one more day.
In 1901, Dr. John H. Girdner published the best seller book “Newyorkitis.” “Newyorkitis” describes “a condition of mind, body, and soul of New York residents, as observed by a physician,” resulting in unhealthy and immoral behavior. He described the symptoms of the illness to include, but not be limited to, fatigue, general paresis, hallucinations of grandeur, the pride of intellect, digestive complaints, caring too much for material goods, and so on and so forth. This was before computers, smart-phones and social media. Before we had such ready access to the world at our fingertips. How much has this conditioned worsened and spread?
Over a hundred years later and I’d argue to say that this illness Dr. Girdner wrote about is the tiredness afflicting everyone around me. The exhaustion that has led to a marked increase in suicide rates, mental illnesses and rampant injustice. Because when we are so tired, it is difficult to do what is right, both for ourselves and for our brothers and sisters.
And so today’s Sunday Soul Reflection is in honor of slowing down. Doing less. Being more. It is a praise to quiet and stillness and the peace that can only come from rest and intentional solitude.
The intensification of the world’s pace all around us can and will increase our anxiety. It will negatively affect our mental health unless we have the wisdom to prioritize prayer, rest and relationships that restore our spirit. That prioritization will look, feel and manifest itself differently for everyone. For me, it looks like:
- Keeping a Sabbath. I like to do Sundays, but at least one day a week where we can genuinely rest and enjoy one another’s company. We protect the Sabbath with a fierceness. We hold a weekly-check in meeting to keep the balance in our marriage.
- Spending time in prayer daily. Finding new ways to pray and small pockets of time throughout the day to say thanks for more than just the food I eat. Giving everything, and I mean EVERYTHING, over to God and surrendering all of me. Acknowledging how much I need and asking to be filled with the Spirit so that I can have the strength to navigate the internal and external challenges of each day.
- Listening to worship or sermons when the angst starts to rise up into my throat from the coils in my stomach. Remembering that I am not in control and that’s why I can embrace peace.
- Sitting in silence. Being alone in stillness.
- Journaling about my thoughts and what I’m reading. Writing out my reflections, my prayers, my hopes, wishes, desires, and worries. Leaving it all on the page.
- Prioritizing therapy in all the forms it comes. With my girlfriends, with my counselor, and in nature.
- Remembering that not loving myself is a sin. Because sin is anything that separates me from God. Because I was made in God’s image. Because really, if I don’t love myself, I can’t love God or know him or hear his voice.
Today my prayer is that if you came here, if you opened your e-mail and read through all of this, that you are reminded to prioritize what your body, mind, and spirit need most. That you fight the bone-deep, spirit-bound, generationally acquired exhaustion with a commitment to rest, self-care and community wellness (because yes, we need a community too. Identify your tribe and tell them you love them and need them and appreciate them.)
Today I challenge you to find a few moments for stillness. Turn away from the game, the music, the work, the obligations, even the book (GASP, who am I?) – and take a moment to breathe. To remember what matters most. To practice gratitude and surrender and meditation.
May the rest be well with your soul. May the quiet be an antidote to the exhaustion. May you remember who you are. May you continue to learn, unlearn and relearn. And may we all continue growing and sharing in the process.