Circumstance, Mind

What to Do with Exhaustion

“Tired, tired with nothing, tired with everything, tired with the world’s weight he had never chosen to bear.”

F. Scott Fitzgerald, 1922, The Beautiful and Damned

With lead running the length of our legs, we must consider each movement, of each step.

Engage the quads, engage the calf, flex the foot, alert the hip and all together now, lift! The sand that has replaced the inners of our arms is weighty, our hands now rattling off our knees. Our back has forgotten the shape of an ‘I’ and has instead opted for a well-rounded ‘C’. It slumps underneath the weight of the entire universe after all, which has now replaced what was once our relatively unremarkable head. Every crown of every king is placed upon it, and our neck bows ‘neath the load.

And yet our reflection looks much the same.

Our legs have no incisions where those led rod’s may have been inserted. We’re pretty sure that we don’t have sand bags for arms and our head looks just as unremarkable as yesterday. But that weight is real. Our body parts may not have been replaced by various heavy objects under the cover of night, but our ability to carry the usual weight is compromised. Every minor thought takes calculation and the prospect of any serious mental exertion is unimaginable. Our mind is a non-responsive, non-cooperating, non-functioning melting pot. So, what to do with exhaustion?

“What means this heaviness that hangs upon me?
This lethargy that creeps through all my senses?
Nature, oppress’d and harrass’d out with care,
Sinks down to rest.”

Joseph Addison, 1713, Cato, A Tragedy, Act V, scene 1.

‘Nothing’ is not the answer.

Instead of adding to our weight by burdening ourselves with feelings of worthlessness, we should strive to do what we can. And there is always something. There is always a certain amount we can do that will contribute towards fulfilling our responsibilities that day. How little we do or how much is not the point, the point is doing as much as we can in that moment, working with our abilities and fulfilling our potential on that specific day. Accept our position and still operate to our highest level, which fluctuates anyway. To feel exhausted is bad enough, to feel useless is worse again and adds another dimension on to our misery.

If we are meant to run, and we’re too exhausted, then walk, briefly, or in a spot, or just stand.

Whatever we do, it is better than nothing. Today, getting dressed feels like a marathon, reading is a puzzle and writing-writing is a killer. But we bang away at the keys because ‘don’t want to’ and ‘can’t’ are very different realities and we know that. We have a responsibility to do what we are capable of today, and that is good enough. Tomorrow will come on shining.

“The smallest effort is not lost,
Each wavelet on the ocean tost
Aids in the ebb-tide or the flow;
Each rain-drop makes some floweret blow;
Each struggle lessens human woe.”

Charles Mackay, 1857, The Old and the New, Voices from the Crowd, and Town Lyrics

Rembrant, 1650s, An Old Man in an Armchair,
Rembrant, 1650s, An Old Man in an Armchair,
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