On Respect & Exhaustion

by Rev. Aaron Payson

Our puppy, Sophie, now 18 weeks old has thoroughly enjoyed her jaunts in our snow-filled yard.  She races from one end to the other in a figure eight that speaks of the ecstasy of being alive.  That puppy energy has also been good for my soul, even if it is also at times exhausting.  Lately however, she has been mystified and mesmerized by the smells of the grass and ground that is emerging as the snow has receded in the last week.   I find myself fighting my own frustration at moments when she seems more interested in what was once there more than what she is there to do herself, so that we can both go back into the warmth of the house.  To meet this frustration and to turn these moments into opportunities to share her curiosity requires that I remember and respect the role that such times play in the evolving life of a young dog, and in the possible lesson offered me as patience and wonder.  I’m reminded here of a piece by John O’Donahue which speaks of these moments as part of what it means to address exhaustion.  If there’s any time when we as a community and world need these words it is now as we honor a year of pandemic response and a world turned upside down.  We are all exhausted on some level.  But that reality is also an opportunity.  Here the worlds of the poet. 

A Blessing for One Who is Exhausted by John O’Donohue  

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 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 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.