lenten journal: exhausted

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exhausted (adj.) mid-17c., “consumed, used up; of persons, “tired out.”

So says the etymological dictionary. The verb exhaust (“to use up completely”) goes back to the 1530s, but I think it is probably more than coincidence that the use of the adjective lines up with the beginning of the Industrial Revolution, along with the Enlightenment, European colonization, and the general growth of the acceptable level of greed we have come to know as capitalism.

That’s not exactly how I thought this post was going to go, but once I looked up the root of the word I couldn’t help but notice the connections.

Three hundred years later, perhaps its not such a far-fetched connection. My company goes back into our offices next week, which means I start going back to New York, except now the expectation is that I go in three days a week instead of one. Door to door, my commute is three hours each way. When I asked about the reason for the change, I was told they were seeking uniformity.

Again, not the direction I thought I was going with this post.

My sister-in-law’s mother has spent her whole life in Kansas and Oklahoma. She is a wonderful woman who looks like Ms. Claus and has her own way with words. She and her husband stayed with Ginger and me once when they were vacationing. After a long day trip, she came in one evening and said, “I’m so tired I feel like I’ve been hit in the back with a dead rabbit.” Somehow, I knew just how tired she was.

I’ve thought a lot about her lately, not just because I am weary but because exhaustion feels so pervasive. We are all worn out, hit with dead rabbits, HR manuals, pandemics, grief, supply chain issues, family struggles, wars, bills, questions . . . the list goes on and on.

If you’re tired, you go to sleep. If your exhausted–depleted, used up, consumed–how do you get re-hausted? Even more, how do we live these days without being eaten up by them?

Man, I wish this next paragraph had words that offered some sort of meaningful response to that question. In the same way I didn’t know where the post was going to go, now I am not really sure how to wrap things up, so I tell a story, or at least, I’ll borrow one.

I have been reading The Hours of the Unviverse: Reflections on God, Science, and the Human Journey by Ilia Delio (whose name is awesome to say out loud). In it she tells of being in a DC Metro station, running to catch a train, when she fell on some concrete steps and busted her chin open. She was by herself. A young man stopped to see if she was alright and then, when he realized she was bleeding, he called for help and then sat with her until the paramedics arrived. She says,

He looked at my bruised face and asked, “Are you hurt?” It was not so much what he said but how he said it, as if in that moment I was the sole concern of his entire life. I was deeply touched by his compassion and care. . . . He helped me up and brought me into the Metro police quarters ; he waited with me until the ambulance arrived, assuring me I would be properly cared for. The hands of time because the hands of love; he ditched his plans and waited with me for about forty-five minutes before I was whisked off to the emergency room.

The hands of time became the hands of love.

Whether we are exhausted by bunnies or bosses or bad news or something else that starts with a b, we have a chance to let the incidental contact of our lives translate time into love, to create room for one another to rest, to replenish, to re-haust (who knows, maybe that word will catch on.

The talk about time brings me to a musical close for this post–a Tom Waits song called “Time.” That is fitting because, based on his amazing lyrics, I think he would completely understand what it means to be hit in the back with a dead rabbit. He wrote, in part,

and the band is going home it’s raining hammers it’s raining nails
and it’s true there’s nothing left for him down here
and it’s time time time
and it’s time time time
and it’s time time time that you love
and it’s time time time

Yes. Yes, it is.

Peace,
Milton

PS–Here’s a beautiful cover of the song from the Tom Waits tribute record, “Come On Up to the House: Women Sing Waits”.

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