The Antidote for Exhaustion

As a culture, we worship at the twin alters of striving and acquiring.

It’s an addictive religion, and there is no peace in a mind that believes fulfillment is right over the next hill.

Keep climbing.  Keep improving.  Keep buying.

Fear and exhaustion are related in so many ways.  We are so conditioned to move faster, be busier, do/be/get/accomplish more.  Ask someone how they are and there is a very good chance the answer will be “busy” or “stressed”.

In a twisted way, busy has become a merit badge.  This springs from fear of inadequacy and deep identification with what we do and produce.  There’s a collective unconscious agreement that if we take on too much, no one can accuse us of not trying hard enough.  Of not being enough.

If you ask people what is most important to them, they will say things like family, friends, nature, God, helping others.  People are amazing and good.

Somehow though, we have created a system where it is normal to be one person at work and another at home.  It is normal to work hellish hours at a job you hate and come home to people you feel disconnected from.  It is normal to give your friends, parents, children, spouse, community the dregs of your energy, the leftovers.  It is normal to give oneself almost nothing in the way of spiritual or creative nourishment.

This way of being is not relegated to corporate climbers; I see it in students and stay-at-home moms and retirees.  I’ve seen it in myself.

Living to get someplace or to be someone is an insult to your spirit and it is exhausting on every level.

It’s also sneaky.  This dynamic is a default that it is very easy to slide into.

In practice, it looks like a whole lot of mental energy without a lot of engagement.

I want some things with my whole heart:

I have huge desire to be of service in the world as a coach.  It lights me up and brings me more alive.  I’m really good at it.  I want to build a sustainable practice.

I want to have a thriving relationship with my son.  I want a sense of ease and flow in our home life.  I want to offer him everything that I can in service of his heart opening, creativity blossoming, potential reaching.

I want a sweetheart.  I feel ready and open to a healthy relationship with intimacy and boundaries and growing and sharing.

These desires are beautiful, healthy, and very real.  I feel my heart quickening just typing them.

Desire itself is a gift, not a problem.

But when I believe that the way to get what I think I want is by working harder, hustling, or forcing, I suffer.

I start to get pushy about it all.

It looks like listening to parenting CD’s while refreshing my internet connection in between job interviews dates.

When we approach what we want from a place of fear that we won’t get it, we block the flow.

We miss what is in front of us.  Everything feels hard.

We all know the feeling of moving against the current versus being in the flow.

What’s the solution?  How do we get in the flow?  Do we have to quit the job that we hate, abandon any relationship that feels less than 100% aligned?  Should we just give up on the things we want and see what unfolds?

David Whyte, in this lovely book describes a conversation with a friend who suggests that the antidote to exhaustion is not necessarily rest.  Rather, it is wholeheartedness.


For me, the word itself rings in my bone marrow.  I get it.

But just so we have a mutual understanding, Brene Brown’s research on the topic led her to name 10 guideposts for wholehearted living that are worth checking out.

My take is that exhaustion, the kind that comes from living a life that is out of alignment with who you really are, is a potent expression of fear.

So, the antidote for fear?

Wholeheartedness.  Integrity.  Alignment.

When I honor what is most true, I am most free.  When I am not caught between fear and hope, I am available to what is happening, now.

This chess game with my son.  This blog post.  This awkward date.

Wholeheartedness, while it won’t eradicate fear, can alchemize the poison into medicine.  What would it be like to be wholehearted in your desiring?  To allow yourself to really want what you want?  To be wholehearted in the middle place between desire and achievement?

Who would you be without the story that life will begin once you get/be/do x, y, z?

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