Exhaustion Point

Yesterday we finally admitted what had been staring us in the face for the past few weeks: we had reached, not exhaustion point exactly, but somewhere on the road to exhaustion where the warning signs were plain to see. So, instead of doing all the things we thought we should (unpacking, answering correspondence, getting the monastery accounts up to date, scything down the savannah that has sprung up overnight in the garden, sorting out the 1001 things that have to be sorted), still less all the things other people thought we should do (complete as appropriate), we decided to do very little.

The monastic version of very little takes quite a lot of time: prayer and reading, Mass at Belmont, which was beautifully celebrated, with some fine singing from the boys and girls of St Richard’s School, and a community meal (the first properly cooked one for a few days), but it was not taxing in the way that working against the clock is taxing; nor was the tiredness beyond our control. We had not, in fact, reached exhaustion point.

There are many people who have reached, or even gone beyond, exhaustion point. Work, the pressure of caring for others — children, elderly parents, perhaps a husband or wife with severe disabilities — trying to struggle by on too little money or in the face of hostility and bullying: all these can bring people to the point of physical and emotional exhaustion. For us, the solution to our temporary exhaustion was easy: we just switched off for the day. For others, it is not so easy; and sadly, it is often the people who most need help who are least able to ask for it or least likely to receive help if they do.

One of the most sobering statistics I have read for a long while concerns the number of children in the U.K. who are the principal carers for their parents. At an age when most of us were probably leaving our bedrooms in a mess and flouncing out of the house ‘at all hours’, these young people are cooking, cleaning, tending to their parents in ways that properly belong to adults. There are systems in place that are supposed to pinpoint children at risk, but we all know that much goes on behind the walls of our houses that is hidden from view. And in countries not so blessed with security and material wealth as our own, children face even worse problems.

Perhaps today, if we are beginning the working week feeling a little tired and jaded, we could spare a thought and a prayer for those who are truly exhausted; for the children coping with adult challenges; for all who are weary and see no hope of an end to their weariness.

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16 thoughts on “Exhaustion Point”

  1. Thank you for reminding us about one of the hidden human scandals in our society. It seems to me that despite our welfare umbrella, many either fall through the gaps, or are deliberately ignored by the support systems which are supposed to help in these situations.

    I can remember being brought up in a single parent family, where I and my siblings were left for long periods while our father was out working having to care for ourselves. Not the same as caring for a family member, but in terms of isolation and deprivation, much the same.

    Our father refused all help from agencies who offered, and his reality of self sufficiency on his low wage, and periodic unemployment meant a childhood marred by poverty.

    I’m not saying we had it the hardest, certainly others suffered more. But it did create an empathy in us for others less fortunate than ourselves and a desire to help when and where we could.

    I hope that you and the Sisters are now refreshed and able to carry on, carrying on.

  2. Neatly summarised, UKViewer, refreshment is important and means those who serve others, can continue to serve them. These nuns, and priests/ministers/pastors should be applauded for such decisions. The benefits are for all.

  3. Thank you for your blogs and tweets. When I am hurtling along doing my own thing, you help me to stop and think. I see Jesus through you and remember why I love him. I am reminded too that he loves me. Thank you.

  4. On the occasions when I have reached an “end-point”; usually at the end of term (as school-child and as a teacher), or when caring for two young children, I have felt ill with tiredness. After a couple of fairly spectacular melt-downs in my teens and twenties, I am better at recognising the signs. Stopping and taking “timeout” is the key for me; I sit on the back door-step and look at a leaf or a flower, properly, following the outline, staring at the lines and veins and speckles and infinite variations of colour… Not thinking, not doing, just looking. Sitting at the feet of the Creator.
    It’s Martha and Mary all over again.
    Perhaps we should teach this in schools!

  5. The number of child carers in this country is indeed a scandal that it seems the vast majority are completely unaware of. Even more shocking is the age that some young children take on this role and the impact that this devotion for a parent has on their lives.
    As a primary school governor in a small school I was saddened to discover that two of our PRIMARY children were the carers for their respective mothers. I cant imagine a childs life in that situation or the many other circumstances out there and all of it on my own doorstep. I hope and pray that your blog and the comments that follow prompt people to realise that this and more is really going on and probably right under their noses. Awareness is vital.

  6. In my previous employment I was a young carers support officer.
    A conservative estimate of 175,000 is used to describe how many young people are primary carers for parents or fulfil a role of ‘significant carer’ for a sibling.in many cases their education and emplyment opportunities are severely affected.
    We worked with schools, colleges and other agencies to support them.
    They deserve a much wider acclaimation of their work.

  7. We all need to learn to STOP sometimes and rest our bodies and minds. It is only since retiring that I have realised how dreadfully driven I was for most of my working life and how bad that was for me. Saint Benedict taught a balanced way of life and we all need to remind the “world” of the value of this.
    Your reminder of the burden faced by some youngsters is timely, when the UK government is suggesting that carers need more recognition. I fear that little will happen in practice because local authority finances are being cut but it is a good time to raise the issue with anyone who may be able to help – and to remind us that we may be able to do something ourselves.
    I hope you sisters feel refreshed and that you don’t forget to take proper breaks over the coming days. Sometimes Bro Duncan may have it right, when he declines the suggestion that he should get out of his bed and do something.

  8. I watched a news item recently highlighting the plight of such children, they are certainly in need of our prayers. What impacted me was the maturity and selflessness displayed by so many of them.

    Hope you will be seeing the wood instead of just the trees soon, moving a monastery certainly beats just moving house!

  9. Thank you for all your comments. I find the plight of child carers very troubling and am grateful that you do, too. I wrote about this in The Universe a few months ago and found that many people felt completely helpless about the situation. We are NOT helpless, but it takes persistence to change things.

  10. Hope you are refreshed – I feel bad now for having requested photos of your new monastery. I’ve moved house many times and know how exhausting the whole thing is, so I should have known better!

  11. I was struck by your posting and wondered about self inflicted “Busyness”…and it occured to me that we all often suffer from thinking that things “ought” to be one way or another. We on the outside think that you who are set apart do not stuggle with the same “ought to’s and shoulds” but instead those tangiable things “just get done” while you focus on prayer. Silly me for buying into that and thank you for the reminder that no matter where we are or what we do, we all have to choose the work and what is important.

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