Home / Blog Posts / Fatigue and the Black Dog / Diary of Chronically Exhausted Vicar. Episode 41

It’s been a while between diary entries. I haven’t had many words, or haven’t been able to put shape to them for any helpful contribution to our conversation here.

I have been tired. I have been doing what needs doing and no more.

Finally, though, today what needs doing is some deeper thinking by writing about how I am.

Diary of a chronically exhausted vicar image
I am tired. So nothing changes there.
I am sad.
I was briefly rejuvenated by five days with family to celebrate my nephew’s baptism into the family of God, and my middle sister’s special birthday.
We surprised her, which is no mean feat with someone who prefers to know what is happening or will be happening. I think she found joy in a day she might have been forgiven for only seeing for its sorrows: the empty chairs, the unfulfilled dreams … I hope she felt loved. For she is. So. Loved.
We baptised him with our tears as much as the water from the font, and that was my fault. Breakfasts are the moment the tears flow for me, for some reason. And Sunday morning, the grief for Dad bowled me over, as it does, with little warning and poor timing. So when we sang ‘May the feet of God walk with you’, I wept as I usually do when singing a blessing to a newly baptised human, but it wasn’t simply the joyful miraculous moment – this weeping was tinged with a heavy dose of grief (brief pause at my keyboard as tears fall again), and anyone in my family or the congregation who looked at me then also fell into weeping for we all miss my Dad so very much.
Never the less, after my long weekend I returned to Adelaide with almost a spring in my step, or at least enough energy to carry me through two days of rigorous work in preparing for December’s special events and supporting our staff and our community.
Then it ran out, the energy. This morning over breakfast, more tears, for another grief. Though they can hardly be separated, so complicated is the whole mess of grieving. (you may recall this recent poem) Yet, this morning, the grief for the colleague who closes his placement this Sunday is distinctly in the foreground. The two griefs – death of father, end of collegial collaboration – compound each other. And this one has a further need to hold the community in their grief for a minister they love and appreciate. And their grief will be compounded when in two weeks we close the smaller of our congregations. It’s an immense and intense season for us all.
For me, the sense of loss is deep. So rare is it that you find a colleague with whom you genuinely and instantly ‘click’; with whom the conversation is open and honest; with whom you can celebrate each others’ gifts with generosity and delight and no sense of feeling threatened yourself, either of you; with whom you know that kinship of a brother / sister in Christ – real, mutual, kinship.
That kinship, of course, will endure, I am sure.
But the conversation of deep openness and honesty about the joys and burdens of this placement will be no more between us. A big part of my joy in this placement has been this collegial collaboration, and I will feel the loss of it – I already feel the loss of it – beyond what I can express.
And though I am not alone, for I have many clergy folk in the congregation who are rallying around me, and lay leaders doing likewise, and colleagues in the presbytery, and family and friends, I am alone. I hold the ministers’ responsibility for the parish myself, now, and I understand what he meant when he said, it’s ok that you take what sick leave you need for your illness, simply having you here in placement is enough to ease the burden of that responsibility. It is emotional and spiritual, mostly, and hard to describe. I don’t doubt my capacity to carry this responsibility: I trust the gifts and experiences I bring, and trust that the Spirit is present here with us all.
The fatigue greatly diminishes my inherent capacities, however. It uses up so much of my resilience simply to get through each day. I am afraid, sometimes, of the illness and its potential to render me utterly incapacitated, even though I have good, tested and proven, processes and practices in place to hold me and keep me moving.
As I write this, I pause to examine an emerging thought. In this moment I strongly feel that it is time to attend to my connection to Spirit. To deepen my practices of prayer and contemplation. To sink my soul into remembering the Presence I so know is here that I too often take it for granted.
As a number of mystic souls have noted, in the greater busyness we must still ourselves even more.

Greater discipline, then, for even deeper rest within the Holy embrace. (and I sigh, deeply)