Home / Blog Posts / Fatigue and the Black Dog / Resetting boundaries

Or, the discomfort of learning by transgressing

I am tired. Achy.

I have a house to tidy for the cleaners coming tomorrow.

There is a deadline looming for videos to record and edit.

And it’s raining. Perfect weather for lying in bed, resting.

I have compromised and sat in bed, working, this morning, so worship is ready for Sunday and administrative tasks have been attended to. But those other tasks require relocating, and moving, and did I mention the rain, and the aches, and the being in bed?

I am still learning what my boundaries are, now that I am more well than I was with the Fatigue. Learning by transgressing them.

fatigue and the black dog

This was an approach I employed in the thesis, testing my new method for interpreting the Bible through embodied performance.There, I set boundaries for what is appropriate for the performer-interpreter to bring of herself to the Performance Interpretation of the biblical composition. I played with the boundaries in my changing of Divine names in Paul’s letter to Rome.

I discovered that it is appropriate, for example, to change the Divine names in Paul’s letter from God to Holy One, perhaps even Father to Creator, when putting the letter on my voice, the voice of a 21st century, educated, poet-storyteller of somewhat progressive persuasion, speaking to a 21st century, educated, and somewhat progressive audience. It is less appropriate to change Paul’s naming of Jesus from Lord and Christ to Liberator and Wisdom, the change of Christ to Wisdom, in particular. By making that latter change, I imposed myself onto the letter, rather than allowing myself to be its mediator for a new audience.

Making the transgression, I experienced the effect, understood why the boundary was necessary where I had placed it, and clarified the way forward with this method for myself and others.

Diary of a chronically exhausted vicar image

This past two weeks, or perhaps more, I have transgressed my wellbeing boundaries by working ten or twelve hour days. My boundaries are set by dividing the day into three, morning, afternoon, evening, and working two of three for four days a week, one of three for two days a week, and none of three for one day each week. Then there are broader rhythms of having two or more successive days of working no segments through regular Sundays off worship presiding duties, and the weeks of study and annual leave.

The rhythm for my weeks also includes the kind of work I do in those segments, with a couple of afternoons a week designated for slower, gentler work of reading or meditation.

I have not stuck to these boundaries or rhythms in recent weeks. There have been extra services to prepare and at which to preside. I have needed to be present with people, providing pastoral care, and attending meetings furthering the development of Rise Events & Sanctuary. All excellent uses of my time, so how do I say, no, or not now, or can someone else connect with the person in hospital this time?

Sometimes, I am able to ask others to be present when and where I cannot. Humans have not the capacity for being in more places than one at a time, for which I am grateful. But without the Chronic Fatigue, I somehow feel less entitled to protect my rhythms, my need for rest and gentler paced afternoons.

I seem to think that because I have the energy on a particular day to work through into the evening after a morning and afternoon of work, I can.

But I cannot. The consequences are relapse into Fatigue. And while I am not panicking today as I sit here in bed in considerable pain and fatigue, I can see that it is the outcome of a full and heavy load I’ve been carrying, and to continue in this manner will have prolonged consequences for my health.

So I must do my best to meet the deadlines I face in coming days, though I desperately want to sleep. Then I will start again, reset my boundaries, and recommit to living within them. For I very much like being well, and the increased capacity for participating in life it affords me. Transgressing the boundaries has reminded me that they are there to keep me well, and I will pay attention and learn the lesson.

woman in the rain with umbrella

But first, I will allow myself an hour or two to lie here in bed listening to the rain.