A holiness to exhaustion


 There is a holiness to exhaustion
 is what I keep telling myself,
 filling out the form so my TA gets paid
 then making copies of it on the hot
 and heaving machine, writing
 Strong start! on a pretty bad poem.
 And then the children: the baby’s
 mouth opening, going for the breast,
 the girl’s hair to wash tonight
 and then comb so painstakingly
 in the tub while conditioner drips
 in slick globs onto her shoulders,
 while her discipline chart flaps in the air
 conditioner at school, taped
 to a filing cabinet, longing for stickers.
 My heart is so giant this evening,
 like one of those moons so full
 and beautiful and terrifying
 if you see it when you’re getting out
 of the car you have to go inside the house
 and make someone else come out
 and see it for themselves. I want every-
 thing, I admit. I want yes of course
 and I want it all the time. I want
 a clean heart. I want the children
 to sleep and the drought
 to end. I want the rain to come
 down—It’s supposed to monsoon
 is what Naomi said, driving away
 this morning, and she was right,
 as usual. It’s monsooning. Still,
 I want more. Even as the streets
 are washed clean and then begin
 to flood. Even though the man
 came again today to check the rat traps
 and said he bet we’d catch the rat
 within 24 hours. We still haven’t caught
 the rat, so I’m working at the table
 with my legs folded up beneath me.
 I want to know what is holy—
 I do. But first I want the rat to die.
 I am thirsty for that death
 and will drink deeply of that victory,
 the thwack of the trap’s hard plastic jaw,
 I will rush to see the evidence no matter
 how gruesome, leaning my body over
 the washing machine to see the thing
 crushed there, much smaller
 than I’d imagined it’d be,
 the strawberry large in its mouth. 

Carrie Fountain

I think the thing that has surprised me most about my grief is how exhausting it is. There have been days when I felt I was coming to terms with it, when I understood its patterns, began to see shape in them, even coherence. I fooled myself into thinking we may even have come to some sort of understanding.

Those days are over now. The grief has no interest in coming to an understanding with me, no interest in letting me in on its plans, coupled to zero awareness of the damage it is doing to my sleep, my eating, my reading, not to mention my ability to concentrate and remember even the most rudimentary parts of my job.

I am officially exhausted. I wave the white flag. OK, grief, you win. What now? I cuddle the dog, get lost on a walk, phone the rat man, try to look at some James Schuyler, book the rat man, attempt a prayer, then collapse onto the sofa. I am trying to find holiness in all this mess, but it is hard, hard, hard. And it isn’t going away. It is hard.


  1. I’m sorry to hear you are swamped here. I can’t say anything that will make it all better of course but I do believe even if someone says something rubbish that hopefully the thought behind it can help a bit. Are you able to focus on something small like a craft? I find knitting helpful when my brain and body are exhausted and I can’t cook or sleep.

    Sending you much love xxx


    Liked by 1 person

  2. Thank you for articulating this, Ant. I’m so weary of my weariness! I hope that at some point the grief becomes less weighty for you, for so many of us. Much love to you and T.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I don’t pray – not being particularly religious but I chant these words each day to the sun and to the saint I am named after – St Brigid
    Enlighten what is dark within me
    Mend what is broken within me
    Strengthen what is weak within me
    Bind what is broken within me
    and lastly, revive what peace and love has been lost within me

    There is no solution in the words but there is a hope that ‘that which is lost’ might be regained.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Dear Anthony, as always your words touch me somewhere very deep. How well you seem to know yourself and articulate what you know. The word exhaustion means to me a tiredness that can only pass with rest and relief. Relief both through and from grief. Time to grieve and time to put grief aside if you can. I hope I am not intruding saying all this. Mostly I wish you a lighter place to be, wish you well.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Dear Anthony

    As always you voice the things I struggle to voice and my heart goes out to you. Your honesty and your words, even in the middle of your exhaustion, are a gift to the world. You are a gift to the world. Be kind to yourself. Holding you in prayer. Helen x

    Liked by 1 person

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