On Life,  On Writing

Blowing the Fumes Away of Exhaustion to Find the Calling Underneath it All

I finished my “have-to”s around 7:30 tonight, and I came upstairs to sit at the computer, which is what I do most nights that I don’t have other things on my plate.

I had put off doing bills and finishing my brother’s March guardian expense report this weekend, so that’s what I did yesterday. Forced myself, that is, because I really didn’t feel like it, but it needed to be done.

I tried reading a few articles on productivity to inspire myself. I opened my 85% done chapter of Hart, which needs some reworking on a scene or two and the writing of another scene or two to be finished. I did one or two minor edits and then closed it up.

I thought about doing an outline (like I think about every day) for my yet-to-be-finished Jix auction story. My brain is so cloudy that I can’t think straight, let alone put the pen to the paper, so to speak.

And this was after spending half of my day at work struggling with trying to figure out how to code something in JavaScript. Not a language I know well, and coding it within a software program that doesn’t give you access to all the code to work with. Blindly trying to fix something I don’t even know where to begin to fix.

Exhaustion everywhere. Exhaustion that hurts it’s so deep.

It isn’t Writer’s Block. It isn’t. I cannot tell you how many ideas I have. I send texts to people saying, “I just thought of doing X!” and my brain will run down the rabbit’s trail of how I could accomplish X and how fun it would be, and what kind of people I could pull into the project with me. If I have half a minute where my mind is wandering and I have nothing else to think about, I’ll have six story ideas in no time flat.

But I am so bone weary in my soul. An exhaustion that permeates every cell.

And I can tell myself, “Okay, yes. You have a job that keeps you very busy and mentally active all day. Yes, you take care of your mom and your brother and you have a lot of things on your plate. You’ve been through a great deal of emotional stress in your life recently.”

Yes, yes, all those things are true and more.

But I have been so convicted lately about how I am filling my life with the unimportant, the urgently unimportant, the busy to be busy work.

Neglecting the spiritual – not enough time for God, not praying enough, not spending enough time still and listening in His presence.

Neglecting the physical – eating things that aren’t good for me, drinking far too much soda, eating far too much candy, not exercising.

Neglecting the emotional – Ignoring my creative impulses, not spending enough time playing, not taking moments from my day to just be silly and to have fun, not enjoying the amazing world around me in all its beauty, not singing songs, not relaxing in the breathtaking, full of sunshine and perfect weather days we’ve had.

And there is the long guilt list. The friendships I neglect. The unanswered email. The unpacked boxes in the garage. The clothes shopping I need to do. The piles of paper I need to sort and put away. The calls I need to make. The website that needs updating.

I’ve always been a person who’s tried to do everything. Please everyone. Make everything work. Give, give and give some more.

And I’ve found, over the years, that there’s been a gradual unfolding of my hands. God has to peel away my tightly gripping hands from all that I hold onto in fear and stubbornness.

I should learn by now that every time He wants me to let go of something it’s so that He can give me something else ever so much better.

I was so comfortable in my fire and safety job back in the day. Comfortable because I could do it with my hands tied behind my back. It was safe and easy.

It made no money. It had no future. No benefits. Nothing to challenge me. But it was safe and easy.

But I lost the job. And I got shaken up. I had to do something different. Something way outside my comfort zone. And so I gave up my independence, moved back in with my mom, and went back to school. I tried something that scared me a bit. I worked harder for grades than I have ever worked in my life, learning things that actually were difficult for me to learn. And this comes from a girl who finds learning easy. That education was hard won.

And now I have a job that isn’t safe or easy. It challenges me every day. I have to think on my feet and always, always learn new things. And it’s AMAZING.

That job was an answer to I can’t tell you how many years of prayer. The delicious reward after years of sobbing in my bed at night, worrying all the time about money, putting up with things I shouldn’t have, being the kind of person I didn’t want to be. I have a freedom now that I didn’t have then. A job I love just about every aspect of. A true gift.

But God isn’t letting me rest on my laurels. I feel now like I’m where I was a couple of years ago. Safe and easy with my writing. Safe and easy in an environment where people couldn’t say anything negative about what I wrote, even if they wanted to. Very little challenges other than what I made for myself. Constantly craving direction and change and creativity.

But again, God has gently but firmly pulled my hands open and taken the safe easy thing away.

I want to learn from my experience before. I want to lean into what He’s got planned for me. I may not be making writing a career, but I firmly believe that it is a calling. A calling in my life that I have never truly been able to ignore. A calling in my life that God has not meant for me to ignore.

But what does that mean now that He’s pulled the safe and easy away? How do I reorganize my life and simplify it to allow the creativity and the writing a place in it?

How do I fight the exhaustion?

Maybe I just need to listen to the messages I’m getting. Pare down. Be still. Listen. Pull back. Do not try to be everything to everyone. Get rid of all the dead weight. Remove the toxic. Chase after the important.

Get the basics back inline. Spiritual. Physical. Emotional. What is really crucial to me?

Maybe if I start there, the rest will come.

It’s strange, you know. Writing. It’s so hard to get started. But I just sat down, got passionate about a topic, and it’s 1200 words later.

It’s a calling. It really is. And it’s one of my musts.

I need to carve out a place in my life for it.

Now to figure out how.


  • Julia Stephanie Tasker

    Oh, Susan. This brought tears to my eyes. Because you, you do have a calling. And when your words fall from the heart, from the soul, we feel them rather than just read them. I sometimes wonder how you, and Dana, too, manage your insanely busy lives. I seem to require so much breathing space- and I don’t always use it well or wisely.
    But I do know that if our spirit is troubled or strained, something in our day to day world needs to shift.
    I admire the way you are grounded by your spirituality. I do believe in God, but have rarely managed to focus on him as I should. You do. You know, better than I, be still and know that I am God. Savour the stillness, Susan. Do what brings your heart joy and peace. Accept challenges, if they bring you a sense of growth and achievement, but know, Susan, that you, as you are, are-dare I say-perfectly perfect. You are strong and powerful and crazy capable, but the friendships, the emails, the piles of papers, the endless to-dos. Some of these can wait. Must wait. Because you do have a calling and answering that calling will give far more than the time of it could ever take away.

    • Susan

      I wrote this reply to you earlier and then inadvertently deleted it! I’m so sorry! Dumb me trying to delete spam deleted my own, uh, spam? *grin*

      You are so good to me. *hugs* Thank you for the support and the encouragement. I can’t tell you what it means to me.

      I don’t know how Dana or I do it, either. I need a lot of breathing space myself. I generally try to carve some of it into my life on Sundays. I really am trying to learn to take the “day of rest” thing more seriously. I still feel, though, that I am mostly reacting to life instead of living proactively. Maybe I’ll feel a bit more positive now that the crazy summer hours are winding down. 🙂

      I try to be grounded spiritually. I really do. I don’t often succeed at all, or at least I feel like I don’t. But I do really love that “be still and know that I am God.” I have to try to return there again and again. I get so distracted and so busy and so frantic that I don’t often just sit and be.

      I hope that that sort of peace comes for you, too. *hugs*

      And I so appreciate the wise words and hugs and encouragement. It meant a lot to me when I first read it, and after this crazy summer, it means even more now. A God-breathed moment for me to revisit.

      Thank you so much, my friend. *hugs*