Just yesterday I talked to someone who said, “I am so tired; I am sick of it. But I haven’t done anything.”
They are in a new place and their spouse is recovering from a life-threatening illness. And there is still so much to be done. They were homeless for 4 months moving from one temporary set up to another. They looked at multiple places, had promised housing fall through, filled out reams of paperwork, and dealt with so many phone and in person interviews with agencies. In between there was constant packing and unpacking. Partially precipitated by all this stress was a medical emergency, in-patient and outpatient medical care, a bout of depression caused by a medication change, and navigating day to day needs in unfamiliar settings.
Once settled into their new place, with a lot of uncertainty still in the air due to job and income insecurity, ongoing medical needs and learning a new location, they felt exhausted. They felt like nothing had been done because they still had so far to go.
“… it is essential to honor the journey that leaves no trace behind.”
Now that housing is secure, they need to work on jobs and income, learning a new location, and taking care of all that had been put on hold while they were in transition. I reminded them of all they had done in the past few months. The response was, “Well, yeah, but a lot of it didn’t work. This time we filled out an application, met a good social worker and got this house.” I pointed out that they are exhausted because they have been walking on shifting sands.
Walking on shifting sands:
Taking a walk on the beach is pleasant until you really need to get somewhere. As you walk, the sand moves under your feet. Each step is work. If you move to where the sand is packed harder, you can make some progress until the sand slides out from under you. If it isn’t too bad, you bobble and regain your balance. You may suddenly find yourself down on one knee. Occasionally, the little ridge you are walking on goes out all together and you end up sprawled out with your possessions in the sand. It is exhausting.
Once you get to the place you need to be, you look back at the journey you have made. The wind and the water have erased your steps. The sea gulls wheel freely above the trackless sand. It is hard to remember all you went through; it is harder still to share it with someone else. The worry that every step may not go as planned. The energy spent looking at the ground planning out the next step, hoping you have read the sand correctly. In times like these, it is essential to honor the journey that leaves no trace behind.
How are you feeling about that journey? The fatigue is real. It was really hard. You may have anger that the journey was so much effort even though it was not personal. The sand was just being sand; it is like that. Yet, your feelings are real. Let yourself feel angry, frustrated, sad, annoyed that you had to work that hard to get to where you are.
Celebrate the progress you made. You have gained core strength, improved balance, and a wisdom about the path that you did not have before. You did a hard thing, and your progress is real.
Rest. Enjoy the view from your new vantage point. I went to visit the couple with the new home. They had clearly put in care and attention to arrange furniture, decorate, and hang family pictures. One look at the calendar on the wall showed how much work was still to be done to deal with medical and financial needs. There is work to be done. Instead of having a temporary roof over their head, they can work from home.
Where are you on your walk? What have you gained in strength or stability? Know that others have walked this path. You are not the first person to be sprawled in the sand with your possessions strewn about you. It is hard and painful. But you are not alone.