“if I may trust my own feeling, a slight aching in the legs as we climb into bed after a good day’s walking is, in fact, pleasurable.” C.S. Lewis, The Problem of Pain
I’m always exhausted by the end of Thursday. Here it is, almost 4 o’clock, and this is the first actual pause in my day. It has literally been one meeting after the next. Since 6:30 this morning. And it doesn’t end until after the elder board meeting tonight at 9, and that’s if I’m lucky. Probably more like 10ish.
Thursdays are like an ER shift. An easy 12-hour day. And by the time I get home, I have trouble keeping my eyes open. It is like I’ve just run a marathon. All I want is to climb into bed and crash.
There is a good sort of exhaustion that comes from meaningful work. It reminds me of the way it feels at the end of a hard workout. Drenched, dripping sweat, legs aching, and a huge smile as you go into child’s pose. This feeling of finishing is so good! Often it is the thought of finishing that allows me to begin.
I feel the same way when I finish each of these blog posts. There are so many days I wish I could just skip it. Or make an excuse and rationalize away the feelings of guilt. But what I experience writing each and every day is the constant reminder that after I am done, I will feel that unique pleasure that comes with the completion of something difficult. And it is one of the very best pleasures of all.
A meaningful life takes work. It is often exhausting. It is intimidating, like a workout you aren’t quite sure you can finish. And there are so many more appealing alternatives, like scrolling through social media or not interrupting that Netflix counter that starts the next episode for you in 10 seconds…9…8.
Because the temptation is always to remain where it is comfortable. To stop growing. To stop pushing. To settle for a smaller story.
A meaningful life costs precious time and energy. It must be willing to be interrupted. To pause and make room for others. To show up, when everything in you just wants to push pause. It takes discipline. It requires biting off more than you can chew.
I heard recently that we are at our peak creativity at age 83. I love that! The problem we have isn’t brain power or a lack of creativity. It is willpower. And it requires vision if we are going to push ourselves hard for that many years. But what can break us out of our place of comfortability is a vision of a greater good.
And the greater good, in my opinion, is that pleasurable exhaustion. It is a long walk rather than a day on the couch. It is a tired mind from getting that blog written, even when I feel uninspired. Tired ears from listening to another’s heart and setting aside my agenda for theirs. Investing my time and energy in the lives of others.
And it is in doing our heart work that we experience the deepest joy. We feel the pleasure that comes with exhaustion. It reminds us that a meaningful life is always costly. And it is always worth it.