Every now and then, the exhaustion rises like a big wave and pushes me under water. Today I'm under water.
I have, perhaps, invited the wave that has knocked me over this time, with all the events I'm attending at the Scottish International Storytelling Festival. But when you've moved to another city for the express purpose of immersing yourself in the storytelling culture of this place, is there any choice other than to, well, immerse yourself in it?
I have, perhaps strengthened the invitation to the wave of exhaustion with a day at the post-grad conference yesterday. But when you talk about the mutuality of humans, and have experienced a conference ethos of collegiality and mutual support and encouragement, which you have praised and affirmed as a life-giving approach to academic pursuits, can you withhold your participation because your own research is more important?
I have, indeed, created the environment in which such waves of exhaustion are possible, or even inevitable, investing much energy and emotion and self into the process of getting to Scotland, with the transporting of myself half way across the world from home.
In light of the latter, I am not fighting the exhaustion. I am, instead, letting go into the water, confident that water does hold our weight, and I will let the waves wash me onto the shore where I can rest and recover, before I get up to swim again.
In light of all the above, I realise how much I miss community - specifically all my communities of home, family, friends, congregation, wider church - and more, the general simple fact of having community / communities in which I am known. As you seek to belong in a new community, or series of communities, as is the case when you move to another country, you do a lot of hard work. With people you do not yet know and who do not know you, you can't entirely relax. Even if you are getting along really well, every encounter demands more attention as you discover boundaries, shared opinions and points of difference, and learn how to negotiate all of this. Every encounter is, therefore, tiring, though many are also life-giving.
I may be happily, contentedly, solitary, but that happiness and peace - my fulness of being - relies on belonging to community.
So the time I choose to put in attending events at the storytelling centre and at college has all been in pursuit of belonging.
And although I have had to choose not to spend time with church / faith communities as they gathered this week, I have found other ways of connecting with friends from those communities, with brunch and shopping on Saturday, chance encounters and conversations in hallways and cafes, and an art exhibition this weekend. I am perhaps further along with belonging in at least one community of faith, than with other communities. And as I remind myself of this belonging, my lungs expand with gratitude and air: I am no longer drowning.