Running on empty

It’s getting toward that point in a long term (or semester, even longer) where you feel you really haven’t got much more left to give.  I think this is partly why I haven’t blogged for a while – I find this time of year quite exhausting and a bit depressing with it being so much more dark.  Previous November blogs have included one on the need to alter my mood via coffee, wine, chocolates or SSRIs; struggling or suffering and going home early; and the need to wear make-up to look healthy or awake.

Various emails had told me yesterday was ‘Black Friday’ and I was thinking of various connotations why the last Friday before November pay day might be particularly rough.  Investigating more it just seems like a day after Thanksgiving for lots of shopping and related traffic in the USA.  I spent yesterday morning surrounded by folks wearing black at a funeral followed by a fairly unproductive afternoon at work.  Those who spoke at the funeral did really well, and it was a moving tribute to a friend lost too young.  We all held it together I guess, and drew strength from each other and the heavenly Father who my friend now sees face to face.  The choice between keeping going or breaking down seems rather stark, but somewhere between those two there’s a point of running on very little.

Talented young roots artist Luke Jackson has a new song called Fumes & Faith which picks up on something of this theme.  The chorus goes:

But we’re paying our dues and we’re doing our time
And God knows it’s not a race
But far too often it seems to me
We’re just running on fumes and faith

Mainly the song paints a fairly negative picture of small town life, but I think a similar disillusionment and emptiness can be found in city life as well.  Just over half way through a busy tour schedule supporting Martyn Joseph, I suppose Luke may have a few reasons for feeling weary just now, but he’s also got some cause for celebration.  He’s been deservedly nominated for two BBC Radio 2 folk awards: their Young Folk Award but also the Horizon Award for best emerging folk artist of any age.  Added to the camaraderie of being on tour with some great guys, I think they’re running on the rather more nourishing combination of Caribbean/Chinese food, Twitter and the voices and love of enthusiastic crowds.

Audiences for university lectures in Britain are rather less affirming, as a general rule.  With exceptions like Verna Wilkins that I mentioned in my last blog, I consider myself fortunate when a student or two thank me on their way out.  Some of my part-time students have even been known to comment on how a particular lecture was really interesting.  My former housemate who was a student from Germany seemed surprised that we have nothing like the communal knocking on the desks by students at the end of a lecture to indicate approval and thanks.  After tutorials my students are generally more appreciative of my time and efforts to help them, but I think there’s just a culture of taking people for granted within academia or work in general in the UK.  While it costs us nothing to thank the bus driver or shop assistant, I wonder if we are so unused to being encouraged and appreciated ourselves that we forget what a difference it can make.

Although I’m feeling pretty exhausted at the moment I am grateful for kindnesses from friends which have really helped me to keep going.  A hug or a lift at the right moment can give me a real boost.  I know I need to be drawing more strength from God as well.  Some of my favourite Bible passages are the ones I come back to when I’m feeling tired or thirsty or in need.  Isaiah 55 says

“Come, all you who are thirsty,
come to the waters;
and you who have no money,
come, buy and eat!
Come, buy wine and milk
without money and without cost.
2 Why spend money on what is not bread,
and your labor on what does not satisfy?
Listen, listen to me, and eat what is good,
and you will delight in the richest of fare.

I guess running on fumes and faith can keep you going for quite a long time.

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