Fatigue and Disappointment: 7 reasons I am grateful they exist in my life

February 5, 2013

fatigue12:09am.  I was asleep, blissfully asleep.  And then I awoke.  Not to a noise or to a phone call—but to the sense of a burden.

A few minutes later, my phone rang with disturbing news.  Now one hour later, I have had multiple calls with colleagues in Uganda, and am aware of an emerging problem that seems to need my attention—not just in terms of action—but in terms of awareness.  I am asking myself about the underlying texture of these issues, and what they can teach me.

I am so tired.  So very tired.  Between international travel, domestic travel, and PhD assignments (all within the last seven days, by the way), it is not surprising that I am experiencing fatigue.  That said, the additional layer of disappointment—in my fellow-person—in myself, has inspired me to dig a bit deeper into this human experience, and to identify reasons I am grateful that fatigue and disappointment exist in my life:

  1. If I listen, they will teach me something.  If I respond by carving out time to rest and reflect, lessons will likely emerge from a deep place not normally accessible when I am delighted and energetic.  Euphoria is its own teacher (for which I am also grateful), but fatigue and disappointment remind us that all is not well, and that there is work still to be done.
  2. If I am sensitive, they will empower me with empathy.  In the so-called “west,” we often speak of privilege—in very negative terms—sometimes rightly so.  It can lead to a lack of empathy, to a lack of understanding of Other.  But, in my experience, this lack of empathy can be a reality for those of all socioeconomic and geographic categories.  The work of translating personal life-experience into a compassionate understanding of Other is just that: work.  No matter who you are, where you live, or how much money you have, it often takes a conscious effort to translate personal experience into visceral and thoughtful action.
  3. They likely indicate that I am up to something worthwhile, and not simply in the pursuit of personal satisfaction.
  4. They likely indicate that I have taken risks.
  5. There is a time to weep and a time to laugh; a time to mourn and a time to dance. … I have seen the burden God has laid on [humans]. He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the hearts of [people]; yet they cannot fathom what God has done from beginning to end.”  (Ecclesiastes 3:4, 10, 11)
  6. They set eternity in my heart.  The here-and-now are important teachers, while the idea of all that is yet to come and to emerge—is priceless.
  7. I believe that I have been given this human experience for a reason, and I don’t wish to waste one drop of emotional-sweat or one ounce of heart-weight.  Purpose matters.

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Nathaniel is CEO of AidChild.org. He holds a Master's Degree in Human Development and Psychology from Harvard University where he was a Reynolds Fellow in Social Entrepreneurship, and winner of the 2010 Harvard HDP Marshal Award. He also holds a PhD in Leadership Studies from the University of San Diego where he was the Dammeyer Fellow in Global Education Leadership, and a Cordes Fellow at Opportunity Collaboration. Nathaniel is author of "We Are Not Mahogany: Three stories about the male African life." Prior to his move to Uganda in 2000, Nathaniel was Deputy Director of the Office of the Governor of Arizona, and Director of Education at Leadership, Inc.

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