Choir Notes

Happy Exhaustion
From Music and the Spoken Word
Delivered By: Lloyd D. Newell • Program 4311

In a hospital emergency room, a team of surgeons was urgently called. Four passengers in a car accident had just arrived by ambulance, and their injuries were life threatening. Running on adrenalin and focused on their demanding task, the doctors worked around the clock, mobilizing others around them to give all they had to save the lives of these four people. Afterward, the doctors shared embraces of relief and joy, worn out but elated that their patients would survive.

Former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher said, "Look at a day when you are supremely satisfied at the end. It’s not a day when you lounge around doing nothing. It’s when you’ve had everything to do, and you’ve done it.”1

Work that seems beyond our capacity is often a blessing and brings us a happy exhaustion. It obviously doesn’t need to be performing life-saving surgery on accident victims to fit this description. Hikers atop a mountain after a strenuous climb, athletes who willed their way to a difficult win, or parents who collapse on the couch after a day full of sacrifices of time and energy for their children—they all know what it feels like to be spent but smiling. In such moments, we discover what we’re made of, and we find that we are capable of much more than we thought. We might be physically tired, but we are emotionally renewed.

It’s a myth that the key to a satisfying day is to relax, put your feet up, and sip cold lemonade. The real way to feel joy at the end of the day is to have achieved your goals, to have pushed yourself to accomplish your tasks. When our day is filled with unexpected challenges, instead of seeing them as obstacles that interfere with an easy schedule, perhaps we can reframe that outlook and see them as opportunities for fulfillment and satisfaction—the unexpected rewards for a job well done.

1 In David K. Hatch, comp. Everyday Greatness: Inspiration for a Meaningful Life (2006), 241.

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