The Power of Fatigue

12/31/2015 03:21 pm ET Updated Dec 31, 2016

One of the puzzles in pursuing a meaningful life is that our desire to find order in chaos leads us to think that good things happen for good reasons and that bad things happen for bad reasons. Then, we often understand our emotional responses as a spectrum where we slowly move through various feelings, such as the popular concept of going through the "stages of grief." While these ways of imagining our emotional landscape are useful, they often lead us to perceive our anger or sorrow as being on one side of the spectrum and joy and happiness on the far other side.

Yet our actual lives show how capable we are to feel seemingly odd combinations, like when you experience so much happiness that you cry. Or when you catch yourself laughing just a bit about how silly you must look while crying. I remember a particularly difficult break up when I was raving mad and pacing across the room, arguing that we should stay together. Less than a minute later I was so sad that the end was here that I was starting to cry. The thought of going from anger to sadness in such a short time, and seeing the look of my ex-partner's face looking back at me, well it made me laugh a little. Which led us both to share how we really did have a great relationship, (albeit a friendship) where we could get each other worked up and also feel safe enough to share our emotions freely. In many relationships that end up transforming into friendships, before the actual break up occurs, someone feels exhausted.

In between inaction and action, we have an opportunity to see the power of emotional fatigue. I do not mean physical fatigue (like muscular distress), though we might be mindful here of how physical ailments often demonstrate immaterial disharmony (more on that later). I am describing that feeling when you are simply tired of how things are. You are not necessarily mad at anyone; and sorrow feels a bit too invested. Beyond jealousy or mistrust or even pain, we have the capability of feeling a type of apathy combined with a resolve not to continue going forward in the same way.

That is the power of fatigue, the moment you realize that somehow, in some way, things have to change. The power of fatigue is that it helps us recognize that something has slightly changed within us. Fatigue tells us that the status quo is not working anymore. That change, ever so small at first, perhaps just an intuition, is a wonderful moment because it shows us that on some level we know that we want something different.

Perhaps you have been in any manner of relationship that seems, for lack of a better word, unacceptable. Or maybe you have a job that causes you to feel defensive, over-worked, or disrespected. I have some friends who have a great relationship, but they come home nightly to neighbors that are loud throughout the night, causing many nights of lost sleep. In each of these cases, before working toward some resolution or insight, we might get to a point where you simply are tired of the way things are.

Just thinking about maintaining the same dynamic with a family member or co-worker might feel to you as simply exhausting. These feelings of being tired or exhausted are actually reasons to be thankful: you just picked up on the fertile and creative impetus from inside you for change.

As we prepare for our new year ahead -- some make resolutions or vision boards -- or simply make promises for our best year yet, consider adding something that might on the surface feel counter-intuitive. Are you tired of the feeling the same way about your physical health? Does the thought of working in the same job lead you to feel fatigue? Invite yourself to explore those feelings of fatigue, and to follow them.

May 2016 be the year you feel and recognize the deeper meaning of your fatigue. And most importantly, may the gratitude for that fatigue lead you to making the changes in your life that, in time, will lead you to being more happy and healthy.