A few months ago I was able to conduct maskless in front of a maskless orchestra. This week, with the Cincinnati Symphony, I’ve donned my mask again, as have the strings and percussion sections. I can’t see everyone’s face again – nor can they see mine. The little bit of normalcy I was finally able to experience at work has yet again been taken away.

It felt like we were collectively on the right track, moving towards a future with some sense of certainty, only to be thrust back to where that hopeful horizon again seems a distant blur. And to have that bit of expectation, of hope, yanked away again is not simply frustrating, but disillusioning.

I think we’re all battling that sense of fatigue; hope is energizing, and the loss of hope feels as much a physiological let down as it is an emotional one. And I know that I’ve found it increasingly difficult not to be pulled back into the defensive crouch in which I spent a great deal of the last 18 months. Which has led me to ponder, how do I move forward? How do I make progress when the world seems to be regressing?

A wonderful mindfulness teacher once told me that fostering feelings about what should or should not be happening keeps us from accepting things as they are. And I’ve been thinking a lot about this a lot the last few weeks, as I’ve been lost in my “shoulds” – we should be in a better state, we should be moving towards higher vaccination numbers, there shouldn’t be a record number of Covid hospitalizations, my friends in the medical field shouldn’t be thrust back into the frantic despair of the beginning of this pandemic.

Yet here we are.

At one point I felt that letting go of shoulds/shouldn’ts meant I was giving up on a better future. Accepting the present as it is doesn’t feel aspirational – it’s hard not to think of it abandoning the possibility of improvement. But I’ve realized that I was approaching it the wrong way.

The same teacher told me that every moment is a moment of evolution, and I think everything is contingent on this truth. Because accepting our present as it is doesn’t imply a static state; it simply means that we are moving through the present, moment by passing moment, and moving to all of the upcoming moments that hold the possibility of change.

The present may be challenging, but the only way to move forward to accept it as it is, because it’s this acceptance that allows us to move forward. When we are grasping at our “shoulds”, we are stuck in the sense that our lives betraying us. We are static in this constantly frustrated state. And that’s a painful – and exhausting – state in which to be.

I’m exhausted of my exhaustion, and so I’ve decided to focus on the things immediately at hand; planning for tomorrow’s rehearsal. Feeding Pinkerton. Spending a few minutes stretching because I never seem to stretch enough, and I have 10 minutes now, right now, in this present. And feeling connected to this continuous cascade of moments slows me down enough to let go of my anger towards the world, to accept that regardless of the choices that have brought us to this point we are still at this point, and that we still need to live through today.

And so today, after a long day of work, I feel tired, but not exhausted. I feel that I’ve at least shifted the needle from my neural groove of my frustration, and that I’m ready for a different tune.

8 thoughts on “Fatigue

  1. Joseph King says:

    Sarah, you always seem to capture, eloquently how I and I’m sure many others feel about the situation we stuck in these day or maybe years. I find it comforting to read your messages but hope we can get past this dark period in our lives. Thank you!


  2. Hello Sarah,
    You bring an interesting point of view and a different angle on this post.
    As I am writing these lines there is a specialist (Chistophe Huss) who speaks about classical musics on the radio (Radio-Canada). He rates new albums, artists to discover or to follow,…
    I could humbly add that I’ve seen a new video of Boris Cyrulnik, neuropsychiatrist from Bordeaux. It does help me during this pandemic. He shared his thoughts about the major influence of the environment on our brains and on our civilizations. He wonders what the present pandemic will leave in our lives in his new book «Des âmes et des saisons. Psycho-écologie ». The video is in French. I’ve written to his agent. She told me he doesn’t feel confident enough to make videos in English but some of his “Oeuvre (all his written books)” is often translated in English. I’m reading his new book right now.
    Source : http://bit.ly/Neuroplanete2021FB
    note: we have such a shortage of rn (burned out +++, resignations, re orientation of career,…) now that some hospitals here have to close some departments including the emergencies. Apparently it is the case throughout Canada, in the USA and in Europe. I never thought I would see that in almost 31 years of service. I still try to remain positive but lucid. We (me and my wife) even had offers to work at the international. We both passed the TOEFL (anglophones call it the tough test. They have to pass this test to go to the Ivy League in the USA, UK or elsewhere around the globe) to do so. I would like to finish my career in home cares. I’m not saying this to brag or the impress you but to show you how paradoxical it is right now. Take Care, La Meastra, and keep exploring your talents. Hi from me and my wife to Pinkerton and Paul.


    1. chefdorch says:

      My best to you and your wife, Sylvain. I’ve heard from all my friends in the medical field about the tremendous burnout and utter exhaustion. And yet some people refuse to help themselves and get vaccinated. It baffles the mind.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Wayne Zelenak says:

    Sarah, you’ve posted another profound and provocative narrative on accepting the changes we are experienced in the world today. It brings me to one of my favorite quotes by Heraclitus, a Greek philosopher: “No man ever steps in the same river twice, for it is not the same river and he’s not the same man.” I love the quote of your teacher who said “fostering the shoulds and shouldn’t keep us from seeing things as they are. This is an ambiguous statement because no two people actually see the same thing.

    I have always felt that life is a complicated series of events, filled with uncertainty, fear, joy, sadness, and anxiety. We need to take time in nature with an open mind to comprehend the ebb and flow as it relates to the here and now. I believe your teacher who said that every moment is a moment in evolution, was teaching philosophy. Another word I learned from you is “Shoganai” which is accepting things that we have no control over.

    Many are disillusioned by the things we are really in control of, as the world turns despite our feelings, beliefs, or opinions. In my opinion, we need to focus on self-awareness, situational awareness, and our ability to comprehend the things we can and to accept the things we can’t.

    The world is full of beauty, and it should be cherished in mind, body, and soul. Peace of mind seems to be a fleeting experience both physically and emotionally by those who cannot accept change when it is an integral part of life. We cannot always change the things around us be we can always change the feelings within us.

    I am always inspired by your profound words and a tour inside your awe-inspiring mind…



    1. chefdorch says:

      Wayne, thank you for your kind words. And thank you for reminding me of the Heraclitus quote – indeed, it’s not just that two people won’t the see the same thing, but that the same person won’t see the the same thing either…


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