A Battle Weary Soldier
The Weight of the World
It’s a stressful time to be alive. There’s no doubt about it. Being someone that absorbs the emotional atmosphere around me, I find my body buzzing with tension in the air almost everywhere I go. I feel it on the roads where it seems like everyone’s temper is on a tripwire, I feel it in the supermarket where I rarely see anyone attempting to smize above their mask any longer, and I most certainly feel it online.
The litany of bad and contentious news is overwhelming; COVID has worsened with new and more severe strains, Afghanistan is crumbling, Haiti is suffering, the Pacific Northwest of the USA is burning-up and drying-up simultaneously, and the climate report is projecting even worse decay than was earlier realised. It’s heavy.
I think one of the things that I feel the most at this time, is a collective sense of powerlessness. We want COVID to dissipate, but it’s gotten worse. We want people to do the right thing, but we have no power to change anyone else’s mind. We want large corporations to start showing genuine social responsibility, but we’re ants in a giants’ world. We want the world to be taken care of – fed, loved, sheltered, and safe – but we have trouble just keeping our house plants alive.
It is this sense of powerlessness that can erode our sense of purpose and meaning in life. It feeds off our energy, and drains our emotional reserves. It’s like the totality of my resources is a wee krill, and the problems of the world are a blue whale – completely swallowing all I have to give.
When Delta came barging into our lives recently, I immediately recognised the feelings of angst in my body. My cells remember this feeling well. But this time, I decided, something has to be different. I’m not going to get through the other side of this never-ending story with my nervous system in shreds like I did last time.
You see, even though we feel so powerless, we’re actually not. We have more power than we realise. We have the power to make very practical decisions to ensure we preserve our emotional and mental health. Some of the things I have been implementing are:
– Muting friends that post a lot of information that I find stressful.
– Limiting my intake of news.
– Deciding that it’s not worth getting angry at people at the store not wearing a mask – it’s not going to affect change, and it’s only hurting me.
– Practising mindfulness – making set times throughout my daily routine where I intentionally focus on my five senses and being in the moment.
– Taking action. Doing what little things I can to make a difference to those around me – I may not be able to lobby corporate America, or house a thousand Afghan refugees in my spare room – but I can go out of my way to be kind to the checkout guy.
I actually think it’s been really important to remember what God has asked me to do: live in a way that exhibits the heart of Jesus in every little daily moment. He’s not asking me to singlehandedly fix the climate, or change the government, or carry the weight of the world on my shoulders. He’s only asking me to represent who He is in the limited sphere of my life right here where I live.
So I’m choosing to zoom in. I will be aware of what’s going on in the world, I will pray, and I will do what little I can to help, but I will mainly focus on the handful of people and situations that I do have influence over.
Here’s a little mantra I wrote myself for when the state of the world is getting me down, and maybe it will help you too:
I am just one person.
I have limits, and today I accept and honour those limits.
Even though the world is in chaos, it is not my responsibility to feel the collective turmoil.
And when I do, I will pray these feelings into my hands, and blow them into the wind, where they can be picked up by the One who has the heart that can hold them.
I am just one person.
And as one person, I have the power to love those around me, exercise kindness, patience, understanding and compassion.
I have the power to choose my actions and reactions today, and that is all that I can do.
I release myself from the obligation to do the impossible and I empower myself to do the possible.
I will stay in my lane, listen to my Guide, put one foot in front of the other, and let Him carry my backpack.
Love you friends, we’re going to be okay.
Crawling out from Under a Rock for a Second…
It’s been a minute since I wrote anything for anything other than work. To be honest, I’ve never felt less qualified to share wisdom/insight/anything in my whole life. Why? Because I’m 100% NOT rocking this COVID home-school, work from home, social distancing life. (Ok, yes, I am rocking the social distancing – it may surprise you to learn that I am, in fact, an introvert, and this time has given me a golden opportunity to polish my inner hermit).
I always said, even long before I had children, that home-schooling was my idea of a nightmare. Even so, I kind of thought, somewhere in the back of my hopeatorium, that actually I would discover a natural aptitude for it and find out that it’s surprisingly rewarding. Well that bubble has been well and truly popped. I hate it. I actually hate it. There’s not many things I hate – that awful yawn-sigh people do, reggae music, loud eating noises (I should probably just get permanent earplugs) – but home-schooling is right up there.
The thing that’s so difficult, is that because those of us here in our part of the States have had the kiddos home for a solid 8 months now, my margins are paper thin. I normally gird my loins for the 3-month summer break, and begin to morph into Harriet the Haggard by the end. And this is 2.5 summers, with no clear end in sight.
When we have no margins is when issues that we are able to keep below the surface with rest, regular moments of respite, relaxation, socialisation etc. rear their ugly heads. For me, this means that I revert to my inner child a lot of the time.
The little girl that wanted to please the teacher and gain her constant approval, is now the parent of a kiddo whose schooling she is overseeing, and she really wants her kid to do well in order to appease her quest for affirmation.
The little girl that learned it was desperately important to get things done within a self-imposed timeframe, is now trying to force a seven-year-old to finish up his schoolwork within the same arbitrary window of time.
With the constant stress and pressure of life here in US right now, it feels like every unhealed part of my soul and every unchallenged erroneous belief is simultaneously running the show and beating me up.
So friends, if you’re feeling like me right now – and I know so many of you are, let’s join hands and start to do the things we need to get through this very challenging phase. For some of us, we really need to ease up on ourselves and our kiddos. For others of us, we need to choose a daily rhythm at this time that allows for a lot of extra space. Maybe we need to call a friend just to tell them that we’re not okay. Maybe we need to choose a regular meditation/prayer practice. Maybe we need to go for a walk around the block every day. Maybe we need to stop and realise that although no-one (except maybe the tech gods) are winning in the shit-show that is 2020, we are learning lessons and facing trials that have the potential to forge gold within us.
So, to all the other fellow humans in the trenches right now (even those with their masks under their noses), I give you my biggest smize, and raise my arm in a weary salute to you. You are loved, you are not alone, and you’re going to get through this. And so will I – albeit with a new cavernous depth to the frown lines between my eyebrows.
Love you friends,
My First True Love
For Valentine’s Day this year, Caleb bought the 500-piece puzzle version of the Jaws movie poster for us to do together. Firstly, good man. Secondly, it was ridiculously hard – so. much. water. And thirdly, it rekindled in me the love I had for doing puzzles when I was a tweenager. So, when COVID kicked off, I was all over those puzzles like a rash; I was buying them, borrowing them, and harassing the local shops for when they might be re-stocking, like some kind of junkie.
Seeing as taking that trip down memory lane was just so satisfying, I began to think about the other thing I adored as a 12-year old; my first true love. Was it, Jesus? You ask? Uncle Jessie from Full House? Jordan Knight from New Kids on the Block? All very good guesses, but no. It was Rollerblading.
I had a pair of ex-rental Rollerblade Zetra 303s with a fancy set of new wheels. You know, as well as I do, that I had to tell everyone that they were Rollerblade brand blades, to delineate them from the $30 Warehouse blades most of the kids were using. Which, I know, is SO annoying….but I was the kid that had major brand envy as a result of my hand-me-downs, and only ever had one Billabong long-sleeve T-shirt, which I wore at every mufti-day and anywhere I was likely to be seen by anyone ‘cool’. (It was then, as you can imagine, a day of many tears and much dismay when I tripped over on the railroad tracks and ripped a hole in it. It also shouldn’t surprise you by now, that I still kept wearing it, hole and all.)
My rollerblades gave me life. I loved the fact that I felt like I was flying. I could put my Walkman on, leave the house by myself, and head off on my own little adventure. So, I did a little research, discovered you could still purchase Zetra blades (huzzah!), and I now spend several afternoons each week whizzing around my local park. I. love. it.
Although rollerblading, is, admittedly pretty (very) nerdy, and my husband has basically disowned me (‘Babe, the neighbours will see you!’), something about reconnecting with what I loved at a time in my life where I didn’t love who I was, has been really healing.
In trauma therapy, the goal of counselling is to help people integrate their trauma into their whole person. And although my adolescent years weren’t ‘traumatic’ as such, there are still parts of my younger self within me that I’m tempted to disown. She wasn’t very cool. She was really desperate for acceptance and affection and inclusion. She would sell her soul for a bag of lollies. But she was me. And what she needs from me more than anything, is the love, acceptance and affirmation that she always needed.
The amazing thing about getting a bit of perspective and self-awareness, is that we have the ability to re-parent our inner awkward younger-selves. We can introduce such a beautiful wholeness into our present lives if we will just sit down and eat lunch with our inner lonely kid. Or buy them an ice-cream. Or join in their Mariah Carey glo-stick party. Because no matter how nerdy, you’re the only one who truly knows how rad you really were.
Love you friends!
PS. A couple of insider tips if you’re thinking about getting Rollerblades:
1. Don’t FaceTime your parents and Rollerblade at the same time.
2. Watch out for children on bicycles – not only does it hurt SO bad to crash at high speed at the age of 37, from the haunted look on that kid’s face when I grabbed him before going down, this is going to be one of his traumatic memories in the years to come.
Before the world went nutso grando, I was all set to embark on the next glorious phase of my life; Mason was enrolled in daycare three mornings a week, I had taken on 17 hours a week of writing for Thinkladder (which BTW is excellent, and free, and you should probs download ASAP), Judah was at school every day, and I was enjoying working at my local Starbucks several mornings a week, sipping my coffee and being child-free and all profesh.
Now, my dreams of freedom have imploded on themselves, and I have not one, but TWO little boys at home, and I have to try and navigate 17 hours of writing while forcing my reticent-Reginald to do his schoolwork. All that to say, you can see why it’s been a hot minute since I wrote anything…
But here we are, and while I’ve had a few thoughts over the past six weeks, there are none that I can be bothered putting into one cohesive blog, so let me treat you to my COVID ramblings – a mishmash of the infancy of several of my musings of late:
I really don’t like online church. Please hear me out – I am fully committed to always being a part of the church, I used to work for the church and would like to again one day, but one thing that I have had significant struggle with is the performance aspect of church; that haunting feeling that we’re putting on a show to appease aspects of people’s spirituality, without asking them to engage in a way pushes them toward discomfort and spiritual growth. Online church feels like the epitome of performance church. I know pastors are just trying to do their best, and do what they can at this time – this is in no way a criticism of these beautiful people that are just doing their best – it is, however, a series of questions for the church as a whole…what is the church really meant to look like? When we remove the queen from the chessboard (Sunday Services), how does the game get played in a functional and healthy way? How are we reaching, engaging and discipling people in an authentic and meaningful way outside of Sunday? Has Sunday become a giant crutch, bearing more of the load than it was ever meant to carry?
Another of my COVID musings is to do with facemasks…or rather the way they smell. Or perhaps, more correctly, the way my breathe smells in one. It took me about three weeks of shopping in a face mask to discover that the funny (not bad, just a bit odd) smell in my face mask wasn’t the mask, or even my breath…it was my NOSE! Did you know your nose has a smell? I can’t think about it too much or it makes me queasy. And if it’s made you queasy too, my humble apologies.
And along with thoughts on sinus scents and the church as a gathering, I’ve been giving some thought to my personal faith journey also. I have been on a journey of deconstruction of my faith for around 10 or more years. It was a necessary journey, but funnily enough, I’ve almost come full circle in my conclusions of so many things regarding faith, but I kind of needed to unpack everything to understand properly how it goes back together. When the pandemic started getting serious, it really struck me that in times of crisis, it really forces you to face the pointy end of your faith. Questions like, ‘Where am I going when I die?’, and ‘Do I really trust God with my life?’ are shoved in one’s face, and there remains in that moment not much room for ethereal armchair theologising. I have, along with my love of puzzles and desire to rollerblade, discovered the more simple, anchoring faith of my childhood that puts my hand in the hand of Jesus.
So there you go friends, there’s some thoughts for ya. Caleb always tells me that my mind is a scary place, so I hope you enjoyed a few minutes holiday in Debsville (since you can’t go anywhere else right now). I genuinely hope that you’re doing okay, and please feel free to message me if you’d like someone to pray for you.
Love you friends,