‘I am at the curled-up-in-the-foetal-position-unstoppable-crying stage of lockdown.’ This was my social media status update several Thursdays ago.
Friends, acquaintances, members of my dispersed and local communities – you did not judge. You did not flick platitudes my way. You did not tell me to snap out of it.
My people, you simply responded with love, with presence, with solidarity. Thirty-odd comments saying ‘love’, ‘hugs’, ‘thank you for sharing’, ‘thank you for your honesty’, ‘I feel it too’. You reached out across the distance to ‘touch’ me when I was feeling alone.
One brought flowers. Others sent messages. Mum said ‘I’m here, call me if you need to.’ (and I did – need to, and call her)
When I told you how I was feeling – that it was a rough day and I was sad, lonely, afraid – you sat down with me in the muck.
That is what I needed.
I am an insatiable learner, so of course I have with distance looked back at that moment, and reflected on what I was feeling, and why.
It may be more of the same as I have described in earlier lockdown posts.
The fear of contracting the virus pushing me towards over-cautiousness.
The fatigue exacerbated further by the load I am carrying: concern for the congregation, friends, and family; the strain of facilitating community life for a congregation in these difficult times.
The black dog is getting restless, feeding off the loneliness with its paradoxical response of withdrawing me further from people.
The grief for Dad is always here and would be without everything else. And I had been planning a week with family soon after Easter, a week of not grieving alone, a week of refuge in their presence. The loss of that is hard to bear.
The absence of my ministry colleague, the other half of our clergy team of two for my first two years in this placement: that is also a loss that is hard to bear. Although made easier by the broader team of ministry agents, office bearers, and administrative staff, it is still true that shouldering the responsibility as one of two ministers in placement is a lighter load than carrying it as the minister in placement alone.
The situation itself, the shroud that covers us all at present, feels suffocating at times. It’s everywhere: the main item or the thread through most of the other items, in the news; the ads aren’t a break from it either, as advertisers adapt their message to the times; every conversation is coloured by it; there is no respite.
So my response to that litany of woes was, that Thursday afternoon, to curl up, shut down, and let the tears fall.
My response to that expression of deep sorrow, loneliness, anxiety, frustration, weariness, is to let it be what it needed to be. I have not, in the days and weeks since, berated myself. I have not judged, I have not felt guilt or shame. Those emotions needed to be felt, overwhelming, deep, and dark as they were: they needed to be heard. I needed to hear myself express the impact of all this, to understand it, in order to move through it towards a calmer, more peaceful, place of ease again.
Further reflection has caused me to wonder if the shut-down was the combination of all the things, or the suffocation of the pandemic season (on top of everything else), or the frustrations of life with Chronic Fatigue (exacerbated by everything else).
And then I think, does it matter? Undoubtedly, all those things are in there, mixing a cocktail I have no choice but to swim in, and which from time to time almost causes me to drown. Sure, some of those things are heavy enough to sink me on their own, and maybe some days it is one thing rather than the combination of them all, that is weighing me down.
In the end, the reality is that this swampy cocktail is thick and murky and the best way through is slowly, carefully, and attentively. So I let it be what it is, and I pay attention, hopefully learning more each day to make each movement forward a little easier …