Two Lent reflections in one week, after three weeks of not writing the reflections I had intended, when Lent began. Such is Lenten practice with Chronic Exhaustion.
Yesterday I wrote about the first reason for the interruption to the intended series of reflections: the aches and fatigue set in, and I had to slow right down.
Today, the second reason: the energy returned and the aches diminished.
Sounds a strange reason not to return to the intended practices of Lent, perhaps. Stay with me.
You see, that’s almost the more challenging part of life with chronic exhaustion, the times you feel OK. That’s when you have to be more careful with how you spend your energy, because the temptation is to use it. It might have been days, or weeks, or longer, since you felt able to walk straight and freely, to think clearly, imagine wildly: and like a person who hasn’t eaten for a long time, you want to gobble it all up at once. And that will make you ill.
What you want, need, to do, actually, is to control the flow of energy, conserve it so it lasts as long as possible. Then you get as many ‘good’ days as you can. Also, what you do, in my experience, is stave off a big collapse. The energy might run out, but if you control the flow so that it gently diminishes, rather than using it all up at once and the flow stops suddenly, the diminished energy won’t last as long, hopefully, and won’t be so catastrophically painful.
When I felt the pain ease and the energy return, I knew I was a few short weeks away from possibly the biggest week in the year for my colleague and me at Canberra Central Uniting. Yep, Holy Week is even bigger than Christmas for us.
Its stories take us on a wide range of emotions: joy on Palm Sunday, growing sorrow, grief, shame, despair as we take slow steps towards Good Friday, and joy and hope again on Easter Day.
As ministers facilitating the people’s participation in those stories, we live all of them in anticipation and in the moment, all the emotions all at once as we prepare for each while yet to enter the next.
Ockert and I turn up more in this week than any other: 8 services for me, 9 for him, this year, over 8 days. On top of other meetings and visits and phone calls and admin.
So there is added imperative to take care with the energy I have, for I will need every last drop I can muster to carry me through that week. I would, even if I was in full health.
Lent is a season that we take seriously in my community of faith. Us ministers pay extra attention to our preaching and liturgy; the musicians pay extra attention and prepare extra music; the people engage in studies and gather for the various extra worship and contemplation opportunities; and when we get to Holy Week, we slow right down, enter the stories deeply, feel the emotions honestly, in order to participate in the story of Love that resists violence with courage, and draws us into life that transcends even death.
Despite, through, even because of, my illness, it is important to me to turn up for this week, more perhaps than any other.
And in the interests of restoring energy afterwards, I will take a break for a week once we’re done.