I am a creature of habit. The reason why I am a creature of habit is because I find it difficult to function without a rhythm. When my life has no beat distractions become overwhelming and interruptions become stressors. When my life has a beat distractions glance off me and interruptions become opportunities. It took me a long time to achieve this level of self-understanding, but when I did I became much more settled in my heart.
What a rhythm helps me experience is freedom. The beats of life are the “must do’s” for my daily journey–taking a shower, getting Bump dressed in the morning, doing the dishes, and checking in to see how folks are doing all create the resonance which lets me know a day is progressing. In a normal time, when these beats are hit, I’m free to move between them to read, learn a skill 1, write, and do the trivial paper-work-type-things of normal life. Each of these free movements between the beats requires a significant mental shift to get into the proper headspace. These shifts sap some of my mental energy reserves, and when I’m interrupted 2 during a mental shift I have to start all over again–but the expended energy is gone.
At present, my life is compressed–space, time, and mental energy. I’m like an LP being played at 45rpm 3. All the elements of the music are there, but they don’t sound quite right.
“Work” is done while Bump is napping, or doing the few hours the other kids can watch him. This means all the beats of a “normal” day, along with the mental shifts I need to move between the beats, need to fit into the disjointed times I’m able to sit down and attempt to function. That means a hour or two at one time, thirty minutes at another, and fifteen minutes some time else. I’ve surprised myself at how much I’ve managed to get done, though quite a bit is falling through the cracks, but the end result is my mind is tired. By the time Bump’s bedtime rolls around I’m ready to collapse myself!
In reality, I have nothing to complain about. My family is together, I pastor an amazing group of people who long-ago adjusted to their pastor’s idiosyncrasies, my wife and I are being paid, and we’re “safe.” I am grateful for all these things, and my wife and I have been trying to be a help for those who are not as settled during this season. But even for people are “safe” during this period, the mental stresses are real. And this post is a reminder that “when this is over” is a lot further out, and is going to be much more messy, than most of us think.
Opening restaurants and businesses may be able to “restart the economy,” restarting professional sports and opening theaters may gives us some welcome distractions, and gathering with neighbors for cookouts and in church for worship may make our connections feel renewed. But they won’t remove the stresses we’ve all felt during this period, nor will they free us from ongoing concerns a second wave of CoVid-19 will generate should a treatment not be found or vaccine not be created.
It won’t help frontline medical professionals deal with PTSD.
It won’t free workers from the anxiety of having their health insurance linked to a fragile economy.
It won’t address the lasting concerns about being in large groups.
It won’t deal with the grief people are feeling–for lost loved ones, for shuttered businesses, for stolen rites of passage, for a world that used to be.
We aren’t going “back to normal.” And if we try to do so not only will it make the battle against the virus more difficult, it will do psychological harm to people who already feel guilting for not being “OK.”
So, right now, I’m out of rhythm and I’m not “OK.” I am coping, and I am serving, and I am functional–but I am not “OK.” I won’t be for a while, not until our compressed world is able to expand once again.
And that is OK.
- Learning is a huge part of my psyche. If I’m not learning I’m not living. ↩
- While I’m at it, could someone study the psychic connections people have? I could sit for an hour doing some basic task to shift my mental state–but as soon as I roll my sleeves up to “work” I will receive eight texts, four phone calls, and my kids will become sudden invalids. ↩
- Ask your parents. Or, older aunts or uncles. At the moment I refuse to refer to my contemporaries as “grandparents.” But if you have grandparents, you can ask them as well. ↩