I have had a dark learning.
A few weeks ago, a pastoral situation I have been part of for several months escalated. It was a hard day. It was a day of questioning my assumptions and my discernment. At a family reunion last year I won a plaque that says, “Conviction: Be certain your feet are planted in the right place before you decide to stand firm”. It is so much easier to be certain when you are flying under the wire. My wire was cut and I was exposed, left to question if my convictions were as solid as I originally thought.
After the encounter, I went to my husband’s workplace to say hello and have a mini-meltdown before facing the world again. On my way out, I met a friend coming up the stairs. We were all scheduled to go out later that evening. “Are you coming tonight?” He called as he went up the steps.
“Absolutely!” I exclaimed. “I need a DRINK!”
My friend, appropriately, laughed and continued up the stairs. I stood, stunned at my outburst. When I said it I said it in that loud proclamation voice we use when we don’t care who hears us. When I said it, I didn’t. But in the split second afterward, I stood there, shaking, reliving that brief moment in my mind. Did I just say that? Here?
If this had happened a week later, that lobby would have been full of young people. And they would have had their first encounter with Rev. Dawn, the Anglican chaplain, declaring in the lobby of the science building that she needs a drink.
In that moment, I realized why so many of my sisters and brothers in caring professions live with addictions.
I wasn’t longing for a good drunk or liquid courage to do something risky. I was longing, just for a few hours, for an escape.
An escape from my confusion.
An escape from my stress.
An escape from my insecurity.
To forget, just for a couple of hours, the pain of those around me.
We all talk about our vices, which, let’s face it, are addictions in a less harmful form. We all have something we do to escape for a few hours, or take out that anxiety on something else so it is not sending us into tailspins.
Sometimes, when someone asks me, “What are you doing today?”, my honest answer is, “I don’t know”. But by suppertime, my day will have been planned out for me with crises to walk through, complaints to field, panic to subdue. It is very easy to feel out of control, like your choices are being made for you. It is stressful and intense.
Escape is so critical, and finding healthy escape is the greatest challenge. Sometimes, we have to run away, cancel everything and just go. Sometimes we need to skulk out in the dark of night, not tell anyone where we are going because they will either disapprove or track us down. Sometimes we have to just hide out, moving the car somewhere other than the rectory so we can stay home and have a day to ourselves without being disturbed. And then, there are those blessed moments when someone recognizes you need to escape long before you do, and becomes your accomplice.
I want to stop doubting how difficult my job is. I want to stop making excuses for my own exhaustion. May I defend always my health and well-being, for everyone’s sake.