As with most churches, we shut our offices just before Christmas and opened up again on Monday. This week off takes care of the days off we couldn’t take and the stat holidays that we are generally working on.
I had a great week. I was on call for the last few days, and while it was busier than other years, it was nothing too stressful. Thanks to a wonderful team here, I had very little to do. I hibernated for a lot of it, watching movies, visiting with friends, spending more time in pajamas than I have all fall! It was lovely. A few times I pulled out my computer to work on a few things, trying to get a bit ahead. But I actually couldn’t think. I stared at my screen for hours, trying to take foggy, random ideas and put them into some structure but just couldn’t catch them. They were elusive and tricky.
Saturday night I had my first stress dream. I dreamt that I would be at the chapel door to lead worship, and I forgot something. I forgot my vestments. Then, I forgot that I had to preach. Then, I forgot that this is actually a funeral, not Sunday morning.
Sunday morning I woke up, well, I guess you still call it that even if you are still exhausted. My stress was understandable. I would be leading my first full Sunday morning on my own, preaching, celebrating, no colleagues to point to and say, “Perhaps you should ask them.” I took a deep breath and dove right in, and all went well. I had my usual Sunday nap and was right as rain.
Or so I thought. Sunday night I had another stress dream. I had forgotten my friends were getting married. So we were frantically scrambling to get to their hotel for the ceremony. When we got there I remembered that Marc and I were getting married the next day (we have been married for two years, five months and 28 days) and I was scrambling to find a hotel (why not a church??), a presider, and hunting through my closet for a white dress. I woke up even more exhausted thinking that was strange.
The panic started later in the morning when we were on our way to visit an old friend. I couldn’t get rid of this tightness in my chest, the lump in my stomach, the racing heartbeat. I thought about returning to the office, and imagining all the work I had probably left undone. The whole time I was thinking, “This is silly. There is nothing to be stressed about.” But the physical symptoms wouldn’t go away.
That afternoon, I came into the office and said hello to everyone. There was lots of cheer and “welcome back”s. We all had longer than usual to-do lists, but everyone was in good spirits. Beginning to feel overwhelmed, I took my things down to my office. I unpacked my work laptop which I had taken home, crawled under my desk to plug it into the power bar, plugged my various USB cables, turned it on and sat down. I entered my password and that’s when I noticed it. My anxiety was gone. I could breathe, clear thoughts started to process their way through my brain. I opened my email with determination. I prepared my notes for our staff meeting, and by the time we gathered, I was cool as a cucumber.
So why, after a week of great rest, was I filled with panic which would only go away when I was at my desk in front of my computer?
To borrow a metaphor from one of my colleagues, I was missing my harness. By the end of today, I felt in complete control, on top of everything. Yes, that is a temporary illusion since we are never in complete control, thank God. In my harness, I have direction and purpose. My task list became a symbol of my future accomplishments. I sent emails. I made phone calls.
The most significant task (not ministry) in my work is programming. I haven’t been in program mode for 2 weeks. My first program commitment is Friday night and I am facing it with excitement and a little nervousness…exactly where I thrive.
Christmas is a beautiful, exciting, powerful time in the life of the church. It is also incredibly stressful for everyone involved, and that stress begins at least a month before Christmas. Today, we are back to normal, although, in Churchland, normal is constantly changing.
So here’s to being back to our colourful and vibrant normal.