If ever a year was going to feel overwhelming, 2020 would be a good candidate for many of us. Factors outside of our control have led to periods of enforced physical isolation, changes in scheduled travel and events, regulations when moving through public spaces, and availability of work. These changes have affected everyone differently, and certainly not equally.
For me this year has been like a waveform. Sometimes I feel I’m riding the crest, able to see far into the distance, perhaps even a destination. Other times I feel like I’m struggling in a trough, water barrelling over the top of me, and I can’t see a way up or out. I am used to this latter feeling. It’s one know well from my struggles with depression and there is a familiar comfort in this recognition. But, I know it is not a healthy way to be. Being human I can only hold my breath for so long, and whatever flotsam I find myself holding will eventually break apart. There is a chance I’ll swim in the right direction without being able to see where I’m going, but that’s not a chance I’m willing to take.
For the past fortnight I’ve felt good about progress with writing and music for the most part. Researching what I need to find out and applying that knowledge to the editing of my manuscript has been a slow process, but a steady one. My father and I have finished the first draft of our latest short story competition entry. I’ve allotted time in my weekly schedule to organise and consolidate blog post and story ideas, and I’m sticking to it—so far. I’ve practiced the guitar every day, spending at least ten minutes working on technique. I’ve even booked in time to watch useful videos to improve technique too. It all seemed productive.
Then Saturday came along. I attended a wonderful ordination ceremony for our Anglican diocese here in Wellington. As a Christian it was uplifting to be present with so many people who care about the world and each other. After the ceremony, there was a Eucharist to celebrate being part of the family of Christ. This was quieter, with fewer people present, which enabled me to feel a sense of peace.
The moment I stepped out of the cathedral to begin the walk home I began to feel alone. These vague feelings of loneliness and a ‘what’s the point?’ mindset crept up from the depths into my mind. Thankfully I’ve learned to see warning signs earlier than I used to. I immediately ate something and set about doing something which required a small amount of mental energy, watching a television show I know I enjoy. Still, even when I do these things, the feelings remain, stalking the perimeter of my mental defences for when I make one misstep.
It is at these times I have learned to pray. I do not pray that everything will be instantly better, but for the strength to lay the worries and anxieties I have down to God. It was a haphazard prayer which wasn’t very clear, and I didn’t exactly feel any better about the situation right then, but I could begin to see there would be a way out. My head was underwater and I was being tossed around, but instead of fighting the current I simply let it carry me. Fighting it would only have used more energy. This meant I didn’t edit as much of my book manuscript as I wanted, nor play the guitar for as long as I intended, nor do as much stretch and strength work as I wanted, but mentally it meant I was at least ok.
If I looked at the weekend with a purely productivity mindset it would look like a waste of time. The number of words edited was in the hundreds, not thousands. The time spent practicing guitar was the bare minimum of ten minutes a day I set myself. I didn’t even read as much of the current book I’m reading which is a gripping thriller! However, if I zoom out, look at the weekend as part of the larger whole, as part the long-term efforts to share my creations by publishing my books and music, it fits snugly into the category of ‘necessary rest’.
I struggle to be ok with not being ok, but I’m getting better at thanking God for being there during the good times as well as the rough ones. Just prior to the weekend I came across this video with some poignant advice. It is footage of an American Pastor Michael Todd from a sermon he delivered in 2019. It might seem a bit naff but the message it holds is still relevant, and always will be.
If you’re feeling lost, if you’re wondering which way is up, if you feel like the water’s getting rough, if you know what you want to do but it’s difficult to get started each day don’t lose hope.
Keep. On. Praying.
Know you are not alone. I cycle through feeling at least three of these things every single day. Keep on keeping on being you. No one is a better you than you. And that is an amazing thing.