I had started the summer off feeling flat and dipping toward hopelessness. If you know me, hope is something I have in spades. I am generally optimistic about how things will play out, whether or not I am in control. I am a risk-taker. People ask me what I am worried about and I say, “Not enough.” I am not wired to fear that things will go terribly wrong; I am only wired to blithely make the first move and see if this batter I am whipping up makes a good enough birthday cake.
The strangest thing about my early summer hopelessness was that I couldn’t pinpoint the source. There were no health issues or looming bills we couldn’t pay; no one close to me had died and I didn’t even have to teach. This was summer, that rosy-cheeked girl that lives for poolside lemonade.
Still, I woke up every day thinking, This is all there is? Why even try? Why not just go back and take a nap.
I am at Nerd Camp now and it is on the campus of a Benedictine university. Last night we went to evening prayer with the monks. We have been assigned Brother John who will give us a tour of the Abbey afterward. Brother John sits next to me and I can tell he is irritated that I don’t follow numbered pages well. I like Brother John, and I like that our group has its own monk. Our monk. Prayer begins and it is clear I am a poor candidate for the Benedictine monastery. The contemplative prayer, the reciting of verses slowly–I have to pull from my deep-think reserves to abide this. But as we sit, I start to invent pictures in my head of what is being said in the Psalms we are reciting. I start to welcome the silence less as a threat and more as a space to breathe.
I ask my colleague Andy to promise me he won’t keep sending me freelance work through his colleagues. I say, “You know I can’t say ‘no’ to these pastors! It’s like saying ‘no’ to Jesus!”
Andy says, “No. Jesus says, ‘Come and rest awhile.’ Also, I have no problem saying ‘no’ to them :)’”
I sit on the amazing couch and I tell the therapist that the hopelessness has been fading little by little and that I think I know what it was all about. It had blown in with the hurricane of finishing the semester and having to move and then having all kinds of new work to do. I was just tired. My faith was strong but my body was just.so.tired.
“Why am I soft in the middle
The rest of my life is so hard”
- Paul Simon, “You Can Call Me Al”
The therapist tells me I should give the end of the semester times a name, like we name hurricanes. That way, I can recognize the storm when it appears on my radar and I can anticipate it and batten down the hatches and know what is happening, because it’s about to flatten me and leave me scrounging for resources as I rebuild.
So I have named this time Hurricane Depletion. And right now, at Nerd Camp, I am glad to be out of its path.