Recently I have been of what my GP diagnosed on Monday as ‘low mood.’
The past six months or so have been hard. Several pressure circumstances have coincided, and ground me down in incremental bites – each bite small enough to go, almost, unnoticed, easily dismissed; but collectively decimating – to the point where I was existing more than living. And that, in turn, has put massively increased burdens on Jo. Very recently, the ongoing situation has been interrupted by a kairos moment; a point of shouting out ‘ENOUGH!’ with the status quo; an opportunity for the kingdom of God to break in and transform our circumstances, as we repent and believe.
I’ve written before about the process of repentance and belief: of having one’s eyes opened to observe what is going on, to reflect on the situation, and seek to discuss it appropriately with friends who will help us to see rightly; and then of making a plan together of how we will live differently, asking friends to hold us to account to do what we have said we will do, before we act in a different way from before. (This summarises the Lifeshapes Learning Circle, based on Jesus’ teaching in the Sermon on the Mount.)
But I wanted to name the pressure points, because they are incredibly common and yet as Church we are often silent about them - which is a mistake, because in naming things we bring them into the light, and they begin to lose their hold over us.
Our third child, Elijah, who is 8 months old, cries much more than his sister and brother did. And every time he has cried, something inside of me has shut down; something that should have responded to his calling out with emotional presence and practical support; something that should have drawn the family closer, not driven us apart. (I guess all those friends who wished ‘pay back’ on us for having two easy babies have got what you wished for. I forgive you, totally. Just be careful what you wish for…) And now I can understand why parents, and child-minders, sometimes harm babies, sometimes fatally. They say you shouldn’t judge another man until you have walked in his shoes. I guess the point is not that gaining an understanding of their experience of life qualifies you to pass judgement; but that once you have such insight you will want only mercy for them, and pass up on the ‘right’ to call for judgement at all…
I don’t recall ever hearing such things brought into the light when church has gathered. I suspect that this is, at least in part, out of deference for those to whom it does not apply. But sometimes single/married/childless/parenting/caring for a disabled or elderly relative/[keep filling in the blank as relevant] people need to take a back seat and learn of the things married/single/parenting/childless/[fill the blank]/caring people struggle with. If we only discuss lowest-common-denominator experiences, or speak in generalisations, we will fail to carry one another’s burdens; to live as God’s redeemed-and-being-redeemed family. Instead, we give everyone the impression that the church is biased towards whichever group of people they do not fit into, and give the accuser room to sow seeds of resentment.
At the same time, my experience of the workplace is pretty shitty. I can’t discuss the situation in any detail, but suffice to say that it concerns workplace politics, and a feud between certain individuals that has resulted in everyone else being caught in the crossfire. And again, I’m aware of several other individuals whose workplace is a miserable and/or unjust place; and I suspect that this is a fairly common experience.
And then there has been the process of discerning with the Diocese and wider Church of England my sense of vocation, and my sense that this is the time to move into that calling. That has been a difficult and at times very painful journey. It feels like, if you survive the process, you’re fit to go through. Nietzsche proposed that whatever doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. I’m inclined to disagree. I suspect the institutional process results in a lot of people – curates, junior doctors, whatever – starting out crushed in spirit.
The good news is all three of these specific pressure circumstances have fairly close resolution dates: Elijah will learn to speak, instead of cry; I leave my present employment in the summer, whatever happens next; and I have a date for a selection panel in the summer, and an offer of a college place to take up if I am approved. The better news is that we have the opportunity to address how we will better deal with other pressure circumstances that will, inevitably, arise in the future; and friends who will support us in that process.
under pressure , low mood , hope , Learning Circle