As event after event was cancelled from my diary and I realised that I was going to have a lot more free time over the coming months, I began to make a list.
There were so many things I had always wanted to do if only I had the time. Well, now I was going to have the time, and I planned to make the most of it.
Writing projects, a pile of books to read, plans to work on music, new skills I hoped to learn, films I wanted to watch… I had quite a list.
What I hadn’t anticipated was the exhaustion.
Work had become unexpectedly busy as we tried to figure out new ways of working and find the way forward, but still I was surprised by how tired I was and how deeply I was sleeping. It seemed unnatural.
And as for all my plans for my free time – I struggled to focus on anything that involved thinking, and I couldn’t understand why. It felt like I was wasting the time, and I wondered what was wrong with me.
But in the last few days I’ve begun to understand and I’ve decided to give myself a break.
I had come to realise that a big part of my problem was the number of Zoom calls. I am so grateful for Zoom and the connection it allows, but at the same time, I find it utterly exhausting. Then I discovered this article which explains why. It was such a relief to know that it wasn’t just me and that there are reasons – please do check it out if you’re suffering from Zoom overload.
I also came to realise that for most of us right now, life has been turned upside down.
There’s the obvious trauma for those who are suffering with the virus and those who have lost loved ones or are worried about friends or family who are seriously ill, but, even leaving aside the virus itself, the knock-on effect of the cancellations and lockdowns shouldn’t be underestimated.
There’s grief – for the cancelled plans, for the lost opportunities, for the things we can’t do and the people we can’t see.
There’s uncertainty over the future – how long the lockdown will last, what life will be like once it’s over. For many there’s uncertainty over jobs or finances.
There’s fear over how it will turn out for us or for our friends and family.
For some, there’s the strain of being confined to the house with family so much of the time, or of attempting to do home schooling at the same time as working from home.
For others, there’s the loneliness of the lack of social contact, knowing that even when you see someone in the street you have to keep your distance, and that all the phone calls and video calls in the world can’t quite take the place of face-to-face conversation with another human being.
Why should we expect to be able to push on through without all this taking its toll?
I think it’s time to go easy on ourselves – to do what we can, but not to beat ourselves up if we can’t achieve all we want to right now.
I think it’s time to stop and acknowledge how we feel. It’s easy to dismiss it saying there are those who have it a lot worse – and yes, for most of us there probably are, but it’s still ok to admit where we’re struggling rather than trying to put a brave face on it.
I think it’s time to move the focus away from what we do. My initial temptation was to exchange one form of doing for another, but maybe it’s a time just to be. As someone in my church pointed out, we’re a very active church, always keen to provide practical help and be involved in the community. Maybe this is a time to rediscover dependence on God, and to spend more time praying, recognising that as we can’t do a lot of what we want to do right now, we need to hand our concerns over to him and trust him to be working where we can’t.
Above all it’s a time to look to God and put our hope in him. During Lent I was following a plan reading through the book of Jeremiah and it seemed incredibly relevant to all that is going on right now. It is full of predictions of death and destruction, but through it all there is a thread of hope. God is the only one who can restore, but, ultimately, restoration is coming, and it’s a great reminder that it doesn’t depend on us!
“This is what the Lord says: You have said, “This is a desolate land where people and animals have all disappeared.” Yet in the empty streets of Jerusalem, and Judah’s other towns, there will be heard once more the sounds of joy and laughter. The joyful voices of bridegrooms and brides will be heard again, along with the joyous songs of people bringing thanksgiving offerings to the Lord.
They will sing,
“Give thanks to the Lord of Heaven’s Armies,
for the Lord is good.
HIs faithful love endures forever!” (Jeremiah 33:10-11 NLT)