It’s taken me three weeks to write this blog. And it is my latest example of living day after day and week after week at our limit.
I am reminded of the story of Esther when she has learned that her people, the Jewish people, are in big trouble. They are a breath or two away from being destroyed by genocide. She is the queen but she is limited. Her cousin has just told her the plans that have been made to destroy the Jews and here is Esther’s frustrated response:
10 In reply Esther ordered Hathach to tell Mordecai: 11 “All the king’s officials and the people in his provinces know that there’s a single law in a case like this. Any man or woman who comes to the king in the inner courtyard without being called is to be put to death. Only the person to whom the king holds out the gold scepter may live. In my case, I haven’t been called to come to the king for the past thirty days.”– Esther 4:9-11 CEB
Esther is between a rock and a hard place. She needs to do something to save her people but accessing the king is easier said than done. She could be killed for simply calling on the King uninvited. She is between a rock and a hard place. Nothing is easy for her.
However in her situation – it is for a moment in time. She figures out a solution and then acts. I feel like Esther except It’s not just one problem to solve, it’s twenty. And it feels like it comes in waves. It’s like Groundhog Day meets Esther.
Things that used to be easy for me are not anymore. Everything takes more and more effort. Things I used to enjoy doing require my best self-pep talk to get started. Those of you who know me know this is not typically how I roll. And I’ve been feeling this way for about two months now. Maybe you have had the same thing happen to you. For myself, I navigated the first several months of the COVID Disruption thriving on the stress of it all, problem solving, exploring new ways of doing things. It wasn’t fun but it wasn’t completely draining. And then it was like I hit a wall and everything changed. A colleague shared an article with me a few weeks ago and the light bulb went off. The title of the article is “Your ‘Surge Capacity’ Is Depleted -It’s Why You Feel Awful” by Tara Haelle.
This article explains what I think many of us have been experiencing. Early on we were using “surge capacity” to operate as we navigated our new reality. Surge capacity is how our body naturally responds mentally and physically in short term stressful situations, like natural disasters. Having a well-adapted surge capacity is critical for our survival. The problem is, this is designed to function for a short term period, not indefinitely.
A pandemic creates more of a long term problem to survive. And now we must learn both that our surge capacity is only designed for short periods and how to recharge our surge capacity. Over time, our surge capacity starts shorting out. We lose our ability to focus, be motivated, and start wondering if we are falling victim to a round of depression or burnout.
This has been particularly difficult for high achievers who feel lost in the ambiguity of a muddled future, lack of routine, and completely upended systems and processes. It’s kind of hard to solve problems that for the moment, don’t really have solutions yet.
The article talks about the concept of ambiguous loss. Friends, we have experienced so much loss in the last six months that I can’t even begin to start listing them. Every one of us has had multiple losses and the kind of losses that seem indefinite and utterly disruptive. Loss of freedom. Loss of routine. Loss of celebrations. Loss of educating our children at our best. Loss of connection. Loss of finances (unless your resources are mostly in the stock market). And for us, the most painful loss of all is worshipping God in the church building.
I encourage you to read the article to see her suggestions for building back up your surge capacity (click on the title of the article above). They are all different ways of being kind to yourself and managing expectations so that you don’t try and function now like you did 7 months ago.
What I do know is that like Esther, we do have within us the capacity to stop, rest, reset, and then keep going. Esther found a way, a very creative way (if you haven’t read that story in the while I encourage you to find it in the Old Testament and check out her resourcefulness) to get unstuck and to persevere. When she was at her limits, with the help of those closest to her, and some outside of the box thinking, and a lot of prayer and fasting, she found a way.
I figure, I don’t have to save my people from genocide, I just need to finish this blog. I can do it. And I did. Even if it’s two weeks late.
I pray if you are feeling out of sorts that you can find a way to renew your surge capacity. We have a while longer to go in this. Not only be kind to yourself. But be kind to others. Their surge capacity may be on the fritz, too.
Grace and Peace,