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Tuesday, July 24, 2012

When Toasted is Where You've Arrived.

I wrote this a few weeks ago, but I don't feel the same way as I did. I'm not completely out of the woods though. My reason for writing was to describe what it felt like. It was an authentic portrayal of what was going on. I'm making changes and recovering. Just so you know. Also, my father-in-law died a few days after writing this as well. Being with family took the emotional focus off me. It helped.

 I'm sitting in one of the front bedrooms of my mother-in-law's lovely family summer house in Ventnor, New Jersey. We've spent many a summer vacation here. On vacation here we are again.

To be completely honest, I can't remember when I've needed a two-week summer vacation more than this one. In fact, I've gone along without a substantial vacation at all beyond a jam-packed week, a day here or a long weekend there. It's not been unusual for me to work extended strings of week's with no day-off whatsoever. The flow of my work has lent itself to such a pace as rule. Nobody but me is requiring it.

But what I've been experiencing feels different, and very uncomfortable.

I realized a few weeks back I'd headed into a spiritual, emotional, psychological, creative, mental and relational vacuum people euphemistically refer to as being toasted (I'm using the slang term in the sense that most of my internal circuits are fried, not in the sense I'm higher than a kite, or I'm going to die). Here's what it's felt like the last month or so:

1. I am tired, really spent on many levels.

2. I'm emotionally at my limit in terms of how much I can navigate people's (non-counseling related) stuff right now. I've never been there before to this degree. The reality is, I have fumes in the emotional IQ tank right now. At the worst, it has been traumatizing of late for me to be around painful people stuff. (What has been able to neutralize the negative effects some is the life I see in very talented imagineurians who are stepping to the plate and owning the work we share). Such a response is still living a dream for me.

3. I turned off my sense of humor; it's not safe to let it respond naturally; sometimes people get hurt when I do. I can't remember experiencing that before.

4. My creative juices seem congealed, so there is little insight or imagining taking place. It feels just not present.My left-brain is standing guard, so my right brain is quiet.

5. My mind has no savor for problem-solving or thinking through a difficult issue. In fact, it feels on autopilot, skimming the surface of what I perceive, never landing anywhere for a closer look.

6. Playing music for me is flat and uninspiring of late with the exception of practicing mechanics. In fact, my drumming is less creatively "playful" or adventurous than I'm capable.

7. I have meager patience, transactional flexibility, forbearance, and ""roll with the punches latitude giving" than is characteristic of me. My nerves jangle and over-fire unpleasantly way too much.

8. I find myself longing repeatedly to be away in the woods, sitting by a lake or the ocean, driving up north into Vermont, prayerwalking in the very early morning with Tricia, or standing atop a peak looking at a breathtaking vista.

9. I've noticed I'm more jazzed when reading about ministry innovation than ministering in the trenches day in and day out. I care, but I'm empty.

Just so you know,  having been seriously depressed at least once in my life, I recognize the difference between what I'm experiencing of late, and the "slough of despond."  I'm not depressed. I'm just toasted at every circuit because of being way overexposed and foolishly overextended. Prudent guarding and balance were necessary, but absent.

The frustrating reality for me is I let the toasting creep up. I didn't notice the warning signs of growing irritability, anxiety flashes, emotional numbness, and protective withdrawal. I'm a counselor and can name that stuff  in others quickly, but sadly be utterly oblivious to the subtle changes wrapping my heart. I deeply believe in what God has called us to do in Northampton and gave 110%. Neither imagine/Northampton nor the Kingdom mission God has given needs or requires my 110%. For my part, it needs me to be submitted to Christ, and wise about how much I can give and how often, so as to stay the course for as long as he has me involved. Prematurely flaming out and toasting is just foolish and sinful.

So getting to be away here in Ventnor with Tricia, Dan and Lindsay and their beautiful family (including new baby granddaughter, Piper Rose) and later in the week, daughters Eslie and Alyn, is a balm and a sanctuary. I'm nobody recognizable here. I just get to be a 63 year-old husband, father and grandfather: walking on the boardwalk, being at the beach, swimming, having great meals together, sitting on the front porch under the awnings; walking at sun-up and/or sunset with Tricia, playing with my full-of-life grandchildren, hanging out with my kids, riding bikes, napping, reading, eating ice cream, and doing nothing is what I need right now. Grace abounds!

I do want the missional and creative juices flowing again, but with more sensibility, releasing and wisdom. I let me get ahead of myself (and Jesus I suspect) way too often. I will seek balance and rest to make sure I don't put myself in the toaster again. I want a long race, not a 220 ending with a blown Achille's tendon..

And my more artistic self needs to stumble again upon startling beauty all around me, touch the smoothed edges of perfect symmetry; smell the fresh breezes of  life made living by the Life waiting with the door ajar and the light on; taste the richest flavors of unsullied goodness; and be stopped in my sorry tracks by the poetry of illimitable hope.

I'll get there, but in a different way I suspect, than I've yielded to up to now.
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