My 4-year-old daughter has been playing doctor in our backyard lately. A few weeks ago, she chased down her brother with a stick, yelling, “Come back here! It’s time for your rapid test!” Now, my 18mo has had 6 (yes 6) COVID tests and has taken them like a champ … but there was no way he was getting near that stick.
Last night, Dr. Jaremko’s clinic expanded its patient base. Dr. Jaremko lined us all up on the intake bench – little brother, mommy, and daddy. She took our temperatures before we were permitted to enter. Holding up an old flip phone to our foreheads, she pronounced: “98.5 you can enter. 98.3 you are good. 98.6 you can go in.” Then she saw each patient one at a time.
I was chosen to go first (I did give her life, after all). “What is wrong with you, Mommy?” She asked as she held a giant leaf in her hand and pretended to take notes.
“I’m tired,” I said.
“Hmmmm,” she said, “There’s nothing I can do about that. What else is wrong with you?”
Slightly irritated at the lack of diagnosis, I held up my sad looking right ring finger. “My finger doesn’t bend right,” I said.
“We can fix that,” she said, grabbing my hand and pulling me over to the azalea bush AKA the X-ray machine. She X-rayed my finger and determined my treatment. She administered an herbal remedy: rub a leaf on it.
“All better” the doctor announced. “Now what else is wrong with you?”
“I’m still tired,” I tried again.
“I already told you. We can’t fix that here.”
No amount of X-rays or leaf rubbing can fix this type of tired. Pandemic tired. Parenting tired. Work tired. 2020/2021 tired. Life tired. We are tired, my friends. Exhausted and stretched beyond what we thought possible. The type of tired doesn’t seem to have a cure. I don’t know about you, but even a nap doesn’t even help me. In fact, a little extra sleep seems to make me even more tired. Perhaps my body thinks: yes, that’s what we need … get us more of that. Yet with all the worries and stresses we hold, rest eludes us.
The New York Times recently published an article describing the kind of tired we are all experiencing as “languishing.” Several of my friends on social media posted the article and I probably clicked on the link 15 times. I kept opening it and trying to read it. But every time I did, my eyes hurt, or my brain fogged up, or I couldn’t concentrate, or some other device dinged. Finally on my last click, I saw there was an option to listen to the author read the article. I clicked the audio story, hung my head in my hands, and listened. Turns out I’m languishing. I’m languishing so much that I can’t even read an article about languishing. (You can read it or listen to it here: https://www.nytimes.com/2021/04/19/well/mind/covid-mental-health-languishing.html)
Adam Grant writes in the article: “Languishing is a sense of stagnation and emptiness. It feels as if you’re muddling through your days, looking at your life through a foggy windshield. And it might be the dominant emotion of 2021.” Muddling. Foggy. Stagnation. Emptiness. What is wrong with me, we ask? We’re languishing. We’re just getting through each day, trying to figure out what in the world to do.
After pastoring and parenting in a pandemic for over a year, there are some days when I think: I can’t do one more minute of this. There are other days when I think: we can do this! Thursday was BOTH of those days.
I’ve been feeling extra tired lately and I’ve been trying to get to the bottom of its source. I’ve felt stuck. Stuck in this particular place in the pandemic, stuck in this house, stuck on this corner, stuck with few people in the sanctuary, more people worshipping online, and others perhaps getting lost along the way. I kept asking can we get out of this stuck-i-ness? So, I’ve spent the last weeks praying, talking, listening, researching, reading, meeting, and praying. This week, our church leadership decided to take a few first steps forward, hoping to inspire us out of our place of stuck. We voted. I wrote a letter. We sent it out. I breathed a bit of a sigh.
An hour after the letter went out, I sat in my backyard, feeling good. From there, I had a virtual appointment with my therapist (yes, I have one). We celebrated that I had figured out how to take my languishing and turn it into flourishing. It felt good. The sun was shining. I sat in my backyard, feeling energy ebb back in. We can do this, I thought again. What’s wrong with us? Nothing, if we can do it together.
Then I looked at my phone… A lot had happened in the last hour. The CDC had announced non-vaccinated ppl could go mask-less, inside and outside. On my phone were messages from pastor friends, fretting about what this could mean for their churches with some vaccinated and some not. There were messages from parent friends, worried about what this could mean for their unvaccinated children’s health.
I looked up to the blue sunny sky above me and said to God: “You couldn’t give me more than an hour, huh?”
As I read and responded to the messages of my friends and colleagues, my own anxiety and exhaustion rose back with them. We are tired. Tired of the unknown. Tired of conflicting information. Tired of mask wars. Tired of keeping safe. Tired of getting exposed. Tired of worrying. Tired of protecting. Tired of taking care. Tired of polarization. Tired of livestreams and hybrids. Tired of zooms. Tired of technology. Tired of trying to figure out how to make this work. Tired of creative thinking. Tired of being tired.
Jesus tells us in Matthew 28:11, “Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.” So, we put our weary souls in the one place that offers true rest. We look up to the sky and notice all that God has given us to make it through each day.
At the end of my session at Dr. Jaremko’s backyard clinic, I was told she had a remedy that would cure everything. She told me to stand by the fence and wait. The doctor ran away and came running back full force with a giant yoga ball, which she promptly kicked straight at me. BAM! Right in the stomach. “You’re cured,” she proclaimed! I fell on the ground laughing. My daughter then jumped on me, hugging me, and giggling. Then my son came running from across the yard and jumped on the pile. I hugged and tickled them, and we laughed.
I might not be cured… but this will do for now. For, life might just be a giant yoga ball to the gut right now. So maybe the only cure for the daily grind is laughter.
So, my dear friend, what is wrong with you?