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Archive for the ‘Mental Health’ Category

I am having difficulty wrapping my head around the news of the remains of 215 children being found behind a former Indian Residential School in Kamloops. Yesterday, after I finished my sermon for Trinity Sunday I went for a walk in one of my favourite places and listened for the sound of the wind.

As a settler and a priest in the Church I feel deep shame that there were children taken from their parents and forced to speak a language they did not understand. They lost their culture, their language and their traditions. Many families were devastated. And that trauma has proven to be generational. Addiction, suicide, depression, a myriad of other symptoms and illness related to trauma.

I cannot find the words to express how I am feeling, other than profound shame.

I cannot figure out how to shut off my brain so I can rest.

I do not know what to do to make amends and to express my outrage and grief.

215 children.

430 parents who were told God knows what about their child’s death? Were they told at all?

860 grandparents who were denied the opportunity to share their language and culture. To impart the stories of their families to ensure those children would become knowledge and language keepers.

Countless siblings and relations who were unable to grieve.

And so, what do we do?

What can we do?

I feel heartsick, but I do not know if I have the right to feel that way, as a settler.

I received a letter from the Reverend Murray Pruden, the National Executive Minister for Indigenous Ministries and Justice with the United Church of Canada. In it was a prayer he wrote.

We give thanks for this day and each day you grant us life to walk on this great land, our Mother.
Give us the heart and strength to come together in prayer in time of mourning, reflection and peace.
The news we have heard these last few days of our relations, families, the children who have been
physically taken away from us and have now been found.
And with this news, we grieve for their memory, for their struggle, for their spirit.
We pray for good understanding, guidance and love for all our families and communities who will need the direction and resolution at this time.
And we come together in prayer and ask for your light to guide us to be a part of that needed peace, support and resolve for everyone who is reacting to this great tragedy in our Indigenous Nations of this great land.
Creator be with us, allow us to be brave. Allow us to be strong. Allow us to be gentle to one another.
Allow us to be humble. But most of all, allow us to be like the Creator’s love.
Peace be with us, we lift up our prayers to you. In love, trust and truth, peace be with us all. In Jesus name. Amen.

Reverend Murray Pruden, National Executive Minister for Indigenous Ministries and Justice, United Church of Canada

We now know of the 215 lost children. I struggle to grasp that there may be more children that we do not yet know found in mass graves behind other former Indian Residential Schools.

Why, dear God, why?

215 children

I need to re-read the recommendations of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. There is more that I can do. I want to engage my Parish and teach about the horror of residential schools, as I suspect, there are many who do not know the history of the I.R.S. and the Church’s roll in that atrocity.

A few years ago I watched “Children of God”, a musical written about a Residential School in Northern Ontario. Corey Payette was the driving force behind Children of God, in writing both the music and dialogue for “Children of God”. At the beginning of the evening, before the show officially started, several school-aged children came up and introduced themselves in English and in Ktunaxa…a language which was on the verge of being lost, but thanks to the language keepers, it has been preserved and is being taught once again.

At the end of the show the actors are singing Gimikwenden Ina “Do you remember” a haunting song. During the show a young girl is raped and is forced to endure an abortion. The shame she feels for the dishonour brought to her family forces her to take her life. In singing Gimikwenden Ina, this young woman is sung to the next life. She appears at the edge of the stage, dressed in red and as the song is sung, she moves towards the front of the stage and out the side stage door. By this point the entire audience is standing, holding hands and singing the chorus of the song repeatedly. Tears unabashedly streaming down our faces – emotions mixed and raw.

The past two days I’ve been listening to music from Children of God. And I break open. I want to cry, to release the emotions I cannot quite express, but as of yet I am unable.

I encourage you to watch this and let the raw emotion wash over you.

Think of those 215 children with whom the Creator has remained.

Those 215 children who can now rest in peace.

The families of these 215 children who will never know why.

The Vancouver Art Gallery had a display of 215 pairs of children’s shoes as a memorial for the 215 children found. Other makeshift memorials have been set up across Canada. Flags have been lowered to half-mast.

It is something. But is it enough?

Blessed and Wise Creator, ignite the anger in me, to act. Help me to learn what to do and how to do it to keep the message of the cultural genocide known, so those atrocities will never again be repeated. Teach me what to do with my shame and my guilt.

Gimikwenden Ina – I will remember.

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The past year has been a pain in the…um…neck. Let’s go with neck. A lot of tragedy. A lot of loss and yet, also a lot of laughter. Learning new things. Engaging in new ways of being Church and doing ministry. Lately I’ve been paring down my “stuff” because I realised I don’t need much.

I never imagined I would live to fifty years of age. Now I’m beginning to think about retirement, and again, I can’t imagine living to 65, so I’m hoping/planning/daydreaming that I will be able to retire at 60, buy a cargo van, renovate it into a tiny house on wheels and go travel. I hope beyond hope, that the pandemic will be a distant memory in six and a half years.

Don’t get me wrong, I love what I do. Yet I also realise that I am the number one expense for both Churches in my Parish. Our congregation is aging, and it is naive to think that we will return completely to how things were pre-COVID. Our online Worship has been invigorating and life-giving, yet it also excludes people who are unable to access technology, even though they could join us by telephone.

I made two goals for 2020/2021. First goal is to maintain status quo with respect to Worship. Not take on any new projects or over-tax my time and energy. I’ve only got so much to give and I have a bad habit of giving beyond my capacity. Which isn’t good for anyone. The second goal is to treat myself with the same respect I treat my congregation, in other words, putting myself first. Setting boundaries. Knowing my limits. No apologizing for saying no. No guilt or explanation needed.

I am setting time aside every day to daydream, sometimes for a few minutes, sometimes as long as an hour. I think of the type of van I want to get, what I will build, what I will need and what I will want for the rig. I’ve been watching YouTube videos and researching portable power sources online. If all goes well, I’m planning to go back East this summer, as I was unable last summer. If it is possible, I’m going to car camp across the country, staying in Canada. I’ll take my time, sleep (comfortably) in my car and see if this is something I can actually do. If nothing else, it will be an adventure!

My doctor raised the dose of my antidepressant a week ago. I’m not sure if it’s working, but it has only been a week. I want to fight the brain fog and fatigue, caused mostly by grief. Raising the dose of my antidepressant won’t do that, but it may give me more energy to do that holy and sacred work.

So here I am. My Beloved’s birthday is Sunday. He would have been 61. I miss him so much, at times if physically hurts. But here I am, doing my best. Taking it one moment at a time.

I journal every night. I pray almost constantly. I don’t usually speak aloud to God, but rather, open my heart so she can hear me at my innermost core. That has brought me peace and for that I am incredibly grateful. Adopting Sir Vincent has also been a gift. Even though he can be a jerk (I mean, we can all be jerks) he is my grumpy olde jerk. And he’s begun giving me not so subtle hints when he wants my attention. He will climb onto the desk and lay across the keyboard, or he will climb on my lap and do the same, while demanding I scratch his head. Subtle, yet affective.

I wonder if there will be a world in which ministry can go mobile? A community of clerics living the van life where we travel from place to place providing ministry in person and online? With balanced days, less financial burdens and more self-care. Sounds ideal. Now if we could just do something about the frigid winters in Canada. 🙂

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I’m sure most of you are familiar with the African proverb, “it takes a village to raise a child”. In making changes, both small and significant, I have realised that it takes a team to keep me sane, and upright…well, unless gravity intervenes.

A couple of weeks ago I was at the chiropractor for my bi-weekly visit. At that visit he was going through diagnostic tests that are done twice a year. They measure my biochemistry among other things, and can show cause and effect to how I’m doing. I’m not sure exactly what it measures, but he can read my stress, and life balance, in the results. Needless to say, given how the last couple of months have gone, the results weren’t great.

So we talked about it. About what’s been happening in my life. About how I need to make changes within myself before I can expect anything else to change.

My physiotherapist is also an amazing resource. And she’s a parishioner. She, her husband and their lovely dog join us by Zoom for Worship some Sunday mornings. And it’s great. She and I also talk about how my body responds to stress and what I can do to help with physical and joint issues, which right now, are many.

I have the best family doctor. She is much younger than I am and we have a very open relationship. She knows I will advocate for myself and she will call me out when I’m not doing what I should be doing. A couple of weeks ago I was not doing well at all. And she called me on it. So, now I’m taking a pill to help relax me enough to sleep. The pill works well…when I remember to take it at the best time, not four hours later. Ugh.

My Spiritual Advisor is a former mentor and current close and trusted friend. She lives in Ontario and will also challenge me when I’m not at my best, and will call me out, on what I need to do to be at my best. The other night we spent a couple of hours crying together over the phone, as I realised that I need to make myself a priority. I need to be as much of a priority as my Parish. Now where you, kind reader may be saying “Well, duh”; to me, this was an extraordinary realisation.

I also realise how fortunate I am to live in Canada, with universal health care and a great set of medical and dental benefits from my employer; to enable me to visit the chiropractor, and physiotherapist without going bankrupt. To be able to talk to my family doctor, or go to the emergency room and not need a loan to do so.

Each year I am required to write up a set of Goals and Objectives, for myself and to measure my parish leadership. At the end of the year I go through them with a committee, whose sole focus is ensuring I feel supported. When I sat down to go through the goals for 2019-2020, I was certain I had not achieved most of them, because of medical leave early in 2020 and because of COVID-19. When I stepped back to look at what we did accomplish I was astounded. Which is fodder for another blog post…

I came up with just two goals for 2021-2022. The first is to maintain status quo with respect to my workload. Focusing on Worship, Liturgical and Homiletic Preparation, crisis Pastoral care and other life milestones, such as baptism, weddings and funerals. In other words: hatch, match and dispatch. The second goal is to be more mindful with how I care for myself so I don’t end up on the knife’s edge again. Both goals were received enthusiastically.

I’m learning that I need to follow a routine if I’m going to be at my best. I need to wake up and go to sleep at the same time each day, regardless of what day it is. I can nap in the middle of the day, but I need to observe the same waking and sleeping times.

I’m learning that my body is unreliable in triggering hunger. In the morning I tend to feel nauseous, a side effect of medication and M.E. On days when I’m at the office, I don’t pack myself lunch or snacks or anything. And sometimes I find myself walking through the door at 4:00 pm feeling unsteady and somewhat lightheaded. Well, duh.

SO, the plan is that when I am going to be working at the office, I will pack (mostly) healthy snacks in my work bag as well as some water. I will endeavour to eat in the morning, and will aim for two meals a day. On days when I’m working from home or enjoying the Sabbath, I will again aim for two meals a day, plus snacks.

Every day I will go outside. Even if it is to smell the air and walk around the block, I will get outside and move my body.

I will take breaks when working, rather than pushing through, then realising it’s 9:00 pm and I haven’t eaten or moved in several hours.

Priority one is sleep. Once I have that balance achieved, it should help the other priorities fall into place, such as journaling daily, intentional daily prayer, intentional meditative practice, stretching and breathing exercises. Being gentle and loving with my body. Curbing negative self-talk, and treating myself with the same kindness I treat those I love.

My hope, is that in six months, I will be feeling and looking much better. Right now I’m weary and look as though I’ve been “dragged through hedge, backwards” as my Mam is fond of saying. In other words, I look as lousy as I feel.

But hey, I’m grieving after suppressing that grief. Grieving takes time, and so does healing. And because it’s written down and shared with several people, you included, dear reader, I will now be more accountable, to myself and to you.

So, you can expect more frequent posts, I won’t commit to how frequent, but definitely more than once a month.

And now I will wash my face, brush my teeth and head to bed where I will journal and listen to a daily meditation. And then hopefully fall asleep to the sound of my cat purring.

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This is the time of year when social media feeds are filled with resolutions and promises for new life and new living. A time to say “out with the old” and “in with the new”. If there’s anything that 2020 has taught me is that we cannot possibly imagine what the future holds.

In January I prepared myself to have surgery. I was spayed in the middle of the month, and had to take six weeks off. I’m not good at sitting still to start with. And doctor’s orders made it only marginally more do-able. So, I had surgery, all went well, waited on biopsy results. Ovarian cancer. The good news was that those were biopsies of already removed ovaries. So, yay! I stayed with a friend for the first four weeks and struggled with pain management, sleep management and trying not to do too much. So I came home and the Parish gifted me with a meal-train meaning every evening between 5:00 and 6:00 pm a freshly cooked meal was delivered to my door. That lasted for two weeks and was fabulous!

February I was back to work and dove in with back to back AGM’s. It was Lenten Planning, Book Study, Bible Study and Worship Services. Worshipping at 9:00 am at the Anglican Church and 11:00 am at the United Church. Learning a new hymn book and new ways of worshipping. Celebrating Communion in a different yet familiar way. And just when we were getting into the swing of things there was a virus that was developing and spreading in China.

March saw us ramping up for Holy Week and Easter, listening to the news with fear as it seemed that this virus was now in Europe and would eventually make it’s way to North America. Discussions were held with respect to suspending Worship and investigating online Worship. Zoom. And then all hell let loose. On the 18th of March we were ordered to shutter the buildings. Pivoted to online worship, then added slides, all the time thinking we were going to be back in the building in time for Holy Week, then for Easter, then for Pentecost. Then someone finally said it…it will be months, if not years.

April, May, June all went in a blur and it was obvious that I would not be able to go to Ontario in August to visit my family, friends and my Beloved. I was gutted. I visited a friend on the other side of B.C. and was more hyper-aware of everywhere I was going then ever before. I brought home a friend’s senior cat, Vinnie, who has been a constant companion since June.

The summer meant taking some vacation but not going far. I took two weeks, then another week, and banked a fourth week, hoping I could travel in the fall or at the end of the year. Nope.

My Beloved and I talked by phone every week, sometimes more often. We were both struggling with what would happen if either of us contracted COVID-19. He had respiratory issues and I am immuno-compromised. My M.E. was out of control due to the constant stress on the body and mind.

I felt as though I was running as fast as I could and remaining, firmly in the same place. My mental health was suffering. Sleep began to be affected and I heard the word “Self Care” used a lot by my family doctor as well as my new therapist. September loomed and the Joint Church Committee made a decision to celebrate our First Anniversary of Shared Ministry the last Sunday in August in what would be a communion service. The first communion for us since the 14th of March. It was a simple, yet powerful online service with a half dozen people in the Church providing worship leadership.

Those same words had been used to describe the Holy Week and Easter Services, simple, yet powerful. We would send out a Zoom link for Worship every Saturday and on Sunday we would have 20 – 25 people, with those numbers steadily climbing to close to 50. We have folks from Fernie, from the Elk Valley, from other parts of B.C., and other parts of Ontario. We have folks from Alberta, Montana and even England. And over those ten months we have become a Parish Community. We have become family.

Every Saturday night I would hear from my Beloved. We would talk about his email reflection and I would read him my Sermon. We would talk about the state of the world, the rioting, Black Lives Matter, white priviledge, systemic racism, the upcoming U.S. election and what the world was looking like. On the 20th of November we chatted in the afternoon. Neither of us were feeling great, so we said goodbye and agreed to talk that next day. Except we didn’t talk that next day. He died.

His death broke me open as I couldn’t make the trip to his funeral. I was devastated that I couldn’t be there in person. I had made him a promise a decade ago that I would arrange his funeral and would preach/deliver the eulogy. It was the most difficult thing I have ever written, and delivered. I told the truth, which is what he wanted me to do.

The night of his funeral, a parishioner died by suicide. He was someone who struggled with depression and was bipolar. We would talk about depression with gallows humour, as one does. When his wife called me I was in shock. She wanted the funeral to be on their wedding anniversary, the 24th of December. So, that’s what we did. His funeral at 10:30 am, following a procession of fire trucks from his home to the Church, passing their studio one final time. It was a poignant service with people tuning in by Zoom from Canada and England.

Christmas was very different. Three completely different services on Christmas Eve, one on Christmas Day. By the time I got home from Christmas Eve Service at 10:00 pm I was shattered. I tried to watch a movie, but couldn’t settle into it. So I gave up, went to bed, woke up the next morning and after washing my face and brushing my teeth, I celebrated Christmas Day Communion with 30 people online, broadcasting from my flat.

My mental health is fragile. I’m resting as much as I can. I’m working at a slower pace. This was solidified when I fell down a flight of stairs (only about 6, indoor, carpeted stairs) on Tuesday. December has always been a difficult month, gravity-wise. I scuffed up both knees and landed on my nose. It’s not broken, but I will have lovely bruises under my eyes. I will find out just how skilled I am at concealer makeup.

What I have learned is this…no matter how much you do, there will be someone who is in awe of what you’re doing. No matter how much you do, you will feel insignificant in comparison with someone else. The entire world is in a state of stress and prolonged stress isn’t good for anyone.

Over the past week I have set up an office at the United Church and at the Anglican Church. I have reference books and files there that I don’t have at home, which means if I wake up in the middle of the night and want to work, I can’t as easily as before. I’m hoping this will mean I can try new things, read fiction, listen to a podcast, take up drawing. Learn some skills and hobbies rather than working all the time. Learn to balance life and work.

Learn that taking a nap is important and sometimes necessary. Learn that eating proper food is important. Learn that having friends in important. Learn that grieving takes a long time and, like God, works on it’s own time (much to my obvious chagrin).

My body hurts. My nose is swollen. I ache everywhere. And I feel numb. I miss my Beloved. I write in a journal every night to him. It helps. I haven’t yet cried for him. I know it will come, when the time is right. Last Christmas, among other things, he gave me a cloth cozy for hot drinks. It’s green quilted fabric and I take it everywhere with me. It’s amazing. Except I’ve lost it. Now, usually I don’t freak out about physical things. However, this thing I am freaking out about.

I’ve checked the pocket of every coat. The inside of every handbag. In my work bag. I’ve checked the nooks and crannies of my car, my flat, both Church offices. I asked a friend if I left it at her place when I was last there. I pray to St. Anthony that it is there because if not I will be devastated. Not because of what it is…but because it came from him, and he’ll never be able to give me another.

It feels like, if I have lost it, I’ll have lost another piece of him.

Anyway, I will keep looking, if I am meant to find it again I will. Hopefully my friend has it and all shall be well. And if not, I’ll learn the lesson in that too, eventually.

SO, here’s to balance. Here’s to finding joy in the small things. Here’s to plodding along one step at a time, one day at a time. Here’s to remaining kind. Here’s to therapeutic naps, weighted blankets, new bedding and purring cats. Here’s to 2021.

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Today is my 53rd birthday. I don’t usually make a big deal of my birthday. When I turned 50, the Parish decided a big deal needed to be made and so, with the duplicitous support of many people, a surprise party was planned. And I was truly surprised! Coupled with the pounding heart at the bellowing of “Surprise” I remember why I don’t like surprises. I know that sounds ungrateful. I don’t mean for it to. I was very touched that the Parish and community decided a milestone birthday would not pass without celebration.

This year’s acknowledgment has been very different. I’m on retreat, staying with a friend, as my customary “pre-Advent” retreat. I had hoped to be visiting another friend who lives a 2-day drive away, but with COVID-19, it’s unsafe to travel far from home. We are encouraged to keep our bubbles small. And so, I rearranged plans and I’m an hour from home, rather than 2-days from home.

On Sunday I got the phone call you dread getting. My Beloved had died the night before. I am thankful it was a friend who called because I must have asked her to repeat herself a half dozen times. We hung up from each other, I drove to Church in a daze and we had Worship together. As the day wore on I felt like I was separated from my body. My feet felt like they were made of lead. I couldn’t concentrate and I felt as though my heart would shatter.

My Beloved had given me instructions many years ago, when I still lived in Ontario, as to what his funeral wishes were. When I moved West he asked me just before I moved and again, last summer, when I was unable to go to Ontario for vacation, he asked me again.

He told me a few times that he didn’t think he would ever see me again. He didn’t think he would ever see his children again. He did not expect to outlive the pandemic. And, unfortunately, he was right.

He and I both struggled with mental health issues. We were sounding boards and confidantes for each other. I am very grateful I have a counselling appointment tomorrow morning.

I have emailed his daughter and the Dean of the Cathedral. Plans are in place for the date and time of the service. I met with the Dean this morning by Zoom. I intentionally chose today as a reminder of a special day. Today is the day when I was able to keep a promise that I’d been asked a dozen years ago.

My Beloved’s service will be simple, small and profound. Both of his children want to speak, yet I will do the Sermon and Eulogy.

At the end of his service will be a song he has loved for a very long time. “Old and Wise” by the Alan Parsons Project. The lyrics spoke to him about his love of family and friends. Check it out.

My natal anniversary will be simple. I like simple. In comfy clothes, easy food, a decadent cake, and possibly a movie on TV. May even celebrate with an early night.

We continue to walk though this strange time. It is not how I had imagined my birthday would be. But here it is. Another trip around the sun. I’m curious what this next 12 months will hold. And I’m certain it will be different than this year.

For friendship, for family, for love, for fresh air, for random dogs to pet and geriatric snoring cats, for the love of God and the beauty of the earth, and the overall feeling that people are, for the most part, inherently good, I give thanks.

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Today is the 11th of November. It’s Remembrance Day. I woke up this morning with bright sun shining off the snow that fell yesterday, and I felt numb. That’s been a common sensation lately. There’s part of me that wants to rage and weep, to cry and scream, to shout and curse, and yet I’m unable to do any of those things.

I got dressed very warm to go to the Cemetery Cenotaph today. Usually I’m in full Legion Uniform with a black wool funeral cope, a black beret and black gloves. Today I dressed in long underwear, a pair of black tights, a long sleeved white top, cassock and surplice, two pairs of socks, funeral cope, beret and gloves. Poppy and mask.

My friend and neighbour drove me to the Cemetery and we arrived to see a swath of snow removed to make a walk-way for those who would be laying wreaths. The Communications person for the local Legion branch was there with her iPad and iPhone ready to record and broadcast the service. A reporter from our weekly paper was also there.

I chatted with the lady who was giving a speech this year. She does every year and she is truly gifted in her ability to write. We saw flashing lights from the corner of our eyes and the motorcade had begun. Firefighters in the first two vehicles, then about a dozen vehicles, with the RCMP bringing up the rear, also with lights flashing. It was a mesmerizing sight.

People exited their vehicles, everyone was masked, most in uniforms of various descriptions. A veteran from each branch of the service stood at the head or foot of a soldier’s grave. Once we were all in place, our soloist began with O Canada, his baritone voice clear and rich. He sang our national anthem the way I have become accustomed, half in English and half in French. There was a moment of silence then the bugle recording sounded the last post. We observed two minutes of silence, a recording of a piper played a lament, then reveille was sounded.

In the distance the Church bell rung, indicating it was 11:00 a.m. We began a little early, but I don’t think anyone noticed. I heard my name called and I went to the podium and read from Micah 4.1-5 and a prayer I wrote yesterday. Then I put my mask back on and walked back to where I had been standing.

Jennifer read her speech and it was awesome. She had researched some of the soldiers buried in the veteran’s section of the cemetery. She reflected on what their funerals would have resembled, with a horse-drawn hearse. She spoke of the brave, the survivors, those who returned injured and broken. She named PTSD and the respect all of our soldiers deserve, from yesterday, today and into tomorrow.

Then it was time for the wreaths to be laid. As the names were being read out a flock of birds began to sing and fly. I don’t know what kind of birds they were, but they were beautiful framed against the grey sky. It was overcast so we couldn’t see the Three Sisters (mountains) but they had been described in Jennifer’s speech and those of us who have lived in this valley for awhile have all seen them.

From where I stood I saw young veterans whose memories of Afghanistan are still fresh. I saw old veterans whose memories of peace keeping and of active service were just beneath the surface of their eyes. There were firefighters, both professional and volunteer. Conservation officers and regional and local personnel. The Silver Cross Mother laid her wreath first and when she removed the poppy from her lapel, kissed it through her mask and pinned it to the wreath, I counted 8 other poppies.

In all about 18 wreaths were laid, and then it was time to sing God Save the Queen and depart. Our soloist, Karl, sang two verses of the song. We sang along with verse one, but he lost us in the second verse. I hummed beneath my mask. He turned suddenly when he’d finished the second verse and Jennifer smiled, thanked everyone for coming then Oscar told everyone to return to their cars, and follow one another out of the cemetery. Apparently Karl had forgotten the third verse of God Save the Queen and was upset about that. I told him I didn’t realize there WAS a third verse to God Save the Queen. He head learned it for today.

A couple of veterans came over to say hello as we headed back to our vehicles. We lamented that we couldn’t go to Rocky Mountain Village for the brief service we do each year, but we all understand why. Hopefully next year.

As the wreaths were being laid, I thought back on the days when I was in my 20’s and I’d take the day off work to be in the Colour Party for the Legion, then go back to the branch and bartend for a few hours. None of the men and women I marched with are still alive, as they were in their 60’s and 70’s back then. I’m in my 50’s now.

Jennifer and her husband drove me home and I came in, got out of my formal clothes, pulled on my favourite house socks and did some work. About 3:00 pm I decided my work day was over and I found the movie Passchendaele. I had not watched it before. I’m glad I watched it today.

This was a Remembrance Day unlike any other I’ve experienced. And one I will remember forever.

They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old.

Age shall not weary them, nor the year’s condemn.

At the going down of the sun, and in the morning,

We will remember them. We WILL remember them.

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I’m having the kind of week where it seems I’ve forgotten to recharge my brain and the battery is in the red zone. Every time I leave my flat I make at least one visit back because I’ve forgotten my keys, my purse, my mask or the list of things I need because without it, I’ll invariably forget. Ugh.

We have entered the season of Remembrance. On Sunday we celebrated All Saints Day. At the conclusion of service I switched on a battery powered candle and wrote down the names of those who have died since November 2019. That candle continued to “burn” until this morning.

Last night we had our first “virtual” All Soul’s Service for those who have sustained a death or are simply needing a place to come together and grieve. I lit 30 candles, as that was the number of names I had for those who died recently, and those for whom we had been asked to remember.

The service usually contains a time for individual prayer with anointing and Eucharist. We could not have the full service in Church because it would be longer than the recommended 40 minutes. We are not allowed to touch, so anointing would be out of the question. And online Eucharist is not yet been approved in the Anglican Diocese where I practice my ministry.

So the online service ended up being about 20 minutes, but it also gave us an opportunity to speak to each other.

I’m feeling irritated today, like I can’t focus on the work I need to get done. Part of it, I’m certain, relates to being an empath and feeling other people’s grief and sorrow.

But I suspect part of it is feeling folk’s anxiety about the U.S. Presidential election. I’ve intentionally not listened to any news outlets today. I’ve received multiple emails from different sources reminding me I can “tune in live” to hear the results of the Presidential election. But I’m not going to.

I am going to relight the candles I used last night and sit with them, reading, perhaps journaling, until they extinguish, then I’ll likely go to bed.

The reality is, I’m weary, as I was in my last posting. I slept a lot yesterday and it helped, but I need more.

My flat is a mess, my housework is accumulating, but honestly, I can’t be arsed. I know I’ll get the gumption back up at some point to get it all done. But likely, it won’t be today. And it may not be tomorrow.

I’m going to make a list of things that must be done, as far as worship, the baptism on Saturday, meetings that I must attend this week. And the rest will wait so I can rest.

I have a feeling I’m going to feel irritated until I return my home to order, but right now, sleep and rest is more important than irritation.

I feel that right now I should come with a warning sign “Beware, she’s irritable. Approach with caution”. Or something like that.

But I’ll get there. I always do. (shrug)

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I’m not sure if it’s COVID-19 fatigue, if it’s mental exhaustion, if it’s too many hours in front of a screen, if it’s too little hours asleep, if it’s a CFS/ME flare or just what it is…but I’m weary.

I talked to my counsellor two weeks ago and she asked how I was doing. I default to talking about work, and she always steers me back to how I am doing, outside my vocation. Outside the busy-ness of my life. And I told her I was exhausted. And she gave me the BEST advice.

You see, many of my colleagues, from both denominations, talk about being outside and active. They talk about hiking and boating, of running and kayaking…and I have difficulty finding the energy to shower. My get up and go has got up and gone.

My counsellor told me I need to rest. I need to sleep. I need to listen to my body and when my body tells me to rest, that’s what I need to do. And to stop comparing myself to my colleagues. Also excellent advice.

I’m an empath. It’s difficult to live into this reality when we are not in a time of pandemic. Besides feeling my own “stuff”, being an empath means I feel other peoples “stuff” too. In the last month I’ve had four funerals (three of them in 10 days), and many of them were very challenging.

I learned today of the death of a colleague by suicide and it broke me open. Many of the people I am in contact with in this small community I call home are struggling with mental exhaustion. A colleague framed it this way…he said mental illness is something that can be treated, while mental exhaustion is something completely different. It is something for which there is no cure or fix. And that’s exactly what I’m feeling.

I’m planning a week’s retreat time at the end of November where I’ll escape to the magical place of Away. Vinnie has been interviewing sitters and he’s found a lovely young lady (and her Mum) to order around while I’m away.

My flat is a mess. I have chores to do. And usually these chores would be done in a couple of hours. But it takes me days to do what I could do in little time. I will get it done, because I do not do well in chaos.

Tomorrow I have another appointment with my counsellor which I know will be good. And tomorrow night I’m attending a COVID compliant community event that I’ve been really looking forward to. And that means I will need to rest myself during the day so I can function to make it to the event.

These times are challenging. They are downright exhausting. But I’ll get through them. Because even though I’m weary, I’m hopeful.

And that’s got to be worth something, right?

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My body is angry. I ache everywhere. I feel like I physically, from the neck down, have the ‘flu. My ankles are “clicking” more than usual. Same with my wrists. I was walking the other day and my ankle seized up. It simply stopped working and hurt a lot.

I stopped walking, rotated my ankle and was eventually able to weight bear. It scared me. I carefully walked back to my car, got home, elevated, medicated, applied heat and cold alternately and eventually dozed off.

I realised for the past two months I’ve been clenching everything. My jaw, my hands, my body and it’s unsustainable. We are living in a world most of us have never seen before. It’s scary. It’s frustrating. It’s unbelievable. And yet, it is our reality.

When I am at my best I eat three healthy meals a day. I cook at home, I drink lots of water, some decaffeinated tea, a little diet pop, and eat treats sparingly. I can get 8 hours of sleep and awaken feeling refreshed. I have few food cravings. My eyes are clear, my skin is dewy and I feel good.

Not these days, though.

My skin is sallow. I look haggard. I can’t sleep more than a couple of hours at a time. I wake before my alarm and when I decide to try and sleep more, I fall into a deep sleep and have difficulty rousing to my alarm.

I am craving foods I’ve not craved in months, if not years. I’m drinking mostly tea, lots of diet pop and a moderate amount of water. My skin is alternately dry and oily. Everything hurts. Well, except my hair. It’s just growing…fast…and a lot.

My food addiction is bad. I have so much shame about food that I feel humiliated. I am eating 1 – 2 meals a day. I start off with the best of intentions, then end up feeling ravenous, even though I KNOW I’m not hungry. I buy healthy food. Fruit, vegetables, lean meat, multi-grain bread. I don’t bring home a lot of processed food. And yet I crave chips and cookies. And I can’t eat one serving. I eat the whole bag.

I’m aware I’m doing it and I get angry and ashamed. Yet I can’t stop.

I’m currently using two online apps. One is through a wearable device which I really like because it gives advice on what to do as far as exercise in isolation. It’s adapted to the current reality of the world. The other is an online subscription app. I used it a few years ago and it was working well for me, then I stopped. I can’t remember why, but I know it was because I got frustrated with being moved from peer group to peer group.

The program has changed a little in a few years. And not at all since the pandemic. All the “helpful hints” involve getting together with family and friends, of going shopping with your girlfriends. Of going out to dinner, etc. NONE of which we can do right now. So, being the quiet and demure female I am… (you know, there REALLY needs to be a sarcasm font) I sent a message to my personal coach and the Concierge and didn’t receive a satisfactory answer.

I’ve asked questions about dealing with food addiction and been told “in their opinion” that such things don’t exist. Um, what?

I’m debating quitting the online program when my “course” is finished (August). I’m not losing weight, although I am following the course given the restrictions of COVID-19. Ugh.

I was listening to a podcast earlier today and there was woman who was raised by a crack-addicted mother. She was quite judmental with her mother for not having enough self-control. Until she found herself in her mid-twenties eating her feelings…until she weighed over 400 lbs and knew her life was in jeopardy. She joined Overeaters Anonymous and it helped her.

Food addiction is real. It is as valid an addiction as any other. Because I’m in a heightened place of stress, my coping mechanisms are weak…in some cases non-existent. My impulse control seems to be broken.

So, I’ve decided to check out Overeaters Anonymous. There are virtual meetings that I can drop into and drop out of. I think it would help me to talk to people who understand how I feel. Who understand the minefield that food addiction and grocery shopping can be.

Hopefully I can learn, again, to lessen my stress and eat properly so my body will stop being angry with me.

Oh! And then there’s the physical changes with menopause and HRT (Hormone Replacement Therapy). I’ll get there. I know I will.

It will take time. It will take effort. And it will take help. Help which I am determined to get.

Watch this space…

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Both are very important to me. I feel my best when I know what my schedule is. I function best when I know what is expected of me. Rituals help calm my mind and help me to focus. So, as you can imagine, the last month has been a great challenge as my schedule is in constant flux, there is an influx of emails demanding attention as well as phone calls, Zoom meetings, text messages and many more distractions.

I’ve never been good at managing boundaries, yet I am determined to come through the other end of COVID-19 with my marbles intact. Wish me luck.

I was lamenting with a friend that I’m feeling overwhelmed with the amount of contact that is demanded these days. I’m quite certain that I’m receiving at least twice as much email as I did before. And I’m attending 1000% more meetings by Zoom then I did before (that may be a slight exaggeration).

When I came back from medical leave I created a workspace in my flat so I could separate my home life and my work life. With the increase in Zoom, I’m finding there is a very blurry line between the two.

So what I (attempt to) do every day is turn off technology for part of the day or at least not respond to everything immediately. Constantly re-prioritizing is tiring, but necessary so I don’t feel too overwhelmed. I have discovered a feature on my mobile phone that when I place it face down it goes into Do Not Disturb mode. So texts, phone calls (unless from a specific list) and emails do not make any sound until the phone is turned back over.

I will be taking Friday and Saturday as my Sabbath Days as of next week. This week is Holy Week and I have Worship every day. My Sabbath Days will be marked with no electronics. No email, Slack, Facebook, Instagram, Zoom or Skype. Disconnection. An opportunity to be intentionally outside for more than half an hour.

If I need to sleep the day away, I will do so. If I want to clean my flat from top to bottom, I will do so. If I want to pack a lunch and take a drive, I will do so. With no guilt.

A couple of weeks ago I went to a waterfall about an hour’s drive from here. When I arrived there was not a soul in sight. I walked around to the other side of the falls and on the way back I noticed a dozen cars arriving. Everyone kept physical distance, we waved and smiled and got out of the way of each other. It was a lovely sunny day and I put the windows down in the car.

On the way home I stopped at one of my favourite hikes. There were three cars in the parking lot. I started the hike, realised after about 20 minutes that the trail was icy and not safe for me. So I turned around. I met a couple who stepped off the trail and asked how it was further along. I told them it was icy and with safe distance, they turned around as well.

I’m doing my best to take one day at a time. I’m doing my best to eat well and drink lots of water. I’m doing my best to go to bed early so if I have a rough night it’s not as bad come morning.

And of course, there’s the menopause, which will be a reflection for another day.

I hope you are all doing your best to take care of you.

We will get through this. And I do, truly believe, we will be stronger for it.

Take one day at a time, unless that feels too hard.

Then try one hour at a time, unless that feels too hard.

Then take one minute at a time. We’ll get there.

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