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Posts Tagged ‘depression’

Tomorrow is the 25th of January, Bell Canada’s “Let’s Talk” initiative to help quell the stigma of mental illness.  Celebrities have recorded brief interviews and have stepped up in raising awareness of depression, anxiety, OCD, Bipolar disorder, etc.

As someone who struggles with depression and anxiety the past couple of months have been scary.  I am a Canadian, and proud to be one.  Our neighbours to the south elected a new President and it seems the world has been in a tailspin since.  Every day the rhetoric increases, the attacks get more personal and social media is reaching a frenzy status on who is right and who is wrong.

What scares me is the increasing vitriolic hatred that both sides of the debate engage.  There is hurt and anger and a decided lack of respect.  There seems to be no acknowledgment of the other side as a human being.  Memes spring up everywhere and there are veritable twitter wars and Facebook battles over who is right and who is wrong.  Over who is telling the truth and who is lying.

We seem to have lost the respect of basic human dignity.  Regardless of whether you are a supporter or protester of POTUS, we need to come together in unity.  He needs to be held accountable.  We need to ensure our voices are raised in unison.  Can we please, please stop with the division and hatred.

I don’t like being told that as I woman “I must” feel a certain way or behave in a certain manner.  I don’t appreciate being told as a Christian “I must” say certain things and if I fail to do so I am a disgrace to Christianity.

I am a child of God.  So are you.  So is POTUS.  So is our Prime Minister.  So is everyone we meet.

I’m tired of the anger.  I’m tired of the hurt.  I’m tired of the hatred. I want to join the revolution of love.  I want to change the world with respect; with words of empowerment and love.  I can and will change how I view the world by looking through lenses of love and respect.

I short, I refuse to hate.

My mental health is always fragile in January…I’m not really sure why…but it is and I tend to cocoon more than usual, trying to stay warm and safe.

I am blessed in being surrounded by people who love me.  Who hold me when I cry, who bolster me when I struggle.  Who check in because I am on their mind and in their heart. I am blessed to love many of those who surround me.  And lately, I’ve begun to fall in love with myself.

I know I am not perfect.  I never will be.  And that’s okay.  In God’s eyes I am created in perfection and that’s more than good enough for me.

There is a South African word, Ubuntu, that means “I am because you are”.  In other words, I can’t be who I am without you.  It doesn’t mean that everyone has to agree and think the same.  It means we have the right and even the responsibility to disagree and hold one another accountable for our words and actions.  It means we are all in this life together.  It’s a way of living, an understanding, that is both powerful and profound.

If we embrace Ubuntu, perhaps we, together, can change this cruel world in which we live?

As always, I live in love and in hope.

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I struggle, at times, with depression and anxiety.  Most of the time I can cope with medication, relaxation, proper diet, exercise and rest.  Lately I’ve been feeling a bit overwhelmed, and it’s completely understandable why I’m feeling this way.

On Friday I’m having surgery.  For the second time in my life I will go under general anesthetic.  I’m not afraid of the surgery.  The surgeon has reassured me that he anticipates the procedure will go well.  The procedures I’m having are minor, taking 20 minutes in total.  The anesthesiologist has reassured me that all shall be well.  She asked if I was nervous and I said I wasn’t and smiled.  She asked why I was smiling and I replied “if things don’t go well, it won’t be my problem…it will be yours.  As you’ll get to tell my congregation”. And we both laughed.

What I fear is the unknown.  Which is truly a silly thing to fear.  And I participate in mental gymnastics…what if I get an infection…what if it takes me hours to come out of the anesthetic…what if something goes wrong?  All legitimate questions, all with unknown answers.  Try to explain that to my anxiety.

I’m not worried about the congregation.  My Wardens and Licensed Lay Ministers will take care of everything in the parish.  My Regional Dean will look after any pastoral emergencies.  And still my innards flutter.

So, between now and Thursday morning when I find out the actual time of the surgery I will keep myself busy, which isn’t difficult to do.  The difficult part is remembering to take time to breathe, to care for myself…to do everything I can to release the anxiety I feel.

I’m staying with a good friend in the community where I’m having the surgery to make sure that I properly rest and don’t overdo things.  Left to my own devices I would push myself too hard and too soon.  I’m told it will be approximately 10 days before I can return to work…I’m giving myself 14 days.  And I fully anticipate returning to work at a bit slower pace then I am maintaining right now.

If you are a person who prays, I ask for your prayers for myself, and also for the doctor’s, nurses and support staff who will take care of me through the surgery.  I ask for your prayers for those who will care for me after the surgery until I am able to care for myself.

Thanks!

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It’s now official…the announcements have been made, emails sent and articles written.  I am leaving my current post to travel across four provinces, over 3,000 kms to a new posting in a small town in southeastern British Columbia.

I’ve never lived outside of Ontario.  I’m excited and terrified all at the same time.  Information on how to change my license plates from Ontario to British Columbia, changing my health card, registering for health insurance as well as employee benefits, payroll, etc.

As a rule, I’m not big on farewells.  I don’t like a fuss.  However, I know there will be many folks I will likely never see again.  And that makes me sad. So that means there needs to be a gathering, or two.  The local Legion is providing a beautiful Going away party at the end of the month, the Saturday before I depart West.

My friends in the LGBTQ+ community is going to throw me a Bon Voyage party in the city on the Monday before I leave.  It’s going to be lovely to see everyone, but it’s going to be hard to say goodbye.  Yeesh.

So while I’m service planning here, I’m service planning there.  While I’m scheduling visits here, I’m thinking of who I should start with once I get there.

I know I have a lot to do, a great, huge to-d0 list and there will be some things on that list that don’t get done.  Some people I don’t get to see and that has to be okay.

To top it off, I slipped and fell the other day, wrenching my shoulder.  It’s quite painful and my range of mobility is limited.  I can’t lift, I can’t carry.  I can type and write for limited amounts of time.  I should be looking at this as God’s way of telling me to slow down.  But in reality it’s a pain the ass…or shoulder as the case may be.

So I suck it up, do my best and push through the pain.  Since I announced my departure there’s been a great burden lifted.  And in reassigning things to folks so they can take them over in my absence is quite liberating as well.  Writing up a list of passwords, that sort of thing.

This transition may turn out okay after all.

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I am less than a week away from two glorious weeks of vacation. And of course, we are in the midst of a horrendous heat wave in the part of the world where I live. So instead of bustling about, I’m sitting in front of a fan, praying for the weather to break.

I’ve got most of the big things in place to be away. I have the bulletins finished, just need to pick up one set from the printer. I have the readings selected and ready to go for the weeks I’m away. I have pastoral calls prepared for this week.

What I’ve not done yet is prepare my clothes, plan the itinerary and start packing. All of these things are fun but I need to get other things done first, including cleaning my house. Ugh. If only the weather would cooperate, so I could get up and do something without dissolving into a puddle, that would be awesome. C’mon Mother Nature, help me out here.

I am looking forward to two weeks of travel, leisure, yoga, stretching, fabulous food and drink, sleep and nature…not necessarily in that order. I have a new journal that I’m taking with me. I’ve not yet started writing in it, and I’m not sure why. But I’ll get there.

So, for the next couple of weeks, blog posts will be non-existent, but I promise to share all kinds of loveliness when I get back.

Can’t wait to get off the treadmill of “busy” for awhile. To redirect my rhythm and finally start to feel better. I am excited to feel better, for what will feel like the first time in a long time. But I can do it. I know I can. I have to.

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I went to high school and earned my undergraduate degree in Northern Ontario, Sudbury, to be specific.  My first full-time career involved a move to Timmins.  I lived there for five years…and decided that once and for all, I’m not a fan of winter.  I don’t have anything against the season…it’s the bitter cold with which I struggled.  So I moved back to Southwestern Ontario where winter doesn’t seem to last as long as in the north and the temperatures are more moderate.

Or at least, they used to be.

This winter has been one of the coldest I can remember.  It feels like it’s been weeks since I could walk outside without my nostrils freezing.  And that’s not a pretty image, I don’t care who you are.  Whenever I take my hat off my hair stands up like some kind of deranged science experiment.  At night when the dogs come to tuck me in, there’s little blue flashes of light as they shock each other and me.

In short, I’m sick of my lovely red car being coated in icky white grossness that is a combination of slush, ice, salt and crud. I am ready for the days to get longer and the sun to be warmer.  I’m tired of snow blindness giving me a headache when I’m driving into the city.

I was in Florida the first week in December and it was lovely, albeit very humid.  It’s less humid in Southwestern Ontario, but when the thermometer gets to -20 or colder, let’s just call it “unbearable” and call it a cold day.  There were times when schools were closed in Timmins because school buses couldn’t start.  When exposed skin would freeze in seconds.  When your pets would not play outside, only relieve themselves.  It wasn’t fun then, and it isn’t fun now.

So please, Mother Nature, if you’re listening, could you please work your magic and bring us spring?

Thanks!

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For me, depression is a blanket.  Not a freshly-washed, clean and cozy blanket, but a threadbare, smelly, can’t bear to part with it long enough to wash it blanket.  A large security blanket.  It can wrap around me, keep me warm and once I’m snuggled under I don’t really want to take it off.

I’m embarrassed to show anyone the blanket because it looks disgusting, but it is my sanctuary, so I keep it all to myself.  My blanket is never too far away.  Sometimes I sit with it on my lap, or stroke it while being near it.  Sometimes I wrap it around my shoulders, and then take it off when I get too warm.  Other times I cocoon myself inside of it, and don’t come out for days, despite the smell.

I love my blanket, it’s been with me for years.  I know I should, at the very least, wash it, but I’m afraid to.  Eventually I work up the courage to wash it and while it smells much better, and feels softer, there’s something missing from it.  As though when I washed it, some of the agony washed away and I’m left with a kind of hollow feeling.

Depression is many things, and for someone suffering, it can be comforting.  The place is familiar.  The feelings hurt, but are recognisable.  It’s dark in my cocoon, but I know where I am and that’s worth something, right?  Well-meaning friends try to “snap me out” of it.  If only it were that easy.  If only it were a matter of saying “alright, enough of this”.  But it’s not.  There are days when I have to talk myself into having a shower, of getting dressed, of cutting my toenails.  Some days I am successful in those things, and other days, not so much.  So I cancel appointments, push off what’s on my already overflowing plate and hide.

Sleep can help.  And usually does.  But when the body hits that point where it doesn’t need sleep anymore and I wake up feeling exhausted but not rested, that’s when panic sets in.  What if I never sleep again?  What if I never feel better? What will get me out of this horrible, scary place?  Are you there God?  How about a sign?

And so I get up, get dressed, come downstairs, make some tea.  I feel unsteady and frightened, but I make it through.  In moments of depression time moves very slowly.  Sleeping through it can make it more bearable, but eventually you have to get up.  People are depending on me, I have a homily to write.

And then the sun rises inside and its going to be alright.  Folks comment on how good you look, how flattering that dress fits, and you feel good.  The blanket is still there, but it’s tucked out of sight.  It’s not going anywhere and that gives comfort.

The blanket may be threadbare and faded.  But it holds years full of secrets.  It holds the place securely where the darkness comes and to where the darkness can return.  We carry those blankets with us and sometimes we set them down and leave them be.  Never far from thoughts, never far from touch.  Standing, as a sentry, ready to cover and comfort us when the world feels too much.

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As a depressive I was shocked and saddened at the death of Robin Williams.  I was disgusted with a lot of the media coverage and especially of the term “commit suicide”.  To use the phrase “commit suicide” is to incur that a crime was committed.  He didn’t break the law.  Robin Williams died from side effects of deep depression.  I read a great deal of articles that talked about how “selfish” he was, because he took his own life.

There is no doubt in my mind that Robin Williams was loved.  He was loved by his wife and family, his co-workers and his fans. The fact that he struggled with depression and addiction all of his adult life meant that he found it difficult to love himself.

What most people don’t understand is that depressives are often great actors.  We force ourselves to clean ourselves up, pull ourselves together and face the world with a smile.  The saddest part of Robin Williams suicide is that he is, in some cases, being vilified after his death.  And that is repugnant.

He suicided, because he could no longer find the strength to pretend.  Chances are, when he made the decision to suicide his behaviour changed.  He appeared to be “better”.  He appeared happier, more like his “old self”.  This happens when someone who has been in such pain for so long has decided how they will escape that pain.  A great burden is released, a weight lifted and there is finally relief.

Some articles suggested that he had it all.  While that may be true, he, most likely, did not feel deserving.  He had an incredible gift; the gift to help people escape the misery of everyday life and laugh.  He knew he was loved by so many people but he could not love himself.

When depression appears it is usually unexpected, and it can feel like staring into a deep, dark precipice.  It can feel like a dark cloud descending, smothering the light and all air.  It can start slowly, like a long, slow dive.  It can be a sudden shock, like a trip, stumble and fall.  Regardless, depression is not something that you can “snap out of” or “think happy thoughts” and be instantly better.

You don’t have to go far to hear platitudes that all we need to do is to love one another.  I am a big believer that love can change the world.  In my heart, I believe that if we each did our part and started from a place of love we would solve many of the world’s conflicts.  Robin Williams was loved.  He loved many people.  Just not himself.

In his case, and in the case of many depressives, when things are bad, at their darkest, it is then that hopelessness takes over.  How can I love my neighbour as myself, when I don’t love myself?  How can I be a Christian when I cannot follow the basic tenet of Jesus?  Sometimes we cannot love ourselves.  And the worst part is, no-one can do it for us.

We do the best we can with the gifts that God has given us.  And occasionally we stumble and fall.  Sometimes we need to stay down for awhile, but we cannot unpack and take up residence there.  At times like this it is imperative to seek help, and yet, it is counterintuitive to reach out because every ounce of energy is being used up staying upright and breathing.

There are days when it feels like the sun will never shine again.  There are times when it feels like you will never smile again.  These are the times when we should reach out and trust, but the disease can be so crippling that it renders us completely immobile.

I believe, in my heart, that Robin Williams is now in paradise.  He is in a place where there is no such thing as depression. He is free of the demons that haunted him and ultimately led him to die.

My prayer is that we who are depressives find the strength, somehow, to reach out when we are hurting.  My prayer is that those who know a depressive will recognise the signs when they are on a downward slope, and reach out.  You don’t have to say anything.  Advice will likely not be heard.  All you can do is be present, listen and remain in the silence.  Words won’t fix depression.  There are treatments, but there is no cure.

If you are reading this and feeling the darkness descend, take a moment and reach out.  Text, email or call a friend.  Tell them you need them.  And they will come.  

If someone reads this and reaches out to you because they are frightened and vulnerable, go to them.  Be calm, be non-anxious, and non-judgmental.  It took an inordinate amount of energy to reach out.  Respect the incredible gift of trust that has been bestowed upon you.  Be prepared for silence…for anger…for frustration.

When someone is hurting, sometimes love does not seem to be enough.  Robin Williams could not love himself enough to stay.  He suicided because he felt there was no point in continuing.  He was not selfish or self-centred.  He was not seeking attention.  He could no longer handle the pain of the disease.  And so he ended it.  The world mourns the loss of a comedic legend.  Please do not let his death be in vain.

If you are someone who struggles with depression, find a person who you trust, that can support you.  When things start to get bad, reach out.  Be open and honest.  And receive the love they will give you with grace.

If you know or love someone who is depressive, learn their cycles and emotional swings.  If you see them struggling, reach out to them.  Be reassuring.  Remind them you love them.  Ask nothing in return.  Sit in silence, become comfortable in that silence.  And know you are not alone in supporting them.  Know that you are loved.  And so are they.  By the one who created us, died for us and loves us unconditionally. God. 

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When I was a little girl I used to stroll. I would hum to myself while playing, usually something I had heard on the radio, or a tune I made up. When I became a teenager I stopped humming and started rushing. I was always in a hurry, I walked quickly or ran wherever I was going. I took up cross-country running because it was a solitary sport. There was no team to worry about, it was me mesmerized by the sound of my feet pounding in rhythm on the hard soil trail. I wasn’t the fastest runner, but likely I was the most focussed.

When I attended University I was a nervous soul, always tapping or twitching, I wasn’t able to stand still. I was continually anxious and it was then that I was first diagnosed as anxious/depressed and given medication, which really didn’t do much. I felt like I was continually playing catch up, continually late. I would joke that I was born 3 days late and had been trying to make up the time since.

In reality I was in a perpetual state of anxiety. I was nervous all the time. I felt like I didn’t add up to anyone’s expectations. I felt like a failure and a fraud and kept waiting for someone to walk in the lecture hall, point at me and say “She is a fraud, she has no right to be here”.

When I graduated with my undergraduate degree and began working, I continued to run at a frantic pace. I would not leave my desk until all the tasks for the day were completed. I would leave myself a note so I would know where to begin the next day. Having to leave a file out and not re-filed would fill me with a sense of dread, of failure. No-one had ever said that everything must be finished, but I believed it to be so. And if I didn’t finish everything, and leave a spotless desk at the end of day, I felt like I had to play catch-up when I started work again the next day.

Eventually I ended up in hospital with the frantic pace that couldn’t be maintained. I realised that I would not finish everything that had to be done; that there would always be something not finished. Some projects would never be finished, and some would have to wait for other information, or for other people to complete. It bothered me, but it didn’t control me.

When I returned to school to begin my MDiv I developed a different work ethic. I would often come to class having not finished the required reading ahead of time. Sometimes my notes would not be complete. I always started projects and essays early so I could finish them in advance of the deadline, but often everything was due at the same time. So I would create artificial deadlines to get things in early.

I began to notice my environment, see the leaves in the trees, hear the birds singing. I still worked as hard, but not as frantic. When I was a Chaplain at our Diocesan Church Camp I would often stop in the middle of my day, go down to the lookout and pray. Or stand in awe at the majesty before me.

As I have entered middle age, I am still as busy as ever. But I find myself, on occasion, arriving on time or a few minutes late. Before, I would always be obscenely early and have to park a distance from where I was going and fret until it was time to go to the appointment/home visit, etc. Now I do my best to leave in time to reach my destination, but if I get held up, I don’t take it as a personal failure.

In the last month or so life has slowed down for me. I am as busy as ever, but I now leave things undone. I leave my desk untidy. And interestingly enough, I’ve started to hum again. Especially when I’m home alone and I’m finishing a task. Also in my car. I’ll hum along to the radio or turn it off and hum while I drive.

I believe I have finally reached that balance. I can leave things unfinished. I can move things on my list to another day, or to someone else. I am comfortable in imperfection. I am getting more and more comfortable with “good enough” as opposed to perfection.

Life is filled with surprises. And while, currently I am still completely exhausted, I am beginning to find the work/life balance.

I’m going to clean the fans before they installed for the summer. It’s a dirty job, but I will hum as I work. All work is God’s work.

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A few months ago I connected with a young woman through social media. At first we seemed to have so much in common, that we were soon finishing each other’s thoughts and sentences. She was seeking some spiritual direction and guidance and soon she was coming to Church. We connected a couple of months before Easter and she was interested in learning about how we do Holy Week.

She is legally blind and as such does not drive. I volunteered to drive into the city to pick her up during Holy Week. Most nights after service I drove her home, a couple of times my beloved did. Her daughter tagged along for a couple of services as well and it was amazing watching the two of them take in what they were seeing.

A few weeks ago my friend started having recurrent health problems that required her to go to emergency. She would call an ambulance and let me know what was happening. I would get there to see her if I could. Two weeks ago she called and told me she thought she was having a stroke. I advised her to call an ambulance and asked her to call me back. She was certainly undergoing some distress. The night she took ill I had driven to and from where my Mam lives and was quite tired. My ankle was badly swollen, I was exhausted and having some difficulty seeing (because of the fatigue).

I told my friend I could not come to emergency but asked her to call me when she was either admitted or discharged. She said she would. The next morning I received an email that said she felt hurt I had not been there for her and that she was walking away from God and therefore was walking away from me.

I was shocked and hurt but am not the type of person to beg someone to stay. If they want to leave I will do everything I can to get out of their way. I think my hurt was mostly because she had made it seem that if she rejected God she had to reject me as she saw me as a part of her Spiritual being.

My reply was that I was sorry to have hurt her and that I would not stand in her way. I wished her well and told her I would continue to pray for her.

The reply was met with hurt and angry words. It was filled with rage and blame. I did not reply to it, deleting it instead.

The first day of not hearing from her was strange, but also strangely liberating. She would often text and email all day and if I didn’t reply immediately would send another text or email. I had told her that I cannot always reply immediately and she said she understood, but in reality, I don’t think she did.

Three days passed without hearing a word. Yesterday I received an email through the church website from someone claiming to be a friend and spiritual teacher of hers. He indicated that she was in great distress and urged me to mend our spiritual friendship. He said he had not heard from her in years but God had told him to plead with me for her safety.

I felt bullied and curious at the same time. Emotional blackmail would be a good term to use. I waited a full day before I replied, politely, that the decision to end our friendship had come from her and I was respecting that decision. The email he supplied bounced back. I deleted the message and thought no more about it.

This morning I received a text and an email from my friend, attempting contact again, saying how she had forgiven me.

I asked her who this man was that contacted me. She claimed to not have had contact with him in two years. When I shared the email he sent me, her reply was that he had gathered his information from God. As much as I believe in God, I don’t think this is the work of God.

So I told her I was sorry she felt hurt. I told her that her words hurt me and that I needed time to myself. I told her I thought a break in our communication would be best.

She replied that she has forgiven me and wants me to forgive her, as God has forgiven both of us. Now I am angry and feeling manipulated, so I didn’t respond to her last two emails.

After spending time in prayer, I have decided to let this friendship lay fallow for a while. I don’t know if I want to be involved with her as a friend or as her spiritual guide. I feel as though she has manipulated me and wants things on her terms only. I don’t operate that way.

So I have decided that it is time to let go. I’m leaving this one with God.

In fact, I need to do more of that…but that’s a musing for another day.

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There is a phrase in the Church “Christ is risen, the clergy are dead” and this sums up most clergy I know, myself included. We labour (with love) to make sure the bulletins are done, homilies are written, congregation is cared for. We fuss and fret over the liturgies, trusting that those who attend will be fed.

By the time Easter Sunday rolls around, we are usually pretty tired. The Alleluia may not have as much verve and pep as it should have, but it’s the best we’ve got.

I spent three hours, the Saturday before Easter, in the stylist’s chair, getting my hair done. This is highly unusual for me. My usual time in the chair, including chatting is 30 minutes. Five to ten minutes more if I get my hair washed first. I was experiencing something I’ve never done before; a hair tattoo. It’s a labour intensive process, but incredibly amazing.

My stylist and I had talked about a resurrection hair tattoo for Easter Sunday. The tattoo itself didn’t take very long, but the colouring and shading took plenty of time. By the time he was done, he was very pleased, and so was I. And so were the customers in the salon. It’s certainly something that stands out, but as I can’t see it, I don’t worry too much about it.

The feedback has been overwhelmingly positive and I was especially pleased at the children’s reaction on Easter Sunday. I have been stopped while out, so people can ask about it. And I explain that there are three crosses, a tomb and a pair of wings. And they “oooh” and “ahhh” and tell me how awesome it is.

The three hours I spent in the chair I should have been relaxing, but I was thinking about all the things I had yet to do to get ready for Saturday night’s service. Everything did get done, but I did not take good care of my sprained ankle. And come Sunday morning it was swollen and paining. By the time the two services were finished, I couldn’t feel my left foot. I took off the brace, iced my foot, rested it and tried to nap.

We went to visit my in-laws for supper, which was awesome, and I elevated my ankle as much as I could. Since then I have slept as much as I can, while returning to the pre-Easter craziness. I took Monday off, but on Tuesday I had three home communions. I was supposed to go to a meeting in the city, but I was too tired and ankle was too sore. So I sent my regrets and stayed home.

Friday is traditionally my day off, but the church is having a bake sale tomorrow, so I spent most of the morning baking cupcakes, scones and cookies. The cookies are staying at home as I scorched the bottoms. The cupcakes and scones are at the Church. My Beloved brought supper in and tonight I am catching up on laundry that should have been done two weeks ago.

What I need to do is take three weeks off and rest. But there’s too much to do for me to make that happen. I am anxious about some upcoming doctor’s appointments and medical tests. Something inside me tells me that I will be taking time off to deal with my medical issues, whether I want to or not, and that will be what it will be.

So for now I struggle through, doing the best I can, taking it as easy as I can and trying not to beat myself up about not getting everything done.

The lesson I really need to learn is to let go and let God. If the bulletins don’t get done, it’s not a big deal. Right?

One step at a time. One day at a time.

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