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Posts Tagged ‘fear’

I am a hugger. I’m a great hugger. And I’m an introvert. A BIG Introvert. Since COVID-19 we went from small gatherings to social distancing and I reckon we will soon be house-bound. Right now I’m going, alone, to the Churches at least once a week. It helps me retain a sense of normality in a world that seems to have gone mad.

Last Thursday I spent 10 hours on various screens dealing with phone calls, emails, texts, and Zoom meetings. By Saturday I was feeling completely overwhelmed.

It felt as though I couldn’t finish anything.

It felt as though I was running as fast as I could, simply to stay in the same place.

I couldn’t focus. Then my head started to hurt. It’s still hurting. To the point its distracting.

Last night I had a hot shower and focused the jets on my neck and shoulders. That helped. I’ve tried meditation, drinking water, walking outside to get some fresh air. I’ve tried medication, acupressure, and caffeine. I’ve tried stretching, self-massage and sleep.

What I think I need, no, what I KNOW I need is a time to disconnect.

I was speaking with a colleague earlier today and he said he feels as though this time of isolation has created more demands for connection. I absolutely agree. Working with two denominations has been stressful and enlightening. Both want to ensure that clergy feel connected. Both want to assure us that we are doing our best.

What I need most right now, is not connection, but disconnection.

Don’t get me wrong, I love my parishioners. I love my community. I love my friends and family. I also love my own company. And complete solitude.

I’m now trying to work out a new routine. When I wake up I open an app called “Pray as you Go”. It’s a 20 minute reflection on scripture with some music and a calming image on which to focus. As I listen a breathe, sip water and give thanks. Then I say my morning prayers. THEN I get up.

I am going to take time every day to go outside. I’m going to restrict the amount of time I spent in front of a screen. I’m going to nap when I’m tired. Feed myself good, nutritious, food. And do something every day that brings me joy.

In my heart I believe this physical isolation is going to last for awhile yet. Which means I need to get myself into a routine and treat myself better than I have been.

We are having our 5th Sunday Joint Service on Sunday and we’re going to use a Zoom platform. It will be interesting to see who is able to attend and whether we continue to use the platform.

We, as Church, have not been in this position, of physical isolation, for hundreds of years. And while we cannot reach out and touch our friends, parishioners and neighbours, we can reach out and connect. I have recorded one homily and posted it online to incredibly positive feedback.

My hope is that the technology we are figuring out, will be a short-term solution and once the virus is in check, and the isolation is relaxed, we will gather in person once again. Time will be the measure of that story.

So as I watch the sun set behind the snow-covered mountains I give thanks to God for the blessings of this life. I ask for a restful, pain-free sleep which will enable tomorrow to be a beautiful day.

My wish is the same for you. Deep, restful sleep. Rise to a beautiful new day. Experiencing things which bring you great joy.

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In many parts of Canada worship services have been suspended. Where I live, in British Columbia, we are still permitted to gather as long as there are less than 250 in attendance. Yet another reason why small is beautiful.

At the United Church today we sang a beautiful song as our Sending Song. The lyrics are:

Don’t be afraid. My love is stronger, my love is stronger than your fear. Don’t be afraid. My love is stronger and I have promised, promised to be always near. (c) 1995, John L. Bell, and Graham Maule.

Profound and beautiful words indeed.

We are living in uncertain times as a pandemic is threatening our health and our safety. We can choose fear or we can choose hope. I choose hope.

Last night we had an Irish Stew supper at the United Church. There had been some conversation if we should postpone or cancel it. After prayerful consideration, it was decided that the event would go ahead as planned. There was a hand sanitizing station for folks to clean their hands before they got their food. There was food, laughter, conversation and friendship. Safely.

We gathered this morning for worship and while our numbers were down our spirit was undaunted. We will be checking in with our shut-ins and those who are most vulnerable. We will be washing our hands, often and not touching our faces.

And for the love of God, we will NOT be buying toilet paper unless we do, actually need it.

As an empath, by the time I got home from the second worship services I was emotionally and physically exhausted. I lay down but couldn’t sleep. I couldn’t get comfortable, I couldn’t get warm. So I got up, found my copy of Voices United and sang the song we sung today at worship.

It’s a beautiful song. A simple song. And yet quite profound.

As we navigate these next days, weeks and months of COVID-19, let us remember to choose love first.

The time may come when we are unable to gather for worship and should that time come, we will figure out how best to faithfully serve our congregations while staying safe.

Don’t be afraid. God’s love is stronger.

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Three long days ago I had a total hysterectomy and oophorectomy. I have no ovaries or womb left. I have many friends and parishioners who have been through these procedures and they have given me wonderful advice. Combined with the advice from the surgeon there is one thing in common – breath.

I remember sitting in the post-operative area. I’d walked there from the surgical screening area (Day Care) and was visited by the Anaesthesiologist who was wearing a Nascar cap. Also, my surgeon came to visit me, wearing a plain blue cap. Finally the surgical nurse came to see me, wearing a floral surgical cap. All three of them talked about what they were going to do, and at some point I’d have an oxygen mask on my face and I’d need to take deep breaths. Okay, I thought. I can do that. I breathe every day!

I walked into the operating room and it was chilly. I sat down on the table, then lay down and there was a lot of activity as IV’s were inserted, surgical stockings were installed, instructions were given, checklists were shared. One of my favourite moments was when the surgeon asked what was happening to me and I replied “hysterctomy and oophorectomy” and the Anaesthesiologist said “oophorectomy or Oopsorectomy”. I laughed. Nobody else did.

Tough crowd.

I remember a mask placed over my mouth and nose and being told to take deep breaths. Then a medicine was added to my IV which I was told would take me to the Land of Nod. Took one more deep breath…

and then…

I was aware of an alarm sounding and a nurse telling me “Andrea, take deep breaths”. The alarm was an apnea alarm. I wasn’t drawing enough air into my lungs and I would stop breathing. I wear a device at night so this doesn’t happen at home. As I said I’ve been breathing my entire life, yet for some reason I had difficulty drawing a lung full of air.

I’d doze off for what felt like half an hour and the alarm would sound again “Andrea, deep breaths” I’d hear and respond and then look at the clock…usually only 2 or 3 minutes had gone by. That was worrying and frustrating. Had I forgotten how to breathe?

Eventually I made it to a room for the night. Surgical day care was deserted of all other patients when I was ready to go upstairs, and I didn’t mind staying where I was. It was quiet. The nurses were lovely and I was quite prepared to spend the night there. But no.

Up to the second floor I went to spend the night in a ward with three other women. I’ll share more of those stories later on.

The night nurse found and filled my CPAP machine so I could breathe while sleeping and I slept on and off all night. Waking about every two hours for pain medication or water.

At 4:00 pm I was finally discharged by my surgeon who gave me a list of things to do, milestones to watch for, and a reminder to take deep breaths.

It’s funny, our life begins with a deep breath and then often a cry. I’ve found lately I’ve found myself crying and then searching for deep breaths. One of the promises I made myself, is that as I move through six long weeks of recovery, I will take things slowly (I’m down to measuring one day at a time), I will be aware of my body and my surroundings. I will listen to my body and it’s needs. And I will breathe.

I will take deep breaths when I’m uncertain.

I will take deep breaths when I’m afraid.

I will take deep breaths when I’m not doing anything in particular.

I will take deep breaths before I attempt to exert myself.

All in all, I’m extremely grateful to the surgeons, nurses, doctors and staff who cared for me so beautifully. I was treated as a person, as a member of the family. My night nurse spent time talking to me as I shared my fears with her at my first overnight stay in hospital. She listened carefully. She responded thoughtfully and she reminded me “Andrea, you’re not bothering me when you ask for something, you are allowing me to care for you and help you get strong enough to go home. When you tell me what you need, I can help you get well. It’s not a bother, it’s my job.” This coming from a nurse who graduated in April. She’s a Rockstar!

So as I move through the next days I will remind myself to take deep breaths. As I snuggle in for the night, pulling on my CPAP mask. Deep breaths, clear your mind.

Deep breaths, clear your mind.

Deep breaths.

Thank you God for breath.

Thank you Ruah, breath of God.

Deep breaths.

Ruah…

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I like to travel and experience new things.  I like to check things out and when I go to a new place I like to use public transportation and walk wherever possible.

One of the challenges of hearing impairment is I often cannot hear airport and transit announcements.  They all sound like Charlie Brown’s teacher, if you know what I mean.

Last summer I heard about a wonderful conference called Spirit Pride and it looked like an awesome opportunity to connect with folks in the LGBTQ+ community who are people of faith.  Sometimes we hear that being a Queer Christian is an oxymoron.  Well, it’s not.

On Friday, what would have been my Dad’s 86th birthday I drove to the next community over to fly from their airport to Vancouver.  I don’t like to fly.  I’m not sure what it is, but I’m not a huge fan of airplanes, which is ironic as my brother is a pilot.  It is what it is.

While I’m at the airport very early I hear that the flight is delayed an hour.  Instant panic.  My carefully scheduled plan of how to get from the South Terminal to the Main Terminal to the Canada Line to the hotel and to the Church for the Conference is now scuppered.  Heart starts racing, breathing is shallow and I find myself getting lightheaded.

I walked to the closest window and looked outside at the mountains.  And concentrated on my breathing…and then I started to relax.  I sat down and read my book.  I negotiated with myself…”okay, if we arrive on time, I can get to the Shuttle to the Main Terminal and then find the station to get on the SkyTrain.  I can check in, freshen up and take in the opening and the film screening tonight”.

As we flew I kept checking schedules and making notes.  Maybe I’d have to skip checking into the hotel, could do that after the film screening.  Ugh.

We landed, I got off the plane, found the exit to the terminal and there was a shuttle bus waiting.  I climbed on and we drove to the main terminal.  Traffic was heavy and slow.  I watched the time ticking along feeling more and more anxious.  Concentrated on my breathing.  “you got this, you got this”.

Arrived at the main terminal.  The shuttle driver pointed to where I needed to go to catch the SkyTrain and I started to relax a little.  Waked to the SkyTrain terminal, bought a ticket and waited 2 minutes for the train to arrive.  By my calculations I had 20 minutes to get to the Church before the opening ceremonies and the film screening.

Then I remembered it was my dad’s birthday.  He’d have been 86.  He was never in a hurry and seldom on time.  He didn’t fight time, he flowed with it.  So I made a decision, not to worry about the time, to look around and breathe.  So I did.

I got off the train and started walking, realising after about 5 minutes, it was the wrong way.  I laughed and asked to pet a dog.  Asked directions to the hotel, and was told politely, how to get there.  I looked around, smiled and asked to pet many more dogs.

Got to the hotel and the check in time was excruciating.  And it was now 10 minutes after the opening had started.  I gave myself permission to not attend the opening and screening.  I began to focus on my breathing.  And then it was my turn to check in.  I found my room, turned on the air conditioner, freshened up and went for a walk to check out the neighbourhood.

I found a dog park and petted many, many dogs and chatted with many people.

Eventually I found the Church and by this time it was 8:30.  I didn’t go in.  I walked around that neighbourhood, found another dog part and petted many more dogs.  Felt my blood pressure lessen and my heart rate drop.  Felt myself relax and enjoy my surroundings.

Went for a walk back to the hotel and saw several people with needles preparing to shoot up.  Said silent prayers for them, and found another way back to the hotel.  Stopped at the hotel restaurant, a sports bar, and realised I was the only woman in the place.  Took a seat at the bar, ordered a beer for my dad and asked for a menu.  Had supper, a second beer and took another walk in a different direction.  Saw the Yaletown Roundhouse platform.

Went back to my hotel room and settled in for the night.

The conference was wonderful and I enjoyed all of it.  I walked whenever there was a break, to check out the neighbourhood and gave thanks that I don’t live in a big city.  I don’t have to worry about heavy traffic, street lights, and too many people.

After the last session on Saturday I walked to Gastown and checked it out.  Then I walked back to my hotel, taking a long way around.  Enjoying the sights and sounds of the city, knowing that the next day I’d be heading home.

Sunday I got up early and checked out.  Walked a different way to the Church and visited with the folks who were setting up for worship.  Checked out the hymns and order of service and waited, in prayer and silence for worship to begin.  It was wonderful and lasted nearly two hours.

Then I said goodbye to the organizers and Church Minister.  I walked down to the sea wall, backpack on my back and made the long trip home.  I arrived very early to the SkyTrain, and very early to catch the shuttle between terminals.  I didn’t stress or fret because I had lots of time and a good book to read.

I walked around the outside of the terminal and petted some dogs.  I walked around inside the terminal and looked at the artwork, and read some of the history of the airport.

Then I cleared security and waited to board the aircraft.  I explained to the customer service rep that I don’t hear the announcements very well and he promised he’d let me know when it was coming time to board.  And he did.

My car was where I left it, and I drove home as the day began to fade to night.  It was a wonderful conference.  I learned a lot and made some contacts.  I also learned to trust myself and to let some stuff go.  I’m still a nervous traveller and always will be.

I learned that I can be afraid and still do something.  After all, isn’t that the definition of courage?

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I went away last week for 5 days of retreat time on Vancouver Island with a friend of mine.  The first two days were absolute bliss…we talked, we walked, we saw the sights together and enjoyed all that the community had to offer.

Wednesday we had a lazy start to the day then went to an open air market about an hour away for lunch and a wander around.  Lunch was great, the market was fun and then we poked our heads through a doorway and explored some more market area.  When we’d had enough wandering about we decided to head back to the car and meander back where we’d come from.

She was walking ahead of me down these long, wide stairs.  There were four of them.  I only stepped on three of them.  I missed a step and fell hard onto my face.  The bridge of my glasses was embedded into my forehead and I started to bleed.  A lot.  Caused quite a scene at this market.  The bridge of my glasses is scratched up as is one of the lenses.  I bled for quite some time.  My forehead has an abrasion on it.  As does both knees and my left hand.

The shock was incredible.  I was handed clean serviettes and told to apply pressure.  A zipper bag filled with ice was given me.  I was examined by two nurses (one of whom was traveling with me).  I was asked questions to determine how alert I was.  I think I passed them all, at this point I can’t quite remember when I heard.  What I do know is that I was embarrassed at how quickly it happened, what a scene I’d caused and what a mess my face had become.

My friend drove us to the hospital half way home.  I waited an hour in emergency as the bleeding lessened and the swelling increased.  I ended up in hospital for 3 1/2 hours and was treated very well.  The nurses were helpful, the doctors were kind.  I got a tetanus shot and got to experience skin glue.  It burned as it was being applied but has done a great job of keeping the skin together as it heals.  I’ll likely have a scar but it will be hidden by my glasses.

The good news is, nothing was broken.  The unfortunate news was my body’s reaction to the shock.  It’s now 4 days afterwards and I’m still feeling it.

I need new glasses.

The morning after the fall I woke feeling like I’d been hit by a car.  Arms and legs ached.  Face was swollen and sore.  Jaw throbbing.

I contacted one of my Wardens and she made arrangements for the two services this morning to be covered.  I slept in on a Sunday, something I haven’t done for a very, very long time.

Yesterday I went for a walk through the community.  Not as long as I’d have liked to, but as long as my body would allow me.

So the benefit of this experience was that I have incredible friends.  I have the best Wardens, Licensed Lay Ministers and congregation.  I will heal from these scars. Eventually the pain will go away.  Gravity is still not my friend.  That’s not new, but it bears repeating.

Two days after the fall I had to fly home.  I was terrified about the stairs into and out of the small airplanes on which I’d be flying.  I took my time, accepted help when it was offered and made every single step.  Yay me.  It’s the small things, you know?

The flight had three parts to it, one of which I had to change planes.  And the last leg of the flight was turbulent, but we survived it.  After we landed I was helping the lady sitting in front of me put on her cardigan and she elbowed me in the nose.  I saw stars.  She apologised and I told her she didn’t cause the injury, it was already there.  But yes, my nose hurts.

My friend collected me at the airport and I drove home.  It was good to rest in my own bed.  Bathe in my own tub.  But until the glue falls off I can’t submerge my face or wash it properly.  THAT is starting to bug me.  But the wound will heal, the scar will get smaller and life will continue.

I do want to go back where I was on retreat, but not to that open market again…and I’ll be very wary of stairs, especially cement stairs, from now on.

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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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Insomnia…really?

Again?  Didn’t we dance this dance the other night…

I thought we had an understanding, you and me.  I would take better care of myself, exercise every day, get outside every day, limit caffeine, eat real food, drink water.  Okay, I’m not perfect but I’m better than I was.  Yes, yes, I had coffee today, which for the record, was gross and I only drank 1/3 of it.  It was SUPPOSED to be steeped tea.  What happens when you go to the drive-thru…you get SCREWED at the drive-thru…

I’m not drinking as much water as I should…but I’m drinking some.

So, how about your end of the bargain, eh?

If I do the aforementioned, you are supposed to blanket me with deep, restful sleep for at least 7 hours.  I’ll even get up to use the bathroom if I can slip back into sleep.  But not lately.  Jackass.

I don’t understand the problem.  Room is cool.  Relatively dark.  Bedding and pjs are clean.  To Do list is made for tomorrow.  Clothes are laid out.  WHAT’S THE PROBLEM?

WHY can’t I shut off this brain of mine…no wonder it’s addled…can I get a dimmer switch installed?

ARGH!

Well, as I’m not getting answers from you, I think I’ll do some research…maybe about dimmer switches…  I’ll read my daily meditation and once I get my shoulders to come down from around my ears, I’ll go upstairs and try this blasted sleep thing again.

The problem is, if Insomnia decides to stick around…what’s my recourse?  Afternoon nap?  Back to sleeping pills?  Ick.

*sigh*

*whimper*

*growl*

*sigh*

Okay, insomnia.  I’m not (that) angry anymore…can we call it a truce?  At least until the next full moon?

 

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