Even for people whose nature it is to be optimistic and able to see the good that comes out of even bad situations, these are troubling times. When your spirit is low, it has to be acknowledged and attended to.
I am a glass half full kind of leader. Well, truth be told, I am a glass mostly full kind of leader. I like to look for the good in all things. I orient toward the future with hope in most circumstances. I see possibility in abundance. Honestly, I don’t know if that is the result of sheer determination on my part or simply the way I am wired – or some combination of both, which seems more likely. What I do know is that even in the worst of circumstances I look for something to attach to that brings a ray of hope, a reason to laugh, and an expectation of better times ahead.
It is hard for me to remember too many times in my life that have challenged my ability to orient towards a bright and hopeful future than the time we are living through right now. We are three months into a shelter in place order because of a global pandemic that threatens the health of everyone on the planet and the lives of a good percentage of us. We are three weeks into a long episode of peaceful justice advocates marching in the streets night after night in legion numbers in response to the brutal murder of George Floyd by police officers.
Fear and anxiety and death and outrage all combine to create a time of chaos and uncertainty. And still, most days I awaken hopeful and alert to the possibility that both the pandemic and the protests will usher in a new day that we will look back on and be grateful for. I can’t say that we will or should be grateful for the disease and the death, the racism and the senseless murder of innocent and unarmed black and brown bodies. But with all of this we see once again the capacity for the human community to band together with courage and resolve to not just respond to but grow from the pain and suffering.
All of that being said, and my orientation towards light and hope and transforming crisis into growth – I woke up one day last week edgy and angry. I couldn’t pinpoint the cause for my anger. I couldn’t say what was said or done that triggered those feelings. I could not identify who it was I was angry with or what it was I was angry about. I talked with a number of people throughout the day about it, and just could not understand why I was feeling that way. And I could not shake the feeling. I didn’t want to be angry and on edge. But I couldn’t shake the feeling. It ate at me.
I suspect that the constant barrage of news stories about death and destruction could do this to me. I suspect the constant noise of people yelling at each other on social media pages about who is and isn’t wearing a mask, who is and isn’t supporting Black Lives Matter, or who is or isn’t voting for Donald Trump and why in the next election could do this to me. I suppose that waking up every day to news of or decisions that have to be made about cancellations for important moments in the life of a Church I love could do this to me. I suppose hour after hour of sitting at my desk in one zoom call after another while emails gather and phone messages stack up and tasks get put on hold could do this to me. Put all of that together, and even a blatantly committed optimist and hope-mongerer like me is bound to wake up angry once in a while.
A good spiritual director will often ask: how is it with your spirit?
I invite all of us to slow down a little once in a while and ask that question of ourselves. These are hard days – made all the harder by the loss of interaction with loved ones and friends who might be able to soothe some of the pain and hurt and confusion we are living with. How is it with your spirit?
Mine is a little more troubled these days. I will continue to orient towards the good and the hopeful – and not just out of defiance or denial. I really do trust that growth is coming. I intend to be an agent for the good that I know we can manufacture if we commit to the hard work of transformation.
But let us all tend to the care of our spirits in and through this time. I am taking two random days off next week – just because. It is not the work that demands that – in fact the work load suggests I NOT do that.
But the Spirit is not well, and needs a little tending to.
Friends, take care of yourself. These are hard days. Much is going to be required of us, and we have to pay attention to our spiritual as well as physical health on this, our journey Into the Mystic.