Back in March, the past two years caught up with me. The energy it took to manage the rollercoaster of people’ emotions driven by pandemic fears, social fears, political fears, spiritual fears, isolation fears, economic fears, and every other flavor of fear took their toll. The outcomes of this tsunami of fear were their outbursts of destructive behaviors, hateful posts, rants, rage, etc., all revealing what lay beneath the surface of normally respectable people.
On top of this, I was trying to manage my stuff. I worried about a son, Chewbacca, who moved to central Vermont for a job a month before the lockdown. Like that, he found himself a frontline worker keeping stores replenished with essential pandemic commodities: chips, dips, and salsa! But he was also alone, with no way to make new friends in his new environs. He was lonely, and my heart broke for him.
Our youngest is in medical school, which also weighed heavily on me. Baby was training to be a frontline worker and began doing clinical rotations in 2021. Fortunately, she had excellent training and a fine young man, Schmooze, with a wonderful family to support her up in our native New England. He will become my son-in-law in less than a year (emphasis on “son”).
The saving grace of being locked down was my incredibly creative best friend and the love of my life,“J.” But this was not without its challenges, as she navigated a dual master’s degree program during the pandemic. During the autumn surge of 2021, she traveled to the Yakama Nation to do research. She completed her thesis work and graduated in May 2022!
Oh, did I mention the other stuff? My mom’s death four months into the pandemic, my father’s Parkinson’s diagnosis and failing health, multiple losses of church family members I dearly loved, and the cancelation of a long-overdue seven-week clergy leave to Israel, Greece, and Germany. As I said, it all caught up to me.
I began to discover that my emotional, physical, and spiritual forcefields were being drained of power, and besides grace, my brain was the only thing still functioning at high capacity. I needed a Chief Engineer and his team to pull off a miracle to keep this ship intact, and the Lenten and Easter seasons helped replenish some of that power. But I still needed an extended shore leave to help retrofit my Nephesh.
Nephesh (נֶפֶשׁ): the completeness of soul, being, life, self, person, and passion.
The first thing to start recovering was my emotional health. As the pandemic began to wane, peoples’ emotions began to settle down, and I needed to expend less and less emotional energy on their needs and be more attentive to my own. The emotional force fields began to replenish quickly.
Next, I began to work on the physical. Just before the pandemic, I had lost thirty pounds, but over the next two years, I gained all thirty back and added an extra six for good measure. I abuse the crap out of myself! At the end of April, I began a medically supervised program to get healthy, and as of Friday, I am down, you guessed it, 42 pounds.
While the emotional and physical power sources have been filling up, the spiritual lagged, but it too started coming along. The final push will be during my clergy leave starting early September; no, I am not leaving the country. I will be off the ministry grid for, you guessed it, 42 days, and fourteen of those will be dedicated to retreats with Jesuits in Gloucester in September and fellow Presbyterian ministers in Little Rock at the end of the month. Couple the two retreats with a shore leave with my wife on an island in Maine and visits to my dad and brother down south, and all forcefields should completely recharge. After all…
MIND (Intellect) + BODY (Strength) + EMOTIONS (Heart) + SPIRIT (Soul)=
Jesus answered, “The most important is, ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’” Mark 12:29-30