Butter-Thin


It has felt good getting my body back into a habit of exercising each morning before beginning my day. I have now gotten back to the point where I feel off without it, which is a routine that I have honestly missed quite a bit. But my daily exercise and extra workouts are not the reason I am feeling thinner lately. No, the “thinner” I am feeling is an emotional and mental thinness.

         At the end of his time as a Ring-bearer, the hobbit Bilbo Baggins described himself as feeling “thin…like butter scraped over too much bread”. It was a feeling of not having enough of himself anymore for life, for…anything, really. It has been over a month at home, closeted with husband and daughter, and it feels as though it gets a bit harder with each week, in which I am sure I am not alone. Rest is, ironically, proving hard to come by, and I have felt my optimism flag. Anxiety is manifesting as weariness, irritability, and overwhelm; some days, it is hard for me to recognize myself as myself. I feel poured out…worn thin.

I miss me. This thought came as a shock even as I wrote the words. I do. I miss me. I miss believing the optimism and encouragement that I pour out for others. I know it is true, but I miss believing it as much for myself as I do for other people. The tap is always on, always running, always pouring out. And yet…it feels as though if I turn it off, the very foundations of my life will shudder.

Earlier this week, my daughter’s teacher posted a very sweet permission for us parents not to be the perfect teachers to our children during this time. Encouraging us to tend to our little ones’ hearts and souls and to worry less about their academic achievements. As a teacher myself, I admit that I am having the hardest time managing my 1st grader’s Reading, Math, and Science lessons along with everything I am doing for my own 8th grade classes and students. And I have felt very much thinner and the less for that this week especially. 

I have felt less for sleeping in a bit in the mornings and then not being able to fit in my workout and all of kiddo’s schoolwork before my class, office hours, or a meeting start. Less for not managing my day down to the minute to accommodate everything and taking a luxury (rest) that I apparently cannot afford. Thinner.

I am not God. Allow me to say that again, for my own benefit. I am not God. And yet I am holding on to everything so very tightly, you’d believe that I must have some cosmic responsibility for everything that is happening. But I don’t, nor do I want to.

I know what I WANT

I WANT to spend meaningful time with my daughter that doesn’t involve some kind of fight or tantrum or fit.

I WANT to rest, to allow myself to take time for quiet, stillness. I WANT to tell my family to take care of themselves for a while and engage in some hygge without guilt.

I WANT to delve into my relationship with God, to grow and deepen in my faith during this time.

I WANT to read, to engage my imagination and intelligence, to tumble headlong into stories and wisdom and stimulating ideas.

What I AM is flustered, rushed, overworked. 

What I AM is irritable and overwhelmed almost from the moment my feet hit the floor in the morning. 

What I AM is poured out and depleted but with no idea of just how to say that (though I guess I just did).

What I NEED is soothing for which I do not have to work. 

What I NEED is a break for which I do not feel guilty afterward. 

What I NEED is to be filled up.

What I NEED is to be poured into, but we are all perhaps a bit short on that, aren’t we?

We are all in the midst of something that we do not know how to do. We are all in the midst of stress, weariness, worry, and even fear. You may be right here, too, Dear Reader, in this place of thinness, of emotional/mental scarcity. You may not have much to pour out today or this week. That is okay. If permission is what you need, then here I am to give it to you. From one “thin” person to another, it is okay. You are allowed to do just what you can.

If all you can handle with the kids is one subject lesson, then this teacher is giving you permission to let that be enough.

If all you can handle this Sunday is personal devotions and not a full-fledged Sunday School lesson with the family, then you have this pastor’s wife’s encouragement to stay in your bedroom with the door closed.

If you are home and to the point of wanting to defenestrate your dear ones, then this mom and wife begs you to take a walk (carefully, of course), a bath, shut the kids in the backyard, do something for yourself even if it is a “corrected” coffee in your bathroom at 11am.

If you are leaving the house every day to walk into an uncertain world, you absolutely have this human’s blessing to cry in your car. 

We all need a place where our emotions are welcome, and yours are welcome here, Dear Readers. Always.

Rose Oracle Deck by Threads of Fate – http://www.threadsoffate.com

The Onset of Overwhelm


With a statewide Stay Home order having gone into effect last night and the extension of school closings until May 1 here in Indiana, we teachers have had to pivot once again. My school board has requested that teachers set up lessons, projects, practices, etc., for students to engage in, though they are all to be optional. I had been preparing for something like this, dear ones, so I was at least partially ready. As such, around lunchtime on Saturday, up the lesson folders posted and out went the emails to students and parents, letting them know that these lessons were now up on our digital learning platform. I spent the rest of the afternoon fielding questions from students and parents and even reading a few assignments that were posted before the end of the day.

And, just like that, I felt the overwhelm starting to hover right over my shoulders like an owl, ready to settle its weight on me, talons digging into my skin. This is uncharted territory for me—teaching remotely—and I am nervous about it, to tell the truth. I am nervous about all it will involve, about how effective I will be able to be, or if I am even doing it “correctly”. I am also nervous about how much I will need to be doing, as, despite the fact that the lessons are optional, I know many parents have been dying for their students to have something to do and so will insist upon it being done. I am already working what feels like full-time between my daughter and her lessons, grading the assignments I have already brought home with me, reworking curriculum, taking care of our home and family, and my personal projects I have lined up for this season of life. I am anxious about being able to handle everything and possibly (hateably) dropping the ball. Right now, the overwhelm threatens to overtake me.

Over the past week or so, I have been reminding pretty much everyone, especially my own husband, that it is okay for things not to be perfect. It is okay, in this season, for things to be good enough. If you need to call in to the meeting in Zoom on your phone instead of video-conferencing on your laptop, that’s okay. It still works. If you AND your child have frustrations over the week’s elearning, it is okay to let what has been done be done and set the rest aside for tonight. It will still be there tomorrow, and we teachers will not judge you (I am officially speaking for my people, I have decided.).

This is indelibly difficult advice to take myself, though, as usual. However, the truth that is the same for others is also the same for me: it is okay for “good enough” to be good enough.

If I can only manage to be available to student contact for 2-3 hours in a day, that is good enough; they can wait until tomorrow.

If I can only mentally manage to get through half a class of grading today instead of the whole set, that is okay; the papers aren’t going anywhere.

If I need to slough off schoolwork entirely for a day and huddle with a book to recharge, that is acceptable; I am tending to my mental and emotional health, which is good and necessary.

If all I can manage during my prayer time is an exhausted “Ugh!” or no words at all, that is good enough. Jesus still knows my heart without me trying to stumble my way through words.

Let me say it again. It is acceptable and even healthy to let “good enough” be good enough right now (though not with your hand-washing and social distancing, please.). We are all finding a new way, a new normal, and nothing new is ever perfect right off the bat. Neither do we need to be perfect. Neither do I need to be perfect. In this season of life, dear ones, if any, we absolutely have permission to be imperfect. Give yourselves some much-needed grace and allow “good enough” to be good enough.