Monday, 19 October 2020

Self Care in the Year of Covid

 Many of you who read my reflections, or listen in when I share thoughts know that I have Long Covid.

For the uninitiated this the the long-lasting after effect of the virus. Chronic Fatigue Syndrome; post viral fatigue - call it what you like, Long Covid is utterly debilitating. For the past several months I have been trying to manage my time more carefully; working out what the triggers are, trying to predict when a wave of exhaustion will hit, finding ways to protect myself and conserve what energy Have.

For short amounts of time I can act like a "normal" person; I can deliver a sermon, smile and chatter, maintain conversations, go about like life is normal. But I have discovered that the payback comes in a wave of overwhelming fatigue that will wash over me, threatening to drown me. As a result I may go to bed; or I may just sit, and basically do nothing. Not a thing. At its worst I struggle to climb the stairs to even get to my bed. 

Dogs exercising selfcare
Dogs exercising selfcare...
Last week, in a checking in appointment my doctor extended the "Reduced Hours Note" to the end of the year. The End of the Year. He suggested it will be at least this long before I really get well - but, and here's the rub, he also admitted they have no clue. They are going on similar post viral illnesses, and for now simply collecting data from each person who is displaying these symptoms to work out exactly what Long Covid really does. 

This morning I am beyond tired; yesterday we were in person for worship; it was great to see a few folks; the phones didn't record so well, so I did not have anything I could cut together to share more widely; I thought I might do a wee live reflection later - but an hour or so in bed, and preparing dinner was actually all I did yesterday afternoon. Today I am still tired. So I have decided it is time to exercise some self-care.

I am supposed to be reducing my hours, so I am going to do that - intentionally now, not just piecemeal. I will block out days, and on a "work" day, be very strict about not more than two things - two is my absolute limit, when I go over I have discovered I lose another day in recovery. People are kind, and ask how I'm doing, am I getting better? My answer varies, some days I feel well, other days dreadful. truthfully, I don't know if I am improving, I am just keeping moving, looking after myself, trying to guard my time. 

The bonus is time for quiet reflection; time to talk with God; time to pause and simply be. I have discovered God is never far, I am aware of the Holy in everyday things, I am aware of God's presence, alongside me... waiting for me to regroup, no pressure, just love and presence. for me, for my time, this is my self care, God with me. 

Saturday, 3 October 2020

Early in the Morning

 It is early on a Saturday morning in October.

Last night I attending the General Assembly, which is running later than usual, over two days instead of seven, and online rather than in-person.

Except I got to be there in person! 

As a committee convener in fact, I was expected to be there in person. It was eery; the Assembly Hall is usually packed with around 800 bodies; seats are at a premium; to get your preferred space you need to arrive early.  Yet, last night, I arrived early in order to be briefed on how to use the building. Seats were allocated; There were 21 people in the hall, including the behind the scenes tech team. 

The final online briefing was introduced, live, from the hall about an hour before proceedings began, and immediately I realised I hadn't't muted my phones because they started pining as friends sent "I see you!" messages! Thank goodness it was just the final instructions!

I have blogged about General Assembly a number of times over the years, and I love it. I love the ceremony; the opportunities to catch up with friends I haven't seen for a while; I love the worship; and, strange to say, I love the business - the reports and the discussion about policy going forward. 

Last night was very different. In the hall, I felt detached. Because of the way things were set, I was unable to see who was online; though the technology allowed for pep to be "brought forward" to speak. It was fascinating. It was a very long evening. Scheduled to run from 7 - 9 pm, it soon became clear that it would take longer. Every point that would normally have gone through on a stamping of feet, had to be voted on.  And voting took a few minutes each time. I was scheduled to speak last, no escaping for me! 

It was a long night.

But it was also a privilege to be there, to reflect on our church; to witness our church getting to grips not just with the technology, but also with the need for the church to adapt to today, to be fit for life in the times of Covid, to respond to the needs of the people of God today. 

I will not be there today, either online, or in-person. I have given my report, and I will not be needed today. I may not be there. But I will be praying. For the church. For those reporting. For those who see the need for change, and for those who will challenge that change. 

It is early on an October morning.

The church is gathering, and the church is reflecting, the church is responding to the needs of all God's People, for today, and for the future. I pray that God will guide and bless every person for today and for our future. 

Tuesday, 29 September 2020

Happy Ordiversary to me!

 Today I have been ordained for 15 years. A statement I find pretty impossible to be fair.

Where did those 15 years go?

And, if I were to give some advice to my younger self - I wonder what that would be?

First: nothing is really as bad as you think it is. Be true to yourself, accept each day as it comes. There will be pain along the way - but so much more joy and pleasure that those painful days will fade into insignificance.

Second: don't be afraid to speak your mind! Being quiet when you see things that are wrong or unjust may feel safe, but you will regret not speaking up for the right. 

Third: the places you will go, and the people you will meet through your ministry are beyond your imagining; you will find support in the most unexpected places; you will make friends across the world; and you will have more opportunities through your ministries than you can ever imagine.

Fourth: spend time with the people you love. Make the effort to see them, talk to them, share experiences together. Because life is short and you never know what is waiting round the next corner. You will lose friends, your heart will break for them. Knowing you had lunch, shared a fun experience, said what was on your heart, will ease the sorrow and bring hope into the darkest days.

Fifth: you are not alone. In everything, in every difficulty, in every celebration, in every heartbreak, in every joy-filled moment: God is. And God will be with you every step of the way. God called you to this, God is with you through every step, breath, moment. God is. 

Sunday, 27 September 2020

1958 - 62 Years Ago...

 Today is my parent's wedding anniversary. 

Neither is still alive, but that doesn't stop the date being significant and triggering memories. It's the same for my siblings, my brother sent a message to our family chat this morning, wishing them a Happy Anniversary.

I am minded of special celebrations we had for them over the years; for their Silver Wedding, they had a renewal of vows service and a big party. They loved big parties in those days. 

For the Pearl - 30 years, I was about to relocate to Scotland, and it seemed to be such a distance. We bought them flowers and gifts; the next big party was 10 years later, their Ruby wedding, they had another party, and another blessing, I wasn't able to get to that one (don't remember why now) and 10 years after that, their Golden Wedding we had a family get together, lovely big meal, and cake in the garden at my sister's home.

That was 12 years ago, and so much changed in those intervening years - not just their deaths, but marriage ended, marriages begun, babies born, new homes, new jobs - so much history, so many more chapters in our lives.

Now that they are not in the little house by the sea, I do not visit so often, do not see my brother and sister as often as I used to. This year of course, none of us has travelled like we normally would, the hopes of gatherings this summer for wedding were dashed by lockdowns, and restriction on numbers who could gather. Life goes on. life is different.

One thing remains constant. Love abounds. We may not see each other often, but love ties us together, unites us even when we are apart.

Happy Anniversary mum and dad - united again in eternity. 

The whole family, gathered for Dad's 80th Birthday 2012

Saturday, 26 September 2020

24 Hour Rant Alert!

 What has happened to the news?

I ask this because again today I found myself shouting at the TV. 

This happens on a more or less regular daily basis. The news, should be information about the world, the nation and the community. It should be facts. Accurate. True. Unbiased facts.

Not speculation.

Not the same line in four different iterations.

Not inane drivel from the "location" - how does making a journalist stand on a rainy roadside add to the integrity or accuracy of a piece to camera?! 

The news has become a 24 hour stream of inanities. There is not enough real news for 24 hour coverage, so it has become necessary to repeat the same story, again, and again, ad infinitum and it is driving me to distraction. 

And! Do not get me started on the items that have become news. Nor the constant need for views of the man or woman in the street - Oh-my-gosh! There are too many stupid people in the world!

Don't ask their opinion, find someone who knows the topic and will give us an accurate fact based, scientific/ historic / politic answer. 

Another thing!! When an announcement is to be made, wait for the announcement. Later today "x" is going to tell us blah, blah, blah... so wait until later. Do not leak the report. Do not guess, and second guess what is going to be in the announcement. 

For my sanity. For my health. I have stopped watching the news. I'd rather watch repeats of Say Yes to the Dress, or Dr Pimple Popper* than listen to another TV journalist spew populist drivel as an approximation of real news. I get my news via the radio, in short 5 minute reports. It is enough. In these strange and terrible days we are living through, it is enough.

News must wait. My heart and mind cannot take any more of the 24 hour stream of drivel. So I give up. I am better without it! 

*can anyone explain why Dr Pimple Popper is oddly compulsive viewing?? 

Friday, 25 September 2020

A Stitch in Time

 One of the things that has kept me going these past months is sewing.

It has long been a productive pastime: I used to make clothes for me and for the boys when they were wee. Then I entered ministry and the sewing machine was confined to the back of a cupboard for a LONG TIME.

In my last call I started a banner group, and my sewing machine came out the cupboard, was dusted off and put to use. I rediscovered my love of stitching. taking pieces of cloth and snip, snip, stitch, stitch creating new and lovely things.

At the start of the Lockdown, back in March, I reclaimed sewing time. I had created a craft room when we moved to this new manse, but apart from hemming curtains, hadn't really used it much. I went through all the boxes I'd brought, sorted through the works in progress, the half finished projects, and began to work through them. I made masks and gave them away - around 80 all told. I finished a quilt started at least 20 years ago. I finished a sewing bag, and made a couple more; took a commission - it was such fun! 

I have now bought a new sewing machine - it's amazing compared to the one I had which was at least 25 years old. Now I'm working on some new projects - but they are secret! Gifts for loved ones, I have photographed, but won't be going into details just yet! Here is the quilt... it sits on my chair in the study, and gives me such pleasure, knowing I have stitched myself. 

Thursday, 24 September 2020

Time... where did it go?!

 I have a photo frame on my dressing table; it's one of those that's a kind of book fold, so you can have two pictures side by side.

In it, I have two pictures of my three sons, in the first, is the oldest and youngest, the one holding the other, they are about 9 & 2 in that shot. The other, my middle boy, is gazing towards them, he would be 7 I guess. There were taken on the same day, and they were either end of a sofa. A moment, captured in time. 

I have many, many photographs of my boys over the years, they are now, 36, 34 and 29... I'm not entirely sure how that happened - because surely I'm still only in my 30s too?! 

We have a couple things we do when taking pictures on the rare occasions I get them all together: we recreate previous photos, and I have a gallery of those, all framed and hanging on the upstairs landing... my boys, from babies to men. The other thing we do, which began when they were grumpy teens: is what we called catalogue poses. They didn't know how to stand, or felt awkward, or just messed about. One of them, (probably middle boy) came up with the idea of a catalogue pose, and they immediately struck a pose, SNAP! it was done, captured for all time. 

Photos of my boys; of my beloved; of my siblings; of my nieces and nephews; of my parents, of good friends and happy occasions are all hung and displayed around my home. Reminders of love, of connection, of ties that hold us all together. 

They give me joy.

They remind me, we are never alone. We have each other. We are loved.