Are you on overload?
I’m on overload.
Just in the past week alone, listening to two men threaten one another with nuclear weapons and watching the white nationalist/supremacist/Nazi rallies in Charlottesville has given us more than our souls have bargained for.
There’s too much hate happening in our world, and we see it firsthand in front of us, or on social media, or on the news. I not only feel it in my soul, I also feel it in my muscles as physical fatigue seems to be setting in the more hate happens in our world. I woke up this morning with an extra sense of fatigue and nausea from all that I’ve seen on television and social media as well as some specific conversations that I’ve had over the past few days.
In no way do I believe my emotions supersede my neighbors who are first-degree recipients of the hate and oppression that is happening. In fact, my emotional overload is probably just a fraction of what they are experiencing. And since this is most likely the case, I’m so sorry that I haven’t always done what I could do to ensure you are protected in body, mind, and soul. I’m sorry that you have lived with this nearly all-day, every day of your lives and only in recent months or years have a number of us given this more of our attention.
I write this not to draw attention away from the people experiencing oppression but to reach out to the caregivers, advocates, and empaths who are feeling overwhelmed. For those of us who are pastors and faith leaders, not only are we carrying the usual emotional and spiritual weights that we haul around with us on a typical day, but we are engaged with additional advocacy work, attending extra meetings, and reading additional articles on the injustices. With news changing so fast, it’s feeling “normal” now to allow one significant news story to preoccupy our minds until the next big one happens a day or two later. And we still hadn’t sorted out the former while we’re now trying to understand the latter.
So, pastors, leaders, advocates, and caregivers, what can we do to continue the work that is needed without experiencing the dread that comes with being overwhelmed by the superinjustices and deluge of negative news that has been happening in the past few months?
Reach out to our colleagues. With this being said, I don’t feel it to be right that we unburden on our friends who are experiencing the brunt of the oppression. But if there are two or three colleagues in similar situations as you, form a group (in person or online) to exchange what you are feeling – especially for those of us who process our emotions aloud with others.
Find activities in which feed our soul. For me, it’s working on crafts and rewatching Parks and Recreation and Modern Family. For others, it may be running, cooking, or walking in nature. Each of us have spirit-renewing activities, and now more than ever it’s our call to allocate time for these activities.
Keep up with our health. From walking to drinking enough water to making sure we are taking our medications to scheduling counseling appointments, this is the time to strengthen every part of ourselves so that we can optimally serve God.
Notice when we are turning to unhealthy substances and behaviors in a way to escape these overwhelming emotions. For most of us it may not be alcohol, but we may eat too many pieces of chocolate cake to escape the exhaustion and pain we are carrying around. We may not give up our chocolate cake or other crutches right away, but maybe it’s worth asking how we can minimize our use of them while we advocate and give pastoral care.
Pray. This goes without saying, but sometimes we need to be reminded that God wants us to turn to God in our state of being overwhelmed. God’s Spirit is ready to help us to find renewal so that we can continue the work God is calling us to do.
Get up every morning by finding a way you can make the world a better place – even if your energy is low. You may be exhausted physically or emotionally, but even if you can’t move from your bed, you can pick up a phone and call your representatives to advocate on an idea. Many things can be done on days when our energy is low.
Sabbath. There are days in which we must remove ourselves from all of this. Schedule that day and stick with your sabbath. This is one area in which I need to be better, because I need my body, mind, and soul full of energy for tomorrow.
May God grant each of us the strength of body to continue praying with our feet, the strength of mind and heart to continue reaching out to our neighbors enduring oppression, and the strength of soul so that we have what we need to rise each day in the hopes to shift this world to a path of love. Amen.
The Rev. Michelle L. Torigian is the Pastor of St. Paul United Church of Christ, Old Blue Rock Road in Cincinnati. Her essay “Always a Pastor, Never the Bride” was in the RevGalBlogPals book There’s a Woman in the Pulpit. Torigian blogs at www.michelletorigian.com.
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4 thoughts on “The Pastoral Is Political: On Overload”
This is just about the wisest, most insightful and balanced description of this current emotional landscape for many of us and then a fabulous map (screw the nav system that gives one bit of information at a time — these days I need a map, diner here, scenic overlook there, dead end …) to how we can care for ourselves.
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It would probably be good if we who are white/cis/hetero also reached out to our friends who do not share that privilege, and offered them support as well. It can be renewing for us to participate in the unburdening of our neighbor, I think, too. Offer a listening ear without saying any words of surprise/self-centering/judgment/justification…bring a meal…invite them into our homes for coffee…send a gift card for a cleaning service… In addition to all the important self-care for us, I think part of our self-care needs to be making sure those who have lived with this exhausting reality for their whole lives get a chance to be cared for as well. There is great joy and hope to be found in that, I think.
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Thank you for these words. My only question: when did you sneak into my living room and take that picture of me on my sofa under the blanket?! I laughed out loud and then cried when I saw that image–because it is exactly where I was on Friday and Saturday, and again on Sunday afternoon after (barely) getting through leading worship and preaching on Sunday morning.
Thank you, thank you, THANK YOU!! This articulates so well what I’ve been feeling this weekend, and it helps to know that I am not alone.