So last week was a bit of a downer, right? (Ok. Understatement. Intensely down!) So today, I am determined that there shall be joy.
We go to the woods, the kids progress on their bikes, they play firefighters on the climbing frame (too cute!); there is much joy and much laughter and all with a backdrop of Autumn leaves and glistening water. It is pretty much a perfect afternoon off.
And yet, in the middle of it, my energy suddenly drops. Just drops through the floor. And I get tired and low. Really low.
And so I ask God, what is this about? I have absolutely everything in place to be a lover of life today, right down to the reminder that I am called to live thankfully; yet this sudden slump feels out of my control. It doesn’t feel like a choice to mope, as it admittedly does some days. It feels chemical. And so I wonder, is there a difference? Is there a distinction between a chemical or hormonal imbalance that causes depression… and the act of surrendering to worries and feelings and circumstances that make us feel depressed?
When Paul says, “do not be anxious about anything,”… is that a tougher task for some than it is for others, regardless of circumstance?
I decide that it is, and thus begin to wonder which category I fall into; because some days I am definitely throwing a pity party that just needs to be pooped, and other days I can’t seem to produce the energy to even think about it.
Thankfully, today is not one of those days. Today I wake up with the song “Way Maker” repeating over and over in my head. I feel joy; I feel like a dark cloud has lifted, and I feel something resembling determination that today is going to be a good day.
And it is. We have no online duties today and so the kids and I return to the “Bible Box” and our book about the Jewish Names of God. Today’s name is ‘El Emet’: the God of Truth. We play through the story of Adam and Eve, and paint and print some stupidly expensive plastic-free apples I bought by mistake (you can see a theme here!) to illustrate how costly lies can be. We then talk about the kind of lies we might be led to believe about ourselves and others if we listen to the wrong voices; the effects these lies can have on us- our confidence, faith and self esteem- as we grow. So to close, we talk about how El Emet sounds quite a lot like “helmet”! And that’s exactly how we can approach God’s Truth. We read in the Bible what God says about us and others and Himself. We remember these words, these Truths, and we wear them like a helmet to protect our minds from the lies we will be tempted to believe in the world. All in all, it is another message that I probably need to hear more than they do this week!
Ok. Without going into too much detail, it transpires that the intensity of last week’s depression was, indeed, hormonal. Not to say that any of the things that overwhelmed me weren’t depressing in their own right, but it is a relief to know that I’m not losing my head entirely and that there were clear chemical factors involved!
Still. Whilst I partly wish I had been kinder to myself and recognized the old spade for what it was, I am also still partly embarrassed that after all of these years I still pick it up and dig a ruddy dark hole with it! Being “thankful in all circumstances” can be a tougher call for some people and today, I am incredibly thankful that my chemicals are only temporary and occasional! Some people fight this battle on a long term basis and my prayers go up for them with much deeper understanding today.
In the meantime… we bake with pumpkins. I measure them out, put some aside for soup, some for cake, some for pie; get confused, puree the lot, poor it into the cake mix, realize my errors, lament my wasted time and thus, also praise the Lord that the Pandemic has indeed cancelled the annual pumpkin party this year!
Ballet is cancelled this week, whilst heated discussions between our local councilors and the National Government mean that Tier 3 Restrictions are also looming. Not yet implemented but, rather obviously, imminent. So… I confess… I cheat. Just a tiny bit. I arrange to meet a friend and her new baby inside a pub. We don’t sit together, we are on separate tables, but I can see her and hear her and eat good food that I didn’t cook! It is so nice and I am pretty certain it won’t be happening again this side of 2020, so… there you go. The rules were observed, but bended. After she leaves, there’s a play area outside, so Toddler and I spend the rest of the afternoon out there throwing a ball up into the air and watching it blow into a bush. Maximum entertainment!
In the evening, the announcement is made and we enter Tier 3. For us, this primarily means we can’t travel to the in-laws on Friday as planned. Which is sad, but expected; I think I did my sulking last week. We break the news to the kids and once again, they blow me away. While confessing that they ‘hate the virus’ they also begin to list all of the great things about being at home instead. In fact, The Eldest’s first response is, “at least we can use up all of the milk in the freezer, Mummy?!” She then makes a list of everything we should do with a week off together at home. Its innocent simplicity melts my heart. I flippin’ love these kids!
Swimming: my favourite day of the week. I am slightly nervous that Tier 3 might mean the closing of leisure centres and dance studios, but both confirm that they can still operate. Hallelujah!
We manage to video call grandparents today without me getting over-emotional, so that is a win too. I actually think I feel better now for having nothing to look forward to. Our holiday to the in-laws was the last thing I was holding out hope for. Now that I know none of it is happening and we definitely won’t see anyone until next year, I somehow feel a lot better. A particular anxiety or nervous energy has lifted and an ability to focus on the here and now has returned. The perks of living far away, I suppose.
In the evening, bedtime is messy. Three kids is a wonderful number, unless Husband is working and they don’t want to go to sleep! In this case, it’s a bit like those Fairground Arcade games where the little moles pop up out of the holes and you have to bop them back down with a hammer! (Only without the hammer, obviously.) Just as one is settled, another bops up, and wakes another and so on and so forth! By the time I have finished, Husband is wrapping up his Evangelism course on Zoom and asks if I can share my testimony. I think I am exhausted and look a state to be honest, but… how can I possibly resist the opportunity to tell a God story?!
It is a good thing to reflect on, going to sleep.
Normally the hardest day in the week. Not because it is hard, but because it is perhaps too easy. We have no plans on a Thursday and so this is the day I am prone to overthink and despair. Today, then, I try to exercise some self-discipline. Put my building blocks in place even though I don’t particularly feel like I need them. Husband offers to take the kids to school, but I take them anyway; simply because it ensures that I will get up and dressed and go outside!
Unfortunately, however, it chucks it down with rain half way and the poor kids can’t use their umbrellas because they are on scooters! Maybe should have checked the forecast first. But we make it on time, and the promise of homemade cookies at 3.30pm cheers them on.
“Will you make the mint chocolate chip ones?”
“Oh! Will you make them just before we get home so they’re still warm?!”
YES. Totally. I am all over being THAT Mum today!
In between, we clean and play. But this time, when she plays independently, I catch up on my Bible in a Year instead of scrolling aimlessly on my phone or nodding off on the sofa! It’s Exodus this week… a bit of a tougher read to be honest; lots of measurements and strange laws, but enough bizarre stuff in there to hold your attention. I mean, did you know that in between the famous bit where Moses hears God from the Burning Bush and the other famous bit where Moses leads the slaves out of Egypt, there’s a not-so-famous-bit where Moses is about to die and his wife saves his life by rubbing a freshly-cut foreskin on his foot?! No, me neither. (Well, Disney didn’t include THAT bit in the Prince of Egypt, did they?!)
We also clean and tidy the house, but this time it actually needs doing, which is motivating! Toddler wants to help and appears to be doing a good job with the hoover in the lounge, so I quickly go and clean the toilets while her inquisitive hands are busy. Mid-scrub, I hear the hoover stop. She runs upstairs. Comes back down. The hoover starts again. Then stops. She runs upstairs, comes back down. The hoover starts again…
“What are you doing little one?” I peep my head around the door.
“Drying hair.” She looks at me. A miniature princess toy in her hands, held hostage over the hoover barrel.
“Oh no! Don’t- you’ll suck it up!“
She’s definitely my daughter.
Today, Husband has a very big funeral with a large screen outside- catering for the huge crowd of people who would want to attend but can’t, due to the restrictions. He manages to social distance, but is concerned about everyone else. What a terrible time it is to lose someone and attempt to honour their memory.
We also spend time reading articles and signing petitions about the government’s decision not to offer free school meals to kids who need them during the holidays. Reading the announcement, Husband is visibly and verbally angry- something I very rarely see about anything other than football, to be honest! For him, he is very closely involved with schools and church programs working with these families – he knows how much it is needed, and how much schools are doing, despite their hacked-off budgets. For me, it is an eye-opener. I guess I’ve spent so much of the last few weeks and months focusing on the constantly changing laws and the impact of family bans on myself and the kids, that I have been almost blind to how very, very hard some people have got it. I gasp at a sudden thought.
“What is it?” Husband asks.
“I renewed my passport. I actually entertained the idea that we could book a last minute holiday today!”
“Yeah, but that was before all of this and the extra restrictions.”
“No, but I thought it. I actually thought of it, to the point of renewing my passport. Children are starving. People are losing jobs, homes, lives… people on our doorstep, in our community. Can you even imagine?! Families losing livelihoods and the local Vicar is running off to Rhodes for a week All Inclusive?!”
“It’s not funny! We might as well be Tories!”
I mean, we didn’t do it. But even the thought now exposes my selfishness and I am genuinely quite ashamed!
This pandemic is bringing out the best and worst in us all, isn’t it?!
And so, at the end of this week, with my chemicals finally at ease and my head screwed on, (unlike poor Elsa and Jasmine!) I am thinking once again about mental health; about building blocks and about crutches.
For self care is a brilliant thing… but selfish care is not.
We are blessed to be a blessing;
I confess, I forgot.
God Bless you, thanks for reading! xxx