Archive for category Personal

Happy Holiday

I hope you had a good Valentine’s Day, Presidents’ Day, Et Cetera Day Weekend. Personally, the pandemic has pretty much flattened whatever significance these days may have once had for me. Not that I was ever big into either. But for me, they both passed with hardly a notice. The days and weeks kinda just blend into one another.

That’s the post.

Tags: , , , ,

Life Gets Complicated

So, my publishing plans at the end of the year didn’t work out so great. Partly because I skidded from the end of a Christmas vacation into the beginning of an unexpected period of quarantine when a member of my household came down with COVID-19.

Don’t worry, they got through it with minimal difficulty, and they successfully isolated within our home to such a degree that no one else was infected. They’ve recovered and we’ve all tested negative, and we’ve waited out our timers and life is now (finally) getting back to normal.

Sort of. Like it was normal before, right?

But that’s not the only reason I fell behind. the weeks leading up to Christmas turned out to be more complicated and stressful as well. It turns out that planning and executing safe and responsible church celebrations of Christmas during a pandemic can be like that.

Anyway, the podcast episode on why resolutions fail never happened (some irony there), and I put a general pause on writing and producing new material apart from the weekly newsletter I do for the church. In fact, I even went three Sundays without preaching–something I haven’t done in my 15+ years in ministry. The only content I produced was the beginning of a long series of short videos titled, Let’s Read: the Gospel of Mark. (By the way, you can check that out here.)

So now I’m trying to get back on the various saddles. I have no idea what to do with the podcast this week. If an idea comes to me in the next 24 hours, that’d be great. Otherwise, I may just let it go one more week. Alternatively, I may just record another chapter of my novel in progress.

I’ve got scripts for more Gospel of Mark videos already queued up, so at the least I’ll shoot a couple more of those this week, but I’m also hoping to produce something for my own channel. (The Mark series is for the Washington New Church channel, which I am the primary contributor.)

And, of course, I need to come up with a sermon for this Sunday…and in fact I’m hoping to map out a plan for the next six months of Sunday sermons by the end of this week.

Church should be about more than just preaching and teaching and information transfer. But the pandemic has made it really hard to act like a community. So, while I’m looking for alternative ways of leading the church in its community uses, I’m also using this opportunity to double down on strengthening those parts of the work that are still very possible. Hopefully when this is all over, we will be able to both benefit from this period and get back to the real work of being a church.

In the meantime, I still need to move all of my studio equipment (camera, lights, tripod, various mics and stands, miscellaneous electronics, etc.) from my home back to my office, and I’m not really looking forward to that. But at least I will have a quieter (and less echo-y) space to record things in again.

So that’s the update. Nothing fancy or thought-provoking or important. But for the curious, that’s where I am at the moment. Talk to you next time!

Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

Grooves, Ruts, Water, Ice, and Tracks of Various Kinds

Billy Joel has a song that unfortunately has really spoken to me at various times: “Running on Ice”.

As fast as I can climb
A new disaster every time I turn around
As soon as I get one fire put out
There’s another building burning down

That sense of running as hard as you can just to keep from falling down, not actually getting anywhere…it’s very real. That’s not where I am right now, thankfully. But I’ve been there.

Ages ago I saw an old black and white one-panel cartoon (maybe from the New Yorker?), in which a person says to someone sitting next to them, “I’m not sure if I’m in a groove or just stuck in a rut.” I went looking for it today, just to discover (unsurprisingly) that this groove/rut dichotomy has been cartooned (and later memed) to death by pretty much everyone who can draw at one point or another. Which I guess is fitting.

I’m not stuck in a rut, myself, as far as I can tell. But I don’t really feel like I’m “in a groove”, either. I’m definitely not experiencing a lot of “flow state” these days, but then, I’ve only ever really been able to achieve flow in highly competitive environments, like chess tournaments, hockey games, and certain online games. Well, and when practicing tai chi and other forms of meditation, I suppose, but that flow feels different.

From the outside, though, I imagine I might look like someone either in a groove or a rut. I have a ton of routine in my life these days. All of it very deliberately crafted. My brother Pearse got really into the science and practice of habit formation awhile ago, and then got me hooked. James Clear’s Atomic Habits is my current go-to book on the subject; I highly recommend you read it if you haven’t already. So I have routines. I have a daily routine, a weekly routine, and mini-routines that kick in when I am working on specific kinds of long-term tasks. And I’m pretty consistent about them.

I have also been diagnosed with ADHD-I (which probably has a different designation, now–they keep changing them), which means my brain has a powerful tendency to try to smash routines in order to feed its need for novelty. My whole process, these days, of habit formation, routine development, and self-discipline (which is NOT the same as “will power”–it’s MUCH more useful), is a combination of a war and a compromise–an angry sort of dance, if you will–with my own neurochemistry. And it gets me through and helps me accomplish quite a lot.

But sometimes, when I have been sustaining my intentional routines for a long time, I get this sick, breathless feeling in my chest. It’s like I’m treading water, but can feel the energy that it takes to do so slowly dying, and my need to breathe increases even as I can sense the water rising higher and threatening to cut off my access to the air above, which makes me tread faster and burn energy faster and get more out of breath…

Well, maybe that’s more dramatic than it needs to be. But there’s an impending sense of something, and it feels like waiting for a house of cards to come down. Interestingly enough, being on Ritalin for an extended period of time gives me a similar sensation. I don’t take anything for ADHD these days, but back when I did, I could sometimes get into these–grooves? ruts? routines? rushes?–in which I kept getting stuff done, getting stuff done, and on the outside it just looked like a fairly even-paced efficiency, but on the inside it felt like an engine slowly over-revving.

So it’s interesting to get a similar feeling without drugs, just from my personal behavioral disciplines. It’s like, I’m “on track”, but maybe those tracks are roller coaster tracks and I’m getting a little tired of the whooshing. This is still too dramatic, though. I don’t feel panic, or fear, or exhaustion, even. But I do feel a quiet sort of alarm going off that really wants to break the routines and habits, just to get a break. I wonder (I really have no idea) whether this is a false alarm, or if it’s something I should actually attend to in some way.

I do know this: I don’t really have a lot more room in my life for additional stuff. Partly this is because it’s December and I’m a pastor, and my professional life gets really full for me every Christmas season. Partly, it’s because life under COVID has taken away from me my psychological reserve tank just as it has for so many others. I’m handling the stuff I need to handle quite well, but if you try to balance one more plate on top of the stack I’m carrying, it might all come crashing down.

Or maybe not. Human beings are remarkably bad at estimating their own breaking points. Just ask a Navy Seal. Or anyone who has trained to overcome those built in stops we all have, to discover that their actual capacity for hardship is far greater than they first thought.

Anyway, I’m okay. But in my self-reflections, I do wonder if I’m building up new normals that I can eventually relax into, or if I’m smoking my pistons a bit and need to either find another gear or ease off the gas a tiny bit.

I’m not sure if these ramblings will be of use to you. Maybe you identify with this feeling I’m describing, and if so, then know that you’re not alone. Or maybe this is all very foreign; in that case, isn’t it interesting how different people can be?

Next week maybe I’ll talk about my actual system of habit formation, routine building, and self-discipline. I swear it works with no bad side effects! 😉

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

Dealing with Social Distancing During the Pandemic

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Mac and Pearse Live: Dealing with Coronavirus, Covid, Social Distancing, and Church

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,