October: days are long, light is short.

I don’t like to admit it, but I’m struggling. I am, after all, an extrovert; I feed off people in the nicest possible sense of the word. Over spring and summer, when I was (allegedly) working from home one thing that kept me going was the prospect of coming back to university. Of course, now I’m back it’s not the same. This should have been obvious, but perhaps we (or I) have limited horizons for hope. Of course, things don’t turn around and change overnight back to what they were. Even so this is hard.

When I was at home I broadcast Morning Prayer, I tried to blog. I sent the occasional email and did my best to convince myself that I was working. The truth was that much of the time I wasn’t working. I was at home feeling that I should be working, unable to relax and not being much use. In some respects my wife breaking her leg was a good thing, for me, if not for her! It gave me lots to do and kept me busy. The long summer afternoons and evenings also went nicely with a bottle of wine and I will freely admit that I drank more than I should. I probably still do. One beauty of being in lockdown was the receipt of regular phone calls from other people. Once every week or two there’d be a call from the bishop or from another senior clergy member to check on me, ask how I was. Now we have returned to some sort of normality, some sub-normality at least, those phone calls have stopped. In some respects now I need them far more than ever.

Now though, my wife is back at work. She can’t reliably drive yet so I have to do it. On the one hand I do enjoy a good walk most mornings from her place work to mine. It’s really nice to be able to walk along the road or the river, taking some time to recharge a little bit, appreciating the beauty of creation. The problem is it makes for very long days, long days but don’t have much in them. Yes, I do Morning Prayer 5 days a week. I’m looking at doing the Pop-Up Coffee Stop in three different places on three different days of the week again to build contacts and community and to be seen out and about. BUt that can only go so far: out and about is all well and good when there are other people there, but much of the time they aren’t. It is still better than being stuck in my Multi-Faith Centre, a necessarily rather bland and sterile environment.

At home my elder daughter is struggling too. She’s not the sort of person to really worry about lack of human contact but actually it’s getting to her as well. This was meant to be her Year Out, a break before University to sort things out in her head and get her a diagnosis for her autism (Aspergers). I am beginning to consider changing my work pattern, for my benefit and for hers. That means acknowledging I can’t do the work I want to do, to some extent that I can’t do the work that feel I’m paid to do. If however, I change a bit, spend the whole of Monday (other than acting as taxi driver) at home, and then Wednesday afternoon and Friday afternoon again at home, this should hopefully change the pattern in a positive way for both of us.

What it won’t do is convince me that I am still working properly. I am struggling. It is hard to be a chaplain when there’s no to be a chaplain to. I’m also aware that I could use the technology better if I understood it. It’s something I need to work on.(On top of that I have a team who can’t do their jobs properly because they’re not recognised as official staff and so do not get the IT support that they require). Maybe the biggest problem is that I have reached the point where I struggle to motivate myself. Every year I get this, usually in May & June when uni life is quiet. Normally it’s a time to catch up with staff. It is, perhaps, a time to read. It would be a very good time to study further theology or, if I could learn to relax, to write more Role-Playing Games material. (And here too is a cause for worry. Just at the time when I might be better immersing myself in imagination, taking myself somewhere other than reality, I find myself stepping away from it, spending too much time in my head with my own thoughts and worries).

I recognise that I am fragile. I know the things that would set me off, and cause me sadness. I know how to avoid them yet they seem closer, nearer, more normal, than they were before. And harder to avoid.

And what is the answer? I don’t know, but I do know but I need to look after myself. I do know that I need to find some motivation. I do know what I can and can’t do. I also know that I need to support my wife and family, but days are long and light is short, and I have very little to look forward to at present. All I can do is move on in faith, hope and honesty.

So why have I dictated and written this rambling little essay? To own and recognise the situation. To move my thoughts from the medium of the written journal and out into the ether. It’s not a cry for help or for advice. I don’t think or expect anyone to “do anything about it.” It simply is. And if it helps you, dear reader, to understand yourself better, to find someone to talk to, or to grow a little more empathy, then that’s a bonus.

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