Dear members and friends,
A couple of weeks ago I went for a walk by the river to look at the leaves.
I don’t know the biology behind it, perhaps it is a trick of the light, but it seems to me that the leaves get thinner as they yellow, and glow a semi-translucent gold with the sun behind them. The veins that once brought life and vitality have become dark and hard, framing the bright yellow panes between them.
It was a beautiful sunny day and the water glistened. Then my reverie was broken by a very loud duck. I couldn’t see anything from the path, so I walked to the low hill of the riverbank. Listening more intently, I could hear the shush-shushing of cars and the occasional loud motorcycle. Then the wind picked up, and I heard the grasses moving, like the movement of the soul of the earth.
Finally I saw the duck. Floating backwards downstream. (Why?) The duck was too far away for this non-birder to identify the species. All I could make out was that it was too elegant to be a mallard — the neck too thin and the beak too long. Are there grebes in Saskatchewan? I am sure that someone in the congregation knows the answer to this. Probably more than one person.
There is something about a river that encourages reflection.
How am I doing? Will I regain all my capabilities? What does this all mean for my life and work?
I don’t know the answer to the last two questions. In part, I don’t know because it is too early: my neurologist isn’t interested in having a conversation about whether this is the “new normal” for at least another three years.
Furthermore, even if we do get to that place, some questions can’t be answered alone, because they require a joint conversation — either between me and my husband or between me and this congregation.
All I can do right now is respond to the moment I am in. The question before me, and us, is how do we accommodate my changed brain functioning? I experience myself as showing up differently right now, and I know that others experience changes, too.
There are three things happening for me right now: first, I tire easily. I need to work shorter days, limit evening meetings, and keep most meetings to an hour. The fatigue is mental as well as physical. I get disoriented easily and don’t remember things, so it takes longer for me to do routine tasks. I don’t deal well with the unexpected.
Second, new since the late spring, I get migraines. They are not horribly painful, but they are physically and emotionally disorienting. They seem to be triggered by a variety of things, including emotional stress, fatigue, bright lights, heat and pickles (go figure!). Computer screens definitely make them worse.
When I returned to work after summer vacation, I felt rested, happy and glad to be back. But only two weeks in, I found that I was not as well as I’d thought I was. And since then, there have been some additional complications. For over twenty years, I have used a light box to manage seasonal affective disorder. Now, I can’t use my light box because it triggers migraines. The consequences of not using the light box are severe enough that I have been given a prescription to alleviate the symptoms. Because its been so long since I used drugs, I have no memory of what worked, so it might take a couple of tries to figure out the right drug. My doctor feels that I should be back on a more even keel by January. Not so long a timespan in the scheme of my life, but it will likely feel long in the living of it.
At the September board meeting, I brought forward a plan, which the Board endorsed. To help reduce my stress level, I would make more of a division between my private and my work life, getting a personal cellphone and not checking phone or email on my time off. I would also work only one or two nights a week, and never consecutive nights. The most significant change was to how I work my 3/4 time: I proposed that I would work three weeks full time and then take the last week of each month off to get a length of time away from work.
I am grateful to the Board, my staff colleagues tessera and Fary, and the Sunday services committee for making these changes possible.
I cherish my relationship with this congregation, and want to be able to continue with our shared ministry. This requires that I make some changes, so that I can be present in the congregation in a way that helps build my health and also serves our mission. The board and I are working together to make changes in a way that works for the congregation and creates as little disruption as possible. Your comments and feedback are welcome: please contact any Board member or any member of the Committee on Shared Ministry to share concerns or any other feedback — we can’t work on problems if we don’t know they exist!
**A note on my schedule**
We are committed to transparency regarding my abilities and my schedule. I will try to remember to put an out of office notice on phone and email on my weeks off.
To see my schedule for the year, with a list of my weeks off, go to our internal website, SU Miscellanea:
To make it easier for people to make appointments with me, even during my time off, I now have an electronic calendar. Click on this link to make an appointment with me:
I look forward to seeing you soon.
Yours in community,