The problem with being any kind of advice giver—clergyperson, therapist, parent, counselor, doctor—is that you darn well better take your own advice. I hate this.
This week I listened to a young woman who has serious health issues. The frustrating thing is that her medical team comes up with a solution and then realizes that solution won’t work. So they come up with another solution and find out . . . that solution won’t work either. It is a series of devastating news made worse each time by the promise of a way out.
“I’m usually the kind of person who just bounces back, who just moves on,” she said. “But I’m having a hard time doing it this time.” Top off all her terrible medical news with the fact that she can have no visitors because of COVID and that a beloved relative died of COVID. Just. Too. Much.
The problem with moving on quickly and bouncing back immediately is that it often means we haven’t completely processed our feelings. So they will linger. And build up. One layer after another.
We talked some more and agreed that we were similar in that we are usually pretty unsinkable but now she wasn’t so sure. What to do?
I told her that often we need to just sit with it—sit in the crappy feelings, in the “poopy diaper” if you will. But it’s so hard to sit with fear and disappointment and grief and anger and uncertainty. I reminded her that we can take breaks from all this processing. “Go for something fun. Watch “Groundhog Day!”
Because she is just a little over thirty, she gave me a totally blank look. I think she thought I was talking about the actual Groundhog Day that just went by. “I just mean do something fun,” I said lamely.
Then she rifled through a stack of stuff on her tray table and handed me a book. “You mean something like this?”
It was a coloring book called, Pooping Animals. As I leafed through it I laughed out loud. “Yes,” I said. “Take a break from processing all this hideous news and color this picture of a pooping giraffe.” Who knew their poop looked like a pile of Raisenets?
So to go back to the poopy diaper metaphor—as I’m sure you’re just dying to—is that it affects others. People notice. That is why when I woke up this morning feeling totally depressed, Wes asked, “What’s wrong?” He could smell my mood or sense it anyway.
“COVID, that patient, the impeachment, that homeless camp down the street! I’m just tired of it all.” I answered. And here is where I just detest taking my own advice. I said, “I just have to sit with it.” And I did. After a while I remembered that I am in good company and just a short stroll through the Psalms proved it.
Save me, O God,
for the waters have come up to my neck.
2 I sink in the miry depths,
where there is no foothold.
I have come into the deep waters;
the floods engulf me.
3 I am worn out calling for help;
my throat is parched.
My eyes fail,
looking for my God.
Amen to that. Pretty much sums up how I’m feeling right now.
In 2 Corinthians 1:8-9 St. Paul is having a very hard time:
“We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired of life itself. 9 Indeed, we felt we had received the sentence of death.
2 Corinthian 7:5
For when we came into Macedonia, we had no rest, but we were harassed at every turn—conflicts on the outside, fears within.
I hear you, Paul! But then Paul shares how he found God’s comfort from all the external and internal pains. Was it a vision? A miracle? A visitation?
2 Corinthian 7:6
6 But God, who comforts the downcast, comforted us by the coming of Titus.
Titus! Titus? Who is this guy Titus? Titus is all of us! Titus is our community and we comfort one another by coming together in any way we can: Zoom, FaceTime, texts, phone calls, email. That is all we have right now. It is our task to be the face of the comforting God for one another and to see the face of the comforting God in one another.
I am Titus for the patients, staff and families. Who was my Titus this week? I called my high school friends and we lamented about our elderly mothers. I called my sister and we discussed meditation and global anxiety. Also, hair and makeup. And I was comforted.
We can let the flood waters engulf us, sink into the miry depths, call out for God and then—FaceTime with Titus. We are not without help.
And don’t forget the coloring book.