'Ministry is like a duck swimming on a pond: calm on the surface, lots of work under the surface.'
Last week, a friend shared this idea that he had heard from a colleague earlier that week, and it felt to me to describe my state of being that week. I went home ready to write a self-satisfied blog post about how I had finally learned the art of effective paddling, so as to be doing a lot of work beneath the surface while maintaining an outward calm.
That was last week.
Last week, the 'to-do' lists effectively guided me through the myriad tasks. Last week, I started most days with tai chi; walked most afternoons. Last week, I was in a zone, in the flow, keeping all the balls I juggle in the air ... last week.
This week, it is a different story. I haven't started the day with tai chi once. I haven't walked once. The 'to-do' list tasks have been rolled from one day to another with an efficiency more reminiscent of Klinger's first weeks as company clerk (M*A*S*H) than Radar's eccentric competence.
That I ebb and flow between a calm glide and erratic paddling around in circles doesn't bother me in itself. At least I do have weeks of gliding productivity, and I have learnt to trust that those weeks will happen. I have come to recognise the seasonality of life, and the seasonality of my energy levels as part of who I am and how I am in the world.
But this week, the energy ebb has bothered me.
What is bothering me, I think, is when I can't explain the splashy ineffectiveness: and this week, I am asking myself a lot of questions.
Am I anxious about the upcoming trip to Europe & the UK? possibly.
Is an oncoming cold or virus the explanation for the lack of energy? I am swallowing that vile olive leaf extract just in case.
Could it be the depression? The medicine would keep a more even keel than that, surely?
Am I not sleeping? Which would be part symptom of afore-mentioned nerves, and part cause of low energy levels.
Could the absence of tai chi, walking and yoga be unhelpful? yes. and the energy low is not helping me to push on and do those things that will create more energy.
Is the lack of rhythm this year, with fewer days off and a very full schedule, starting to take its toll? Likely.
Maybe last week's energy was in part due to the post-TEDx high, and this week is a natural flat spot before finding an evenness again?
Most likely, this week's ebb is due to a combination of all those things.
When your health is fragile, and I have come to understand that mine is, it seems that the small ebbs and flows of life cause strong ripples of response, physically, mentally, and emotionally. The frustration is that it takes energy to push myself to stick to what rhythm does remain (tai chi and walks), even in the midst of a chaotic season: what do you do when you don't have energy enough to do that? It takes a measure of resolve, of patience, and especially forgiveness. It is absolutely counter-productive to berate myself. Fighting against the ebb will only prolong it.
It is uncomfortable to sit in this space of frustrated aims, stilted energy. One thing I seem to have learnt in recent times, is to at least do what I can.
I attribute this learning to my chiropractor, Yvan, who encourages me to listen to my body, and even in the midst of tiredness or illness, to not necessarily stop entirely. Let the energy ebb be what it is, slow down to accommodate it, and rest: but don't give up. Don't stop living. Movement, even slow and little, is life-giving.
Have you watched the ocean's ebb and flow? Even as the water recedes, it is making ready to return. It is ebb and flow. So this week, at last, I am letting myself ebb, because I have learnt that the flow will return.