I struggled to sleep last night. After the incredible energy push to begin our Tour – the adrenaline of enthusiastic receptions at churches in Edmonds, followed by student meetings and a warm, lifelong-friends-creating time in Vancouver, our next destination was disappointing at best. I was appalled when we witnessed a hateful, political debate in a church; most of our engagements fell through; people who had been communicating with us for weeks, even months, didn’t return calls or emails once we had arrived. Depression is trying to set in and I’m determined to resist; but it’s a fight.
I should have anticipated this. I did musical theater professionally and this is merely post-show blues translated into advocacy work. But this battle is more intense; there’s more at stake and the fire of outrage doesn’t sustain. It’s a flash of light and heat that smolders and chokes out. That’s where I am right now – smoldering and choking out. Now what?
In rural northern California where I grew up, our house was heated with a wood stove and my dad and I were the family pyromaniacs. I learned quickly that throwing a big log on a struggling fire only snuffs out what little flame is there. I needed to carefully select and place tiny bits of kindling, then blow a consistent, precisely-aimed stream of air in order for that miniscule flame to grow and spread, then sit back to assess what was needed next. Fuel – oxygen – assess; that’s how to build a fire that will warm the bones and cook the food and keep the predators away at night. Fuel – oxygen – assess; it’s also how to sustain a good work.
In the middle of that nearly sleepless night, I had a dream that someone who had been running a home-spun, organic, community food service was ending it after decades of joyful delivery. They weren’t retiring because they were tired, but rather, to encourage someone else to take up the cause. In the dream, I wasn’t ready; I felt exposed, vulnerable, weak. I just wanted to curl up in the papa’s lap and soak up the joy, the security, and the solidity that he embodied.
Waking up I wondered: What fuel keeps the fire within me going? How do I fan the flame strategically? When do I step back and discern both my effectiveness and my needs for rest and regeneration? I know that balancing each of these is essential in order to have a life’s work that feeds, warms and protects those who are hungry, cold and under threat.