Article: Press On!

Today I ran across a wonderful article by Dr. Aisha Ahmad. Aisha Ahmad is an Associate Professor of Political Science at the University of Toronto. She is currently a Senior Fellow at Massey College and a Fellow at Trinity College, and was formerly an International Security Fellow at the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs at the Harvard Kennedy School. 

She takes the time to reflect the trauma of the past six months of the pandemic. I found this extremely helpful and wanted to share it with you.

Dr. Ahmad writes,

The 6-month mark in any sustained crisis is always difficult. We have all adjusted to this “new normal” but might now feel like we’re running out of steam. Yet, at best, we are only 1/3 the way through this marathon. How can we keep going? 

First, in my experience, this is a very normal time to struggle or slump. I *always* hit a wall 6 months into a tough assignment in a disaster zone. The desire to “get away” or “make it stop” is intense. I’ve done this many times and at 6 months, it’s like clockwork. 

This time, our crisis is global and there is nowhere to run. That’s OK. I’ve had to power through that 6-month hump before and there is life on the other side. Right now, it feels like we are looking ahead at long, dark wintery tunnel. But it’s not going to be like that. 

Rather, this is our next major adaptation phase. We’ve already re-learned how to do groceries, host meetings, and even teach classes. And we have found new ways to be happy and have fun. But as the days get shorter and colder, we need to be ready to innovate again. 

This is my first pandemic, but not my first 6-month wall. So, what can I share to help you? First, the wall is real and normal. And frankly, it’s not productive to try to ram your head through it. It will break naturally in about 4-6 weeks if you ride it out. 

Of course, there are things we have to do. Work. Teach. Cook. Exercise. But just don’t expect to be sparklingly happy or wildly creative in the middle of your wall. Right now, if you can meet your obligations and be kind to your loved ones, you get an A+. 

Also, don’t be afraid that your happiness & creativity are gone for the rest of this marathon. Not true. I assure you that it will soon break & you will hit a new stride. But today, roll with it. Clear away less challenging projects. Read a novel. Download that meditation app. 

Frankly, even though we cannot physically leave this disaster zone, try to give yourself a mental or figurative “shore leave”. Short mental escapes can offer respite and distance from the everyday struggle. Take more mental “leave” until you clear the wall. 

In my experience, this 6-month wall both arrives and dissipates like clockwork. So I don’t fight it anymore. I don’t beat myself up over it. I just know that it will happen & trust that the dip will pass. In the meantime, I try to support my mental & emotional health. 

Take heart. We have navigated a harrowing global disaster for 6 months, with resourcefulness & courage. We have already found new ways to live, love, and be happy under these rough conditions. A miracle & a marvel. This is hard proof that we have what it takes to keep going. 

So, dear friends, do not despair of the 6-month wall. It’s not permanent, nor will it define you in this period of adversity. Trust that the magic that helped you through the first phase is still there. Take a breath & pause. You’ll be on the other side in no time. 

Isn’t that great advice for us? 

We are encouraged to endure a little longer. That might sound impossible right now. I get it.

We might be more like King David when he wrote Psalm 6. Things weren’t going well when he wrote… 

My soul is in anguish. How long, O Lord, how long? Turn, O Lord, and deliver me; save me because of your unfailing love. No one remembers you when they are dead. Who praises you from the grave? I am worn out from groaning; all night long I flood my bed with weeping and drench my couch with tears. My eyes grow weak with sorrow; they fail because of all my foes. Psalm 6:3-7

I certainly have days like that too.

However, we are the church. Church is not a destination nor is the church just the staff. WE are the church. WE are not alone. WE have each other. 

Enduring is always easier together. But are we taking the time to connect with each other? I know we don’t have the luxury and the gift of meeting at church right now and so we must take the time to make a call, send an email or a card. We should not suffer alone. Let us endure together. 

I understand that many won’t read this article and quite possibly the ones who need the most encouragement.  For those who are still reading… Don’t give up! We will get through this, if we endure!

Let me end with the words of Saint Paul who blessed the church of Rome with these words…

May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you a spirit of unity among yourselves as you follow Christ Jesus… Romans 15:5

God bless,
Pr. Ben

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