Today I ended up not in a meeting with a couple other people. The not is itself a knot to untangle. Virtual meeting. I hopped into the lobby and no one else was there. Kept my double booked life going and was instant messaging on another computer and checking Twitter on a third device. Then placed a phone call while my virtual meeting mic was muted and the lobby stayed quiet. And kept staying quiet. I finally bailed out and find a thread of text messages going. The one guy was awake and then passed out. The other guy thought it was still yesterday.
This isn’t meant to call out either guy. Both have pandemic situations that are key contributors here, caring for family at home while balancing virtual-ish jobs. I’m not immune, I was just already on my second cup of coffee, three meetings deep into a day I knew was today only because I live in my (often double-booked) calendar.
When things first locked down tight for the pandemic, my wife and I were walking the neighborhood almost every night. It gave us a chance to process the rapid changes in real time with each other verbally, and spar through the strengths and weaknesses of our observations.
I figured back in the spring that the big crisis behind the crisis would be epistemology – how we know what is true – and the prevailing feeling would be grief – the loss of our normal and the loss of our loved ones.
I think I’m still right about epistemology being a problem. There’s a growing distrust in sources of truth or truth claims, and it’s eroding the belief that we can know anything about people, science, religion, government, etc.
But I might be wrong about grief being the prevailing feeling. At this point I’m more convinced it’s exhaustion. We’re in a long haul, the adrenaline is wearing off, and the fatigue is setting in. For me the signs have been creeping up. The books I’m gravitating to on my shelf are the ones on burnout. The Bible passages I flip to are in the books like Mark and 1 Peter that address humanity and suffering.
Most of this exhaustion is decidedly bad. Irritability. Insomnia. Lack of appetite. Depression. Avoidance. Hopelessness.
Some of it is the exhaustion so strong it drives change and action. This week I’ve seen a tough man publicly weep and an apolitical man commit to vote. They are just two examples of hitting rock bottom and bouncing that we’re seeing.
People are tired. Real tired. Tired of uncertainty. Disunity. Partisanship. Illness. Online schooling. Racial injustice. Whatever it is, it’s more than grief. We’re not just worn down. We’re fed up. The exhaustion has u-turned into a launchpad of the future.
The oppressed are standing up for justice. The politically homeless are detaching from a broken, gerrymandered, first-past-the-post two party system. The church online crowd is forging meaningful (safe) in-person gospel community deeper than any church growth conference could have built.
It’s not an excuse to let the exhaustion just take over and drown us. The path out is the little building blocks we put under the water. Eventually the structure will be above the waves and stay above the waves. Little disciplines will be build big futures.
But until then we’ll have some temporal slips and burnout trips.