More than a feeling

It is hard to put my finger on exactly what I am feeling right now. I am not sure how to describe it or what label to slap on it. What I do know is that every time I pour my heart and soul into something, I get tunnel vision for a season. Everything that I do revolves around that one thing. My schedule, my creativity, prayer, physical exertion and my emotion all get dumped into this one container. Then that event comes and goes.

Here’s the crazy thing. Once the day comes for that event, teaching opportunity or meeting to happen, I really have no control over how it will be received or, for that matter, whether it will be deemed “good” or “bad”. The work and effort has been poured into it and now God will decide how it will be received.

The moments leading up to that event are chaotic, feverish and jam packed with activity. It is non stop action and I get very little sleep. There are moments when I will wake up in the middle of the night thinking crazy thoughts like “Will anyone even come to this thing?”, “This will be a colossal failure!” or even worse “Maybe I should try my hand at a new trade. I think I would be a phenomenal barista!” All of those are real thoughts I’ve had in the middle of the night by the way.

My point is that all of that time and effort, all of the chaos and running around ends abruptly and the event is over. Honestly, there are times when it doesn’t even matter if it went well or badly, it is over just the same! Sure, there is a sense of relief. The monkey is off of my back, the ginormous elephant that has been sitting on my chest has moved on to…a place that has a lot of peanuts and I am now off of the hamster wheel. It is amazing how many animals I fit into that last sentence isn’t it? Regardless, there is a strange and eerie calm that surrounds me and the silence that accompanies is sometimes deafening.

For transparencies sake, I am elated that the event is over but at the same time I find myself not knowing what to do with the space that has just opened up on my schedule. Don’t get me wrong, I have plenty of work to do. There are a myriad of things that I have had to push to the side, press the pause button on and in some cases ignore just to get this Shamu sized task done. However, I still feel this emptiness inside and a sense of loss that the fervor of activity is now gone. There is a part of my brain that begins to ask the question, “Was it all worth it?”

There are plenty of times when the answer to that question is a resounding “YES!” There are other times, these are the darkest moments for me, when the worst answer isn’t “no” but “I’m not sure.” It is the uncertainty of not knowing whether my time and efforts were well spent. If the time away from my family and friends meant anything at all. It is in this space that I find myself not knowing what this feeling is.

The best way I can describe it is the “Post Event Funk”. The real question is, how do you navigate something you can barely label? I recently listened to a podcast where the topic was grief. It was an amazing discussion! The guest who was being interviewed had experienced tremendous loss in her life and was now helping other people navigate loss in their lives. She said something that created a disturbance in the force for me. It was something that I knew but had forgotten.

She said that “Not all grief is about the death of a person. Sometimes we mourn the loss of a job, a relationship or even a season of our lives.” AH! That was it. I was mourning the loss of a season. Maybe on some level, the loss of time during the planning of that event. Perhaps it was that the one thing I had poured all of my time into was now gone. Either way, I was carrying a type of grief around with me that I didn’t even know existed.

Through this interview, what I was reminded of is this: we all carry grief around with us. It doesn’t have to be the death of a loved one, though it could be. It could be that a dream of yours died and you had no idea how to express that to someone without sounding weak. Most people understand the concept of losing someone close to you but not everyone can empathize with the death of a season or way of life. Because of that, we all carry unexpressed grief around with us. It pops out at weird times like when a celebrity dies (someone we had zero relationship with) or when we overreact to a situation that doesn’t involve us but it still seems oddly personal.

Today, I’d like to give you the gift of grief. I know, it doesn’t sound like a gift at all but believe me it is. What I hope to impart to you is permission. Permission to feel sad about something you’ve lost. Maybe it is a relationship that had great potential in your life and something soured and you became distant. Take some time to mourn the loss of what could have been.

Maybe there was a business venture that you poured everything you had into. I mean EVERYTHING! You poured all of the money that you had into this venture because you believed so much in it. The time and effort that you sacrificed into this experience all because you believed that God had created you “for such a time as this” seemed to be wasted. I would argue that even when things don’t go the way you want them to that it isn’t “wasted” effort but it may feel like that right now. Take the time to mourn the loss of that business. Its okay to feel sad about that.

We often do everything that we can to escape feeling grief. Our society is built around the idea that we should do everything we can to feel happy. In the process of trying to be happy, we avoid doing the healthiest thing we could possibly do. Grieve our losses. Sure, if we stay tied down with grief for too long it is destructive.

However, if we take the time to grieve, we may find joy on the other side of loss.

You don’t need my permission but you certainly have it if you need the excuse. Take time to properly grieve your losses. I believe that God gives that to us as a gift. I also believe that joy and grief are siblings. They are in the same family. They aren’t polar opposites. At least they shouldn’t be. They need to be able to coexist under the same roof and work together as a natural part of our lives.

So as a gift, grieve the loss of something that you haven’t acknowledged yet. Set aside the time that you need to say goodbye to some things that you’ve been carrying around with you. Maybe its not goodbye, perhaps it is just acknowledging that its presence isn’t as prevalent in your life right now and that this makes you sad. Because it really is okay to be sad at the passing of a season. It is a part of life.

There is an appointed time for everything. And there is a time for every event under heaven—

A time to give birth and a time to die;
A time to plant and a time to uproot what is planted.
A time to kill and a time to heal;
A time to tear down and a time to build up.
A time to weep and a time to laugh;
A time to mourn and a time to dance.
” Ecclesiastes 3:1-4

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