I joke that in the past month in addition to being a ministry consultant, writer, mother and spouse I am now also the principal, gym coach, cafeteria worker, guidance counselor and two grade level teachers at our new home school set up. But really, it’s no joke. This is taxing work, making hourly and sometimes minute by minute decisions about the household’s thriving around the clock. Part of the brain science behind creating habits and schedules is that habits put certain things on autopilot so that the brain is not taxed by ordinary, daily activities. Many of our habits and rhythms have been thrown out the window and we are creating new ones but figuring what’s best and how to do it take time. Even with an engaged partner it’s exhausting and my single and solo parent friends feel the compression of this weight doubly.
My consulting already required Zoom and conference calls–blessedly not all my ministry partners are local, instead they are spread across time zones. Add to it my local partners that now want to connect over these channels. And now my children not only rely on Zoom for their academic acceleration (which let’s be honest is more like a holding pattern or preventing a slide) but they also rely on it to get much needed social connection with friends. They need this connection to still feel like they are connected and whole people. I get it. I make happy hour with girlfriends a weekly priori
All these virtual meetings are a lot to remember, juggle and make happen. It’s why I decided three weeks into this new life that while the whole country was shifting to essential workers only, I was going to shift into essential meetings only. I am not interested in winning the medal for doing the most in quarantine. Each week I ask what meetings are essential to our thriving? Economically, emotionally, spiritually. Those are the meetings we attend–only what is essential to those areas of thriving. Anything else can wait. This is not the time for us to take on new, more, extra. This is essential time.
Our emotions are taxed from the abrupt shift from everything we once knew as normal to a new normal, carved into the small island of our home. Our spirits are taxed from processing all the change, for trying to construct meaning and purpose at a rapid pace. If it is a time for essential workers only, then it’s time for essential work only, essential meetings only. The Christian tradition shapes the year around liturgical season–liturgical time. It insists that the rhythm of our year be shaped by the rhythm of our faith stories and our spirits, that each season demands something different from us as faithful people. Essential time mirrors the same ideas, that this time demands something outside the demands of the secular calendar, an invitation for learning and growth, for shaping our priorities towards what is holy. And not all my Zoom meetings meet this criteria.
We are not slackers when we practice discernment and have boundaries. This is acknowledging all the ways in which our systems–biological, mental, social, interpersonal–are taxed and giving ourselves some space. Not just space in the schedule but in our brain, in our spirit. This is utilizing the tools of discernment to listen not just to our schedule but our spirit, creating a schedule that reflects the deep and tender needs of our spirits right now.