Oxygen Masks and Buttercream Meltdowns

Some days, I do okay.

I have my dog, Zoe, and a nice apartment, more than amply supplied with food and books.

I have a working laptop, and a smartphone, and now, thanks to stimulus money, an iPad to video call friends and family, to text and email and even play online versions of our favorite board games together.

So far, I also have my health, and plenty of internet streaming services to watch movies and tv shows when I’m bored.

Some days, this is more than enough.

But we’re still in the middle of a pandemic, and it’s also the dead of winter in Chicago, and my family is far away…so there are days when I do not do okay.

Days, like last Monday, when I find myself weeping into buttercream as I attempt to frost a cake for my online baking class.

I think that’s pretty normal, actually, for the season we’re in right now. I think it’s healthy, even, to find ways to “feel your feelings” and process through them; express them and let them out.

But when it happens, I am always reminded of those security videos on airplanes that cautioned you (in the event of a drop in cabin pressure) to put on your oxygen mask before helping anyone else.

That’s solid advice, always. I try to follow that in non-pandemic times, too. But what I am thinking about lately is not just putting my oxygen mask on when the pressure drops and I can’t breathe well, but also checking that mask regularly and making sure it’s there when I need it.

On an airplane, thank goodness, technicians do this for you – make sure that your mask is working so that when you really need oxygen, it’s there.

On the ground, though, we have to do this for ourselves. And I’m not always good at remembering. I’m wired to go, go, go, until I can’t anymore. Until the stresses build and the cumulative trauma of the last eleven months lands hard on me, and I’m standing over a bowl of butter and powdered sugar sniffling woefully.

This week, I am trying to do a little differently.

I am reaching out to friends, and colleagues in ministry, to shore up my oxygen supply before it crashes. I am building the structures of self-care and support that will help me weather storms when they come – as they almost certainly will.

I am inviting you to do the same.

We are all going to have good and bad days, and in this season, they are (as likely as not) going to feel intensely good or intensely bad. We’re living in a pressure cooker, and while we have in some ways gotten used to it, the fact remains: this is not normal. This situation is extraordinary, and extraordinarily hard.

But we are not in it alone – even if we feel alone, even if we live alone. We have our faith to lean on, and we have each other. We are all experiencing this together, in different ways and with different worries, but all at the same time and all with extra stress and difficulty.

So this week, let’s try a new thing together. Let’s shore up our supplies of oxygen – of friendship, of love, of laughter and silliness – before we think we need them. So we are more than ready, when we do.

with love,

Pastor Jen

(If you need an idea of where to start, try getting in touch with us, your pastors, and other members of your church family. We love and miss you, and are eager to partner with you in these difficult times.)

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