The human capacity for emotion is staggering. How do I know this? I’m staggering.
In the last seventy-two hours I have felt contentment, fatigue, joy, satisfaction, frustration, annoyance, responsibility, discontent, dissatisfaction, love, pride, calm, irritability, anger, happiness, anticipation, gratitude, betrayal, shame, hurt, connectedness, emptiness, gratitude, concern, apathy, hopelessness, and deep sadness. And those are just the ones that come to mind right now.
How did I feel so much in just three days time? Did I go to a wedding? a funeral? a spiritual retreat? Nope. I went to work, came home, went to a graduation party, and came home again.
We can have all kinds of feelings in the midst of our everyday life.
I have known this my whole life. I was, if you remember, labelled “moodiest” in my high school yearbook. That label had all kinds of judgment and shame attached to it, and I felt it. The people who labelled me didn’t know my experience and why I had so much emotion. And I didn’t know yet that my bandwidth for emotional expression was my superpower.
It doesn’t always feel like a superpower, though. It sure didn’t on Friday when I went from the pleasure of watching three LGBTQ+ students participate in an online conference — sitting in my room with one of their advisors, listening to presenters, coloring, and finding a small pocket of safety away from their usual volatile surroundings — to the stress of navigating a chaotic high school hallway back to the quiet contentment of sitting at my desk, planning the details for next week’s instruction, to the frustration of failing to capture the combined attention of nine erratic and impulsive freshmen.
Then, I was faced with the challenge of metabolizing the adrenaline from feeling disrespected in my own space so that I could traverse the once-again chaotic hallways and become an “effective” supervisor of a hundred or so young adolescents on the Friday of a full moon as they remained “contained” in the unimpressive space of an out-of-date gym eating a subpar lunch. I made my way there, as I always do, continuously processing the inequities of my students’ realities — the very ones that contribute to their impulsivity and disrespectful behavior. A coworker and I stood together, quietly venting while intermittently addressing the most egregious behaviors such as vaping — which is prohibited — and running — which the students really need, but which is not tenable in such a small space.
From there, annoyed, I walked — again — through the chaotic hallway, calling out, “head to class, everyone!” I grabbed some supplies from my room and gathered two ninth graders (have I mentioned it was a full moon) from their assigned classes so that we could do a reading intervention where I fluctuated between pride (“nice job!”) and irritability (“put your phone down and look at this page”). I then had to shake off that tension and shift my mind and emotions to the impartial business of grading and then make “non-emotional” phone calls to the parents of the feral freshmen who had disrespected me earlier, saying “please remind your students that we have just six weeks to finish strong.”
I packed up my things for the weekend, and felt less irritated than I imagined as I made an additional phone call to book five hotel rooms for family members who are attending my daughter’s wedding this summer. In fact, I felt a little pleased with myself for finally checking it off my list, and I chatted playfully with my colleague as we shared our ride home. Then I got a little miffed when I discovered that my husband and father-in-law were sitting in our living room, simultaneously wanting me to sit and chat and expecting that at some point we would eat dinner, which I had yet to prepare.
The visit was expected, and I had a plan, but I am always tired on Fridays, and I really wanted to pour a glass of wine, curl up in a blanket, and watch something ridiculously pointless on TV, but I conjured up a meal, did my best to chat for a bit, and then retreated to my puzzle table in the basement where I sat non-communicatively listening to the men chat upstairs.
Of course I couldn’t sleep because I was still mentally processing my ineffectiveness during the one class I had to teach, so I got back up and watched mindless television until I could barely keep myself conscious.
The next morning, I manufactured cheer for my father-in-law as I presented him and my husband with breakfast before running to the store for a few groceries, a gift, and a fistful of Mother’s Day cards then returning home to shower and dress in preparation for my friend’s graduation party. I was feeling satisfied in managing all of these details until I was suddenly and unexpectedly blindsided by a revelation of broken trust and personal betrayal that spiraled me into a dark anger (shielding hurt) that had to somehow be processed or parked so that I could show up for the friend who had overcome multiple obstacles to earn a master’s degree while working full time.
As I drove to her place, I mentally chose to set the new information on the shelf so that I could show up in a room where I knew no one and lend my hands to decorate tables, set out food, and mingle [even more chatting] with strangers. I posed for a photo, ate [and raved] over excellent food, and then [two hours later] repeated my congratulations and headed back home.
Alone, at last, I changed into work clothes, went to my garden, and kneeled in the dirt, determinedly pressing dried seeds from last year’s harvest into the soil, hoping against all probability that God can once again bring life from death, healing from brokenness, trust from betrayal.
How many times can He perform a resurrection?
How many times can the broken be made whole?
I have an insufferable belief in restoration, but I am staggering, friends, and I am very, very tired.
I made my way back to the puzzle, and sat, feeling my hurt and fatigue, and then, one of ours who has been through so much devastation of her own sent a photo — her left hand with a diamond on the ring finger. And I had to admit that God never grows weary of making all things new.
May it ever be so.
[Inhale] I have been restored and upheld, and I will praise you.