There's a pattern to my blog posts. I am more likely to write when things go well and exciting things happen, and I tend to keep quiet when things get rough.

It's been a long while since my last post.

I don't want any of it to sound too dramatic. But my health started to get worse and it had a clear connection to the state of my spritual/mental health. The sleeping problems returned, as did the anxiety. It was a couple of weeks ago - when I got an average of 3 hours of sleep a night - when I had to chair a meeting in our office, and everyone saw I was more or less brain dead so I. talked to me rather sternly that evening and told me to take a sick leave. It wasn't possible for me to do so right away, there were still too many things to get done, but since yesterday I've been on the sick leave and have taken a considerable amount of time off.

So, yeah. I'm sick.

I'm at my cousin's in Tartu again. He's family is out of town for a week and they needed someone to take care of their cat. I needed a place to stay and wind down. So it's a win-win situation although I find it very amusing that I've turned into a cat lady already. I thought it would take me another 30 years or so. But you know, there's no escaping your fate. What makes the whole deal better is a) my cousin's massive two-storey apartment and b) the fact that their cat is the most beautiful cat I've ever seen. Plus we get along well, most of the time anyway.

It's not nice to have canceled preaching appointments and plans and stuff but it does look like I need some time to recover. If only the sleeping problems went away... And it is funny how my brain has not yet adapted to the change. Yesterday morning I got up and thought - alright, these are the things I want to get done today, if I go to the gym at this time, I'll make it to the movies at that time. Then I'm free to meet up with E. in the evening. I was scheduling things I wanted to get done. It will probably take me a couple of days before the realisation that I don't have to follow a plan or schedule things sinks in. It will take longer for me to get well enough to get my sleep back.

I try to stay away from my computer, and I even leave my phone home when I go out. It's not nice outside, weather wise I mean (it's so cold that my lungs start freezing), so I'm mostly staying indoors and reading. Or playing with the cat. I finished reading Viet Thanh Nguyen's acclaimed book The Refugees earlier today. Two Hemingway books are waiting.

Next week I'll go to a place a bit warmer. Tenerife should be nice and sunny this time of the year.

After that I hope I can think about getting back to work.

Things will get better.



It’s been a strange couple of weeks.

It started three weeks ago. No, it actually started a long time ago but it was three weeks ago when I finally noticed something was wrong. I came home from the office on Friday afternoon without having been able to finish my sermon for the next day. People who know me well know that I take preaching very seriously. I think about them for weeks in advance and then I usually write them down on Mondays or Tuesdays. But that week I couldn’t do it. I knew I had to peach, I knew my sermon was only half-written but I could not make myself click on the right folder and the right document to get it finished. I printed it out as it was on Friday, without an ending. It was only on Saturday morning that I scribbled some concluding thoughts on the manuscript while eating breakfast. Needless to say that I wasn’t happy with my sermon that day.

There were other things - small things - which left a nagging feeling inside me, telling that something was wrong. But I couldn’t put my finger on it. I went to work every day, trying my best but not getting much done.

It was only last week when I picked up my courage and told I. I needed to have a chat with him. I suspected I might be having a burnout. Our conference office has become known as a place where people work hard. And this is how it ought to be. I like to be in the middle of all that action, and I usually enjoy working in the conference leadership team – departmental leaders meetings, AdCom, ExCom, the Churches Council, lectures, seminars this, that. The leadership team is young and energetic, things get done and energy flows. It’s a wonderful place to be. But the coin also has a darker side – that of overworking, of burnout, of anxiety, of pressure, of expectations. There are times when it is not easy to balance between the good and the bad. Then the ugly might happen – as it did last spring. I won’t tell you when I finally got off sleeping pills last year...

So I talked to I. about my symptoms. I didn’t know what to expect from him – he as the conference president works harder than any of us and I wasn’t sure how he’d take it. But what he said and what he drew my attention to was like a revelation. It was as if the truth was spoken into my life and the light bulb went on. You need to look at your tasks and choose which are the most important ones, he said, and let the other ones go. You need to take a critical look at your preaching schedule, you can’t be expected to accept all the preaching invites. You also need a church – a home church, a place where you could go every now and then without any obligations, where you can just receive (I must have looked like a huge question mark - I've lost the concept of a home church). And you need to be a part of a small group where you don’t need to teach not lead anything. Because, in the end of the day, you’re not just a theologian or a pastor, you’re a simple Christian and you need to take care of your own spiritual life.

And then it hit me. This is a spiritual burnout I’m experiencing.

Things started to make a lot of sense after I realised it. Everything that had happened suddenly had a context. Weird „I simply can’t do this” moments became logical. I’ve given out so much I’ve burnt out spiritually. I’ve drawn from the well until there’s only a couple of drops left in the bottom of my bucket.

I don’t quite know how to recover. I had another meeting with I. today where we went over my preaching schedule. Most of the preaching appointments I can’t cancel so some tough months are yet to come. But I’ve decided to reduce the workload and to cut some responsibilities that have been draining me over the past months. But on a deeper level I don’t know what I ought to do. There’s no medicine, no-one can prescribe me anti-spiritual-burnout pills. I guess it will be a difficult road ahead of me. A road where I have to say no to kind invites and initiatives, where I’m not always understood, where I need to fight my own spiritual fight. And I need to find a way how to receive more and give less, even if just for the time being.

I usually have a Bible study with two teenage girls every second Friday evening. I can’t do it tonight, I can’t pull it off. There would be some readily shaking their heads. Well, that’s how it is. Instead, I am reading a little bit from Anne Lamott’s Help. Thanks. Wow, then reading one Bible story and going out to the Old Town for a long evening walk. This is what I’m capable of. Tomorrow scares me, even though I do not have any ’platform duties’. I’m thinking about skipping the church’s business meeting in the afternoon and having a long walk instead although it might not be easy to sneak out after the service. We’ll see.

These days I try to convince Jesus He ought to come back right now. I’m tired and I’m tired and I wish all this was over.

Do say a prayer for me.