It’s Tuesday, December 16, and I’m not in a good mood because I had only five hours of sleep last night, missed my exercise, no time for any kind of breakfast, and my schedule is packed with back-to-back meetings and appointments.
Driving to work on a familiar road as if on autopilot, my mind takes over and makes me anxious about all that I have to do before the holiday break:
- Faculty evaluations have to be completed!
- Search Committee for the Dean’s position has to wrap up!
- Deadline for my follow-up response to the Middle States Report!
- Reviews of journal articles due!
After I arrive at the office, encounters with colleagues throughout the day put my previous worrisome thoughts into perspective. As I speak with colleagues, I feel as if I’m opening a series of doors, and behind each door there is a human being coping as best they can with every ounce of strength they have. These realities make my worries seem small and self-absorbed.
- Door number one: Not getting along with spouse, fear that the holidays may be the time when things come to a head regarding their union.
- Door number two: Seeing psychologist after loss of a beloved dog.
- Door number three: Finding it too difficult to work and continue with doctoral program; will have to discontinue program.
- Door number four: Hates the holidays; depression is an issue.
- Door number five: Husband had an accident and may lose an eye.
- Door number six: Husband shot in the hand, victim of a robbery.
- Door number seven: Favorite cousin died; will be hard on the family during the holidays.
- Door number eight: Sister will have cancer surgery after the holidays.
As I listen to each person, I become increasingly aware of our connection and the flow of feelings between us as I physically sense my colleagues’ deep distress. I feel as if we are joined together in these moments by a salve of empathy and a balm of solace.
On my drive home, I reflect on what I heard from colleagues during the day.
Realizing the emotional burdens that each is carrying makes me wonder how they could have the spiritual strength to show up and keep moving forward.
And then I know how they—and all of us—keep moving forward:
Because we cannot allow random tricks of chance to crush our spirit.
Because sometimes our only option is to live through it.
Because, with faith, we can find the determination and resilience we need.
Because we all have to play the hand we’ve been dealt.
Because we’re all doing the best that we can with what we have.