Later this morning I head off to Palos Verdes, California for the Winter Retreat of the Unitarian Universalist Ministers Association (UUMA) and the Liberal Religious Educators Association (LREDA) of the Pacific Southwest District (PSWD). (I included all those lengthy titles and their acronyms to give you a flavor of the world I work in.)
The program topic for the retreat is trauma response, an area where I am always glad to gain more resources and knowledge. And while it will be nice to have the opportunity to process this topic within the space of a retreat center and its gardens, I find myself wondering – trauma response? What kind of a retreat does that make for?
Leading up to this trip I have been thinking some about work, and how we care for ourselves during times of rest. I work in a church and am strongly considering entering the ministry some years down the road. Several years ago a good friends mother described the ministry as something you do when only after you have tried to answer every other calling since in ministry those you serve will devour your soul. While this may be an extreme way of framing the work of ministry, it highlights the reality that those working in helping professions run the risk of burn out.
For me the tendency for my job to come home from work with me, the possibility of getting late night phone calls from families, or urgent emails from volunteers, is compounded by own tendency to form an addictive, or at least dangerously habituated, relationship to nearly everything I do. Over the last eleven years or so this has manifested in my relationship to food, drugs and alcohol, pain, zombie esque TV watching, reading and rereading mediocre historical fiction novels, and yes, work. (And J. just pointed out that I am blogging when I am supposed to be getting on a plane, so perhaps we should add that to the list.)
Okay, so I have to stop blogging, pack, pay my rent and go to the airport so I can restore my spirit and learn about trauma. Monday is my day off. Usually I sleep in, waste time and go on a hike, so this rushing to work to relax feels a little odd in the rhythm of my week.
I don’t have easy answers about work, over work, burnout, rest and rejuvenation. But I think it is something we should all think about – as part of living fully, authentically, and sustainably. My minister told me earlier this month that ministry isn’t being successful, it is being faithful. I wonder what I and those around me are being faithful to in the work that we chose to do, the people we chose to serve, and through the ways that we learn to minister to our own needs, dreams, desires and ambitions.