I am in the midst of a week that feels full to overflowing with logistical decisions, unexpected errands and significant preparation needed for many things. I have felt the stress building and the brain freeze set in as I try to prioritise, plan, shuffle and cut things down. My default is to shove these feelings away and stuff them down deep. My default is to numb out and ignore. I choose not to do that as I grow.
As I have created a bit of space to listen to my soul and see what it has to say, I recognised a deeper current of emotion that is amplifying the stress and overwhelm I feel. It is not an unfamiliar current. This current has threatened to drown me in the past. I feel its tug now too. It is this underlying sadness and sense of hopelessness. It is a sadness over the evil and tragedy in the world. A sadness over human trafficking, orphans, children in the foster care system, the situation in my home country of Zimbabwe and so many other global issues. It is a sadness about the pain in the lives of people closer to me too- broken relationships, mental health struggles, cancer impacts and loss.
While reading a novel recently, one that I didn’t even particularly enjoy, I came across a word to describe and label this sense of sadness. It’s a German word, which feels appropriate given that I married a German!
Weltschmerz: “a mood of weariness or sadness about life arising from the acute awareness of evil and suffering”https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Weltschmerz
There is something reassuring about having a specific word. It means that this is not something that I experience alone. I’m guessing at least one person who reads this will know what it feels like.
So what do we do about it? How do we live our lives, tackle looming to-do lists and hold the tension of emotion? How do we take the Weltschmerz and use it for growth instead of despair?
I don’t think I have a full answer for those questions. I am processing them for myself and in my own unique context. This is what I am choosing to do about it this week:
- Set a time and give myself permission to cry
I really dislike crying. I avoid it whenever possible. I am recognising that this isn’t helpful in the long term though. We all need a vent for the emotions buried deep within. I am committing to letting myself cry at some point this week. It will be when I am alone but also with a short time frame so that I don’t get pulled under and that’s ok for where I am at right now. Do you need to give yourself permission to cry too?
I know that this may seem like a platitude and almost offensive answer to some. I believe in the power of prayer, even if the situation doesn’t change in the way I want. It has the power to change me and draw me closer to my Daddy God, to be near to His peace and His comfort. I need to dive in deeper to that.
- Take action where I can
I cannot change the world but I can make a difference somewhere. I can write a letter to my sponsor child to bring some joy to their day. I can take a little money and join it with the contributions of others to fund life-changing work here and around the world. I can be intentional in the lives of those around me and bring encouragement and joy in the conversations I have. I can listen.
- Choose gratitude
Gratitude is so powerful in helping us to see the good in the world as well as the pain and suffering. I am adding to my rhythm of gratitude by keeping a gratitude journal in both my morning routine and evening routine (although I have missed several of both!) so that I am starting and ending my day with this mindset.
- Do the next right thing
I love Emily Freeman’s podcast, The Next Right Thing. Episode 99 that I listened to in the last week hit home and spoke right into this for me.
I will finish this writing time and then simply do the next right thing on my list. I will keep taking steps forward, holding the tension of being aware of the pain in the world and leading a life of intention that helps to make this world a better place, even if it is only this little patch of it.
What helps you? I would love to share ideas together so that we can encourage one another.