A dear friend of mine just defended her PhD. In her final grueling weeks of finalizing her dissertation and preparing her defense, she hit a wall. She had been working toward this goal for years, and now -- mere days from completion -- she doubted whether she had the stamina to go on.
I can only imagine that she was in a state of exhaustdepletedespairalysis -- an unfamiliar term, one that I'm just now coining, that tosses exhaustion, depletion, despair, and paralysis into the blender of your psyche. On high speed. And it's one of those painfully loud blenders that makes your eardrums bleed.
I realized that it was bad when she sent me an email that was pounded out in one long paragraph, a manner of writing so unlike her characteristically tight and witty prose that it immediately conveyed urgency.
My response was heartfelt: I will storm heaven with prayers for you until you defend. Once she defended successfully, my prayers shifted that she'd have the wherewithal to finish her revisions.
She's made it. She's officially a Dr. and I am so proud of her. Intensely proud.
I hope that she gets to sleep for two weeks.
Her email came at the perfect time for me: at a point when I, too, was exhausted. It's a point when the semester bears down with oppressive weight. Final essays, presentations, and projects align like the perfect storm.
When I came home from campus and set my bloated work bag on the ground, the girls immediately came to me, needy, and my husband headed out the door for work. For the rest of the day, I would be mommy who had to take care of dinner, give baths, help with homework, supervise the bedtime routine, all when my mind kept snapping back to the pile of grading that waited for me after bedtime that night -- and the next night, and the night after that.
I've heard that you never should underestimate the "point two" of the 26.2 miles of a marathon.
Finishing is hard.
Every time that I felt panic welling up about my own semester, I prayed for my friend. When I woke up exhausted, I realized that she undoubtedly had been sleeping even less, and I prayed for her. When I caught myself at the tail end of dinner still standing at the kitchen island -- my shoulders tight, my plate in my hand -- mindlessly picking at my meal without tasting it, I made a point to sit down at the kitchen table for the last few bites. If my appetite was this bad, then I better pray for hers.
We're invited to carry each other's burdens. You would think that adding another person's burdens to your own would incapacitate you, but I found it quite the opposite. Yet another paradox of God's upside down kingdom where the last shall be first.
As I prayed for my friend's strength, my strength increased. As I prayed that she would be able to think clearly, maximize her time, overcome anxiety, and silence doubt, my thoughts untangled into more manageable strands.
Now, I'm seeing the light at the end of my own tunnel. I hope to have my final grades submitted one week from now. I'm in a much better place mentally than I was one week ago -- especially since I just passed back that hefty stack of essays to my students. (Just so you know, I refrained from dramatically slapping my hands together as I stood at the front of the classroom and declaring Essays, I wash my hands of you. But I thought it. Oh, I thought it.)
So, let's bear each other's burdens. Are you finishing something that's particularly tough? A project? A rough patch with a child? The final weeks of a pregnancy? A terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day?
Well, drop me a comment. I'll pray for you.