I am finding, in my away-from-home cross-cultural posting that I am getting very much more stressed than I realise. On Friday I was keeping a very tight hold on myself because I was so afraid that I was going to say or do something I would regret. Part of the problem is that the more stressed I am, the less well I sleep and then I get more stressed and so on . . .
I do occasionally take sleeping pills and they help. But I really don't like doing it. And even so, having drugged myself Friday night, I was on edge again today (Sunday).
So, what causes it?
Firstly, I never relax completely. That is something you do in familiar surroundings with familiar people. I don't have either! And the more stressed I get, the less I can let go.
Secondly. I have my life categorised into college, church work and time for myself. I have about enough time for all of them, but I am struggling to switch. Even when I am productively engaged (which is most of the time) I feel guilty because I am not doing other things that need doing. This is not logical, because I can only do one thing at a time, but nonetheless.
Thirdly. In church work I do not feel confident in what I am doing. I rely on people to interpret the language and the culture for me. My close working relationships are based on a culture I don't understand. I am afraid to step out for offending. Yet I feel that there are people who think that I am not doing enough. The latter is pretty standard for a minister, but on top of it all, it becomes a bit heavy. I wish that I could be given a specific role to play or area to manage or problem to solve, or anything as long as it is defined. I feel like I'm sweeping the sand on the beach!
Patience is not my strong point. I have learnt to slow down and take it easy and give other people a chance to catch up with me - back in Joburg. Here everything is half Joburg speed and I really wonder if I will be able to keep up at least a show of patience. I have to. It's pretty foundational to doing ministry here. But this morning I wasn't too sure if I could do it.
What saves me so far is my Monday day off and then two days of college. At college I quite simply focus on college stuff. The cultural hassles are less. And my bed is more comfortable!
But I also feel that if I was in circuit all week, I wouldn't be so frustrated at missing key meetings and I would have time to engage with the community and leaders more.
So, I am frustrated and quite on edge.
But I am writing this to mark a point on my journey, not to complain. God knows when I need him and he is there - no more than that, he's always there. He is letting me feel him and know him.
9 more months. Lord, please make this station meaningful and let the next use my areas of strength. College? Trust. Hope!