Failure or Adaptation?

New Wineskins

New Wineskins

2014 contained many surprises and challenges for me. I blogged bit about them here and here. I wanted to write more. I wanted to share with my online community because you all are so often a source of encouragement and resonance for me. But I was mainly paralyzed by grief and disappointment. I did not accomplish many of the goals I set out for myself. I pared my life down to the most basic of needs: physical healing, care for my child (potty training, anyone?!) and family, meeting core professional obligations.

That I have staved off depression amidst the attendant stresses of the year can only be the work of darn lucky mommy-hormones. Okay, that is simplistic. I’ve been sustained by good friends, an attentive therapist, my rock-bottom faith in God and the pure joy of the loves in my life.

All that said, I’m glad to have 2014 in the past. I’m looking forward to a less painful year with strides towards healing and joy. I also hope to complete some of the projects that I simply could not attend to last year.

As a classic overachiever, depression and stress put a serious wrench in my natural tendency to measure success by what I accomplish. I have learned to say no, to decline or cancel commitments when my health needs attention. I know how to ask for help. I try to take responsibility for the areas in which I fall short of my own expectations or those of others. That’s how I try to honor my health. I try to listen to and work with depression, rather than fight against it.

But ultimately, some things remain undone. Goals are not met. Deeds are not accomplished. And circumstances far outside my control can feel like personal shortcomings. Some of these feelings are the head-trips that come with depression. The way depression can convince me that I’m not good enough, worthy enough or loved. And some of this is typical of grief and disappointment.

One person recently described this feeling to me as one of “failure.” My first unreflective response was this: “I don’t feel like I failed. I feel like I am adapting to new information.” As these words came out of my mouth, I realized that navigating a life with a depressive condition teaches me to be more flexible and adaptive than I might ordinarily be. Having to prioritize and account for my health means that I have to change the plan or adjust commitments when my health demands it. I have learned to do this with relative low guilt and frustration. It’s part of the rhythm of my life.

I sometimes think that this may be what Jesus was talking about when he told the disciples that they should put new wine in new wineskins. When there are new circumstances or situations, we may need to change other aspects of our lives. That doesn’t mean we failed. It may just be adapting to new information.

But I’ll be honest, finding new wineskins can be hard. Change is often difficult. Adapting to a new situation sucks when one was excited about or perfectly happy with the old plan. I try to honor the difficulty of it all (that’s the paralysis of grief for me). And then move forward and adapt once I can.

So this is a new year with adapting for me. I hope to share more about how I’m doing in this process. Lent comes early this year. Ash Wednesday is February 18. So I plan to start by looking inward and caring for self while growing in God. Please join me and others in the 2015 reading group through my book, Not Alone: Reflections on Faith and Depression – a 40 Day Devotional. Find more info here.

Book Monica A. Coleman to speak at your event.

Monica speaks with heart and vulnerability as she discusses some of the most challenging issues of our day. She speaks out on issues that churches and society often keep silent: mental health, sexual and domestic violence and religious diversity. In the pulpit, she offers a refreshing view of how scripture leads us to community and social action. In academic lectures, she blends her knowledge of religion, cultural studies and literature with social issues to offer new visions of faith. In every setting, she shows audiences how our faith can free us to be more and more of who and how God calls us to be.

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Book Monica A. Coleman to speak at your event.

Monica speaks with heart and vulnerability as she discusses some of the most challenging issues of our day. She speaks out on issues that churches and society often keep silent: mental health, sexual and domestic violence and religious diversity. In the pulpit, she offers a refreshing view of how scripture leads us to community and social action. In academic lectures, she blends her knowledge of religion, cultural studies and literature with social issues to offer new visions of faith. In every setting, she shows audiences how our faith can free us to be more and more of who and how God calls us to be.

Read More