On Sunday evening I felt myself getting what some in the online stratusphere call the "Sunday scaries." According to the Cleveland Clinic, “The Sunday scaries are feelings of intense anxiety and dread that routinely occur every Sunday. They often start in the late afternoon and continue into the evening. However, depending on a person’s level of anxiety, these feelings can start as soon as they get out of bed,” says Dr. Albers.
My "Sunday scaries" don't tend to happen often, partially because my work week is structured somewhat differently than most. I work on Sundays, so my Sunday night tends to be more like most people's Monday nights. But I don't really get the "Saturday scaries" that often either. The "Sunday scaries" only seem to come most regularly when I am coming back from vacation.
But the truth is, I had a wonderfully healing vacation last week. I accomplished two fairly significant goals this week physically, as I was able to hike 3/4 of a mile on my rehabilitating knee with my spouse, and I was able (with knee pads of course) to get down on my knees in our garden to help plant garlic. On Sunday morning, I got to eat brunch at the Drake Diner in Des Moines with my spouse, I got to do a quick bit of shopping, and I got to see my stepdaughter and her boyfriend for a quick visit. I made the decision to do what I could to not let the thought of re-entry into my usual routine steal my joy and the healing I found over vacation.
So Sunday night, just as the scaries were setting in, I put down my phone. I turned off the TV, and I took the dogs outside for the night. Then, I did the few dishes we had. But I didn't do them to get them done or to keep my hands busy while my brain went wild, I did them as a grounding practice.
In choosing to focus only on doing the dishes, I found that the Sunday scaries went away. My mind wasn't racing with who might have emailed while I was away or what might have happened in my absence, or what pace my schedule was going to demand of me with the new week. My mind was focused only on what was before me. The feel of the hot water on my hands. The way my hands split through the water and the suds to find the dish rag or the next dish that needed cleaning. Lathering the dishes with hot, soapy water. Rinsing each dish with a quick run of the faucet. Repeating the process again and again.
Lather. Rinse. Repeat. These became my only thoughts. These became my tethers to the present moment. These simple actions became enough to chase the Sunday scaries away.
I wonder how many times "the scaries" of some sort creep into our lives and steal our joy? I wonder how often we have found deep rest only to experience equally deep unrest because we are grounded not in the present, but in the unknowns and anxieties of tomorrow or the regrets of yesterday? I wonder how often we might benefit from grounding ourselves in the simple things, the ordinary things, that keep our feet and our minds rooted firmly in the present moment? And I wonder how this spiritual practice might help to mold us into a more resilient people?
I pray you will ponder these questions for yourself this week, and see if you might find something simple that can help ground you to the present moment. For it is in this moment alone where love lives and where the Divine Mystery can be found.
Lather. Rinse. Repeat as needed,
Rev. Melissa Sternhagen
Rev. Melissa Sternhagen was called as the pastor of St. Paul Congregational UCC in June of 2020. Prior to her call to St. Paul, Pr. Melissa worked as a hospice chaplain in the Ames, IA area, following pastorates at rural churches in Central Iowa and Southern Illinois. Pr. Melissa is a second-career pastor with a background in agribusiness and production & supply operations. She received her M.Div. from Eden Theological Seminary in St. Louis, MO, and holds a MA Ed. in Adult Education and Training, and a BA in Organizational Communications.