Business as Usual An article by Dr. Joanne Schwandt discussing what is normal in times like these. “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven: … a time to kill and a time to heal, a time to tear down and a time to build, a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance . . . “ Ecclesiastes 3:1,3-4 “Business as usual” is often used to depict the common feeling that life has returned to normal. Or at least it seems like it has. The ongoing tension that has characterized Kenya for the past couple months feels like it should be dissipating as we watch the country’s leaders forge the way for a new government. And while we carry on in the school terms, in our jobs, and in our daily routines, we here at Tumaini continue to hear complaints of exhaustion, difficulty sleeping, irritability, difficulty concentrating, feelings of confusion, short tempers, and continued experiences of high levels of stress. Everybody is exhausted – wearily pushing through the day, through the week – and many are confused. One person described their sense of confusion as if they are “waiting” for something – their plans (wedding plans, travel plans, etc …) are still on hold. It is like riding a great big merry-go-round. For two months, we have been spinning round and round and now that the ride has stopped. Bewildered and extremely dizzy we are told to get off and go on with life. Some people may feel like they are stumbling around or having difficulty focusing on what direction they are headed. Others simply don’t know what their goals are anymore . . . and who can blame them – isn’t that what happens when we don’t get a chance to set our New Years Resolutions? Easter may very well have been the first chance many people got to rest. No wonder there are so many people walking around dazed! In a mission culture that often says “just keep swimming,” it may be hard to understand why we are feeling this way when everything SHOULD be back to business as usual. It is important to realize the depth of how events such as the “post-election violence” can affect us. We need to give ourselves time to recuperate. After going through major surgery, a person’s energy is often fueled into their recovery time and there is not much energy in the reserves to pull from. Similarly, our energy reserves are depleted after being on survival mode for so long. Our systems need time to bounce back. Until they do it may take longer to complete tasks and tackle the mountain of work that has been sitting there since January. It is vital to our emotional health to recognize that we will not be able to accomplish all that we accomplished this time last year. By thinking so, we run the risk of beating ourselves up for unrealistic expectations. This may in turn lead to increased feelings of stress, burnout, and depression. As we go through a time of recuperation, it is important to also recognize that many people are grieving. Grieving for a Kenya we thought we knew. Grieving for the once assured security of family and friends. Grieving for those who lost homes and loved ones and grieving the loss of three months of our life that flew by in the frenzy of the election aftermath. The process of grieving may only now be hitting many within our communities and those we work with as the country shifts from survival to rebuilding. People will have shorter tempers and it is important to remember to be patient with each other. In many ways, we are only now beginning to recognize the reality of the Kenyans around us. Since we live in communities, it is unrealistic of us to think that we will be untouched by the day-to-day realities of those around us. There are many still living in displacement camps and we may continue to see reminders of others relocating as they pull their furniture wagon. Often these sights will continue to weigh on a person and reinforce the reality that life in Kenya is not the same as it was a few months ago. It can be seen in the increase of petrol prices and the increased need to stretch one’s finances. I see individuals struggling with heightened senses and an increased desire to control their immediate surroundings. As we wrestle with our own emotions and frustrations, many of us will also be carrying the burden of others around us who are experiencing even more difficult situations. It is critical that we give ourselves and each other the permission to keep our boundaries. We are not any good to anyone if we can’t take care of ourselves. There is truth to Solomon’s statement that there is a season for every activity under heaven. For Kenya and its inhabitants, it is a time for healing, rebuilding, weeping for what was lost, and rejoicing in what we still have. Recognizing the season while patiently allowing ourselves and others time to recuperate, readjust our expectations, and keep our boundaries will go a long way in truly getting back to “business as usual.”