I think for the past few months I have been trying to convince myself that I didn’t burn out — but the past few days, as I have really reflected on my time especially up north at my parents cabin, it is becoming increasingly clear that I had not only burnt out, but that I was so burnt out — I was in denial of it actually happening.
Many people think that burn out is only for the super elite or celebrities like Kanye, but the reality is that our society and hyper-charged culture is making burn out an accessible commodity to literally anyone.
2016 from what I hear from most people is a year they want to leave behind. Friends of mine have various reasons — but I’m wondering if we have all just hustled ourselves into a sort of peer pressure cooker that none of us even realize we are in. We are pressuring each other to do more and more and more about work things like working all nighters or making sure our inboxes are clear but we are even doing it over silly things like cake pops and birthday party themes for our kiddos. I for one am getting off the crazy train.
I left in August to head up north to be with my parents while my father went through chemo treatment. I no joke slept more hours than both he and my toddler combined. In fact the first few days that I was up there — I slept for almost 4 hours every afternoon and 8–10 hours every night.
But I wasn’t burnt out. Not me.
Reality is- that burn out is now something we should all be wary of. I don’t care if you are a CEO, a freelancer, a stay-at-home parent, or recently retired — we live in an overextend yourself world where slowing down has been made out to be a weakness, not the actual required healthy behavior that it should be.
I am still to be honest working through what I am now going to just term as my “BOS” — — “burn out situation” and since I can’t even simmer down about that — I have spent hundreds of hours researching proof for how I wasn’t burnt out — only to find out facts about the brain, neurology, and having conversations with my retired surgeon father that prove I was 100% a burn out victim. Brains are the most complex of organs and even the smartest people in the world do not yet understand their full power on our lives. We all worry so much about the health of our hearts — but truth is that neurological activity is often what leads to heart failure. You know- things like stress, trauma, lack of sleep…..
It is strange to admit to the world or the tiny portion of the world who is reading this that I burnt out- but looking back at the past 10 years of my life, it’s pretty clear why…..
I helped form 4 nonprofits; raised funds for an orphanage, a huge complex at my alma mater, a rebuild of a parish and school; got divorced, got remarried, foreclosed on a house, bought a new house, gave my 2 labs away, rescued a new dog, went through infertility, had a baby, ran 2 half marathons, lost a friend to an overdose, lost a friend to cancer, lost my favorite priest to old age, lost my favorite aunt to heart problems, helped my dad get through cancer 4 times, my mom learn to use an iphone, thousands of kids to learn how to code, hundreds of entrepreneurs to believe in their big ideas, all while multi-tasking — writing grants, baking family birthday cakes, speaking at events, and wearing a smile.
I share my list, not as a #humblebrag but because we all have a freaking list just like this. And while we all try to minimize our personal list and the impact of such loaded lists on our well-being— the only guarantee in life is that it is unpredictable, sometimes scary. If we leave no space in between the lines of our planners, we are literally forcing ourselves into robot mode, or beast mode, or whatever you call your own personal mode because something is always going to pop up. If one little thing goes off pace for the day- we quickly discover that we not only can’t catch up to each other, in most cases, we can’t catch up to ourselves.
I’ve accepted that this is a great weakness for me. A drug almost. Wanting to be in the mix is definitely a “fix” for me. Being needed is a “high” that I have a hard time turning down. My heart wants to do “all of the things”, love and help all of the people, make every idea/concept that I come up with a win even with no resources other than sheer brute force. Every one of those “wins” just made me want to go even harder and it was costing me everything.
No one was really getting my best. Not my God, my husband, my son, my parents, my siblings, my friends, my mentees, my community partners — MYSELF. Literally everyone was getting the left overs.
And then the grande finale was that when I finally stopped my body crashed and I literally slept for days, cried everyday in the shower, had anxiety attacks on walks in the woods. To be honest with you — I’m not even so sure that my dad really needed me there for his cancer, or if he was concerned about me and where my own life was headed with all my “busy”.
I have now detoxed from an overload that I thought was only reserved for special people in high places. People with assistants and “staff”. I realize how real burn out was and is for even ‘normal’ people.
Knowing what I do now about the brain I am truly grateful. It could have been much more horrific ending. Had I not been forced to slow down by my dad — my body was on the brink of doing it anyway. And who knows what that could have manifested into.
Since childhood I have been proud to surround myself by super high achievers and do-ers — — the people who make stuff happen. I love their big dreams, their passionate commitment to delivering on big ideals, their drive. But my commitment to those people in 2017 is to SLOW YOU ALL DOWN.
In every interaction, I commit to being the person who stops you in your tracks, makes you exhale, brings a stupid dad joke to make you chuckle…. because regardless of what we try to tell ourselves — we aren’t in a hurry to get anywhere. Whatever work you have to do, whatever emails need to be deleted or read, whatever lunches need to be packed, whatever laundry needs to be done — will be still there regardless of how much time you spend taking a breather.
Happiness doesn’t lie in those things. It lies in the space between those things. The space between the lines in our planners is where real life and real love resides.
Back in July I recall rushing with the laundry basket to “get a few loads in” while on conference calls. I was literally almost tripping over my dog wanting a treat and my son wanting to be held. I caught myself long enough to view the situation like a Norman Rockwell painting most likely titled- “Working mom- Missing it.”
Yes, it’s a balance — we cannot become complacent about delivering outcomes and most know that I will never become an advocate for that. However, 2016 and everyone’s collective rumble about how they can’t wait for it to be over has left me with one summarization- Maybe we need to stop drowning ourselves in very unimportant shit.
One of my mentors once told me that “when you are drowning in a fast raging river — instead of exhausting yourself by trying so hard to correct your path — the best thing to do is simply lay back face towards the sky and let the current drift you to shore.”
I’m giving you all permission to DRIFT.