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Friday, October 11, 2013

Approaching Burnout


10,000 ft up Beartooth Highway in Montana feeling on top of the world.

I have been delaying making the decision for over a month. And every time I said, “Today’s the day,” I would come up with a reason to delay.

I think that usually you don’t realize you have overcommitted yourself until it is too late. When I was laid off from a job I hated 6 months ago, my schedule opened up in wonderful ways. I could write, I could read, I could run. I could even yoga. All of the things I never seemed to have time for.

So of course, the best thing to do when you finally have time to do what you want is to completely pack your schedule until you are out of free time again.

Yes, I will run a 180-mile relay with you in the mountains.

Yes, I will ghost write your book.

Yes, I can do that rush assignment.

Yes, I will volunteer for more training.

Yes, I will be a fundraising mentor.

Yes, I will cook brunch for 30 people.

Yes, I will work every Friday and Saturday night. Who needs a weekend?

Until suddenly, YES becomes a prison of your own making. How did YES become so so wrong? Each YES gives away ownership of real estate in your own life. And then you begin to wonder why you can’t say NO.

I operate under the belief that it is very hard to find that “just right” amount of busy. Life tends to be feast or famine in many ways, and so a certain amount of imbalance is to be expected. Plus, a lot of what I’ve said yes to has been worthwhile. Life is short. Live it to the fullest, right?

In the exact moment when I say yes, I genuinely want to say yes … well, at least 8 times out of 10. And every time I confess to my husband that I signed up for another half marathon or agreed to bag lunches for kids at the food bank or took on a new case, he shakes his head. He knows what I often forget.

Not only are there only so many hours in the day, but we each have finite energy reserves. We can only make withdrawals from that internal bank so often without depositing before we reach burnout. We can schedule each day down the second but if we don’t allow ourselves time to recharge, things we once enjoyed doing just become another obligation, another box on the To Do List to check off. And that is no way to live.

To make matters worse, whenever my husband relaxes with a FIFA soccer video game or goes off to play golf, inside I think, “Gee, must be nice to have so much free time.”

How ridiculous is that when my own lack of downtime is entirely my own fault?

Last month, I began looking at the October calendar with all of its colorful dots marking future obligations, and I felt anxious. How is so much of my time already spoken for? A lot of these dots represent things I want to do—a vacation with family, a football game with friends—but taken as a whole, I felt trapped.

I knew it was time to drop something from my list. I say “something” but I knew what that something was. I wanted it to be anything but THAT something. I couldn’t deny, however, that my weekends were becoming a battlefield between family obligations and my hours at the restaurant. So after an intense, month-long war with myself, I decided to take a hiatus from my apprenticeship.
So hard to say goodbye!

I am sad. I am relieved. I am sad again. But it is only the close of one chapter. And I when I start writing the next one, I won’t try to jam a whole book into a few pages.

2 comments:

Pauline B Jones said...

Anne Morrow Lindberg said it in Gifts from the Sea. You can not water a field with a pitcher. You have to replenish your well. Good luck! and hugs!

Accidental Foodie said...

Love Gift from the Sea. Great quote. Thanks for posting!