Right now it seems like most of my friends and clients are in various stages of that uncomfortable, unpleasant, overwhelming thing that is being completely burnt out.
Burnout. Ugh. Being in it is sucky and terrible.
We know that. From ridiculous amounts of experience.
And so, when it shows up AGAIN, we start guilting the hell out of ourselves about aaaaaagh how we could have let ourselves end up here again.* And that’s too bad.
Because important things happen when we get to a state of burnout.
That’s the thing. Burnout is important. Not even slightly fun. But important. And normal. And sometimes even useful.
* I can’t remember if I’ve written about this before, but “again” is one of the words our monsters like to use.
Things we forget about burnout.
Burnout is part of life.
You cannot learn where your limits are except by exceeding them.
We learn to recognize the edges by visiting them.
And those boundaries change. That’s part of being alive.
So every once in a while, even if you’re cautious and intelligent and have a conscious relationship with yourself and your stuff, you’re going to get burnt out.
Because you’ll be testing those edges and end up on the wrong side for a while, until you carve out recovery time.
That process of venturing out and coming back is part of being alive.
Burnout shows you what needs to happen for you to take care of yourself.
Not necessarily when you’re in it, of course.
Because being burnt out is just a horrible sensation. You can’t really think straight when you’re depleted. Everything gets an extra layer of fuzzy. Yuck.
But as you begin to make rest and recovery a priority, you collect information about how you got into this and how you’re getting out of it.
As I said to one of my friends the other day:
This is not the last time you’ll burn out, sweetie. But it’s the last time you’ll burn out like this.
Burnout leads to discovery.
These are my edges.
This is where I fall apart.
This is what I need.
This is how I protect myself.
This is how I treat myself with love.
This is what hurts.
This is what pulls me out of myself.
This is what returns me to myself.
Knowing what my internal space looks and feels like is sovereignty, and it helps me not care so much about what other people think.
Burnout is weirdly necessary.
Remember last year when I worked myself to the bone and then had to go on Emergency Vacation because if I didn’t stop everything right that second I was headed for a serious breakdown?
Remember Selma the Duck and the Big Day Off?
Remember when my arms went on strike because they needed me to work less? With those hilarious signs that said No More Pain!
None of that was fun.
Each of those things taught me incredibly useful things about capacity.
Everything I know about my capacity and what I need to do to respect it has come from those dark days of burnout.
Depression burnout. Crisis hair-on-fire burnout. Falling down tired burnout. I know them all.
And you can’t biggify without learning to respect your capacity. Because part of mindful biggification is being able to say no to things that don’t support you.
You first learn what those are through getting it wrong. Ow. File under: useful experience.
Bottom line. Or: how I approach the burnout thing.
Burnout is inevitable. So my approach to it can’t be just how to avoid it. It has to be about discovery:
What do I learn when I’m in it? And what personal and systems changes need to happen so that the next time it’s a different experience?
Because my goal is not to be done.
What I’m really working towards is this:
The next time you show up, Pattern of Burnout In My Life, I’m going to know more about you, recognize you sooner and be less impressed by the fact that you exist.
Not being so impressed with being in it is part of what makes it easier to deal with burnout. And it makes the getting out of it considerably more doable.
Comment zen for today …
Man. Burnout sucks. It just does.
So you’re allowed to hate it. I’m definitely not trying to convince you to appreciate it or feel all grateful for it or anything.
We’re always allowed to feel what we’re feeling. That’s a given.
In the meantime, we all have our stuff and we’re all working on our stuff. So we try to be understanding about that. Which means appreciating other people’s hard (and our own) and not giving unsolicited advice. Kiss!