A wise and precious friend gently and firmly counseled me today that taking care of myself should be my only priority. She scolded that losing myself to the obligation of work and expectations of others will end in grave disappointment and encouraged me that spending time with my family, and doing things we enjoy together, is fundamental to living well. She reminded me what I already knew, but have recently forgotten how to do.
My friends are all tired of hearing how tired I am, and frankly, I’m tired of feeling that way. The kind of life-sucked tired that makes it hard to see because your eyes always feel like you’ve been crying, hard to concentrate because everything you hear feels like it’s coming at you from a bad cell connection and hard to move because your whole body aches from being chained to a desk for 10+ hours a day stretching only for the “joy” of commuting. The kind of tired that keeps you from sleeping as much as it keeps you from being fully awake. The kind of tired that leaves you with a sick feeling in the pit of your stomach, that if you didn’t know any better you’d say feels like the remnants of a hangover.
It is a hangover of sorts. It’s a hangover from too much and too many. Too much to do, too many demands, too many expectations and too many people who I’m consistently letting down as I just can’t handle the too much anymore.
It’s official, I’ve met my capacity for stress. In the past year I’ve moved from a high functioning extrovert to a low performing introvert who doesn’t even turn on the radio anymore in the car because it would be too much effort to punch the knob and then even more effort to decipher the words. I don’t want to think, or make a decision, or even have a conversation. It’s a pretty ugly place to be on the precipice of burnout and depression. And it is, at times, paralyzing.
There’s a lot of guilt and baggage that goes into being a working mom, and we can all make our arguments as to whether or not my kids will need counseling because of my absence, or counseling because of the moments of my presence. So we’ll just agree that they’ll likely need some counseling…their mom is a hot mess. But (so far) they aren’t.
I keep telling myself that this is a season in my life that will soon be over. I wake up every morning with anxious pains as to what the day will bring in terms of failed expectations or missed deadlines both at work and at home and yet I make myself walk out that door due to some warped sense of obligation to provide and serve at any cost. Because let’s face it, we all are annoyed by the quitters and the whiners and worse yet, the entitled ones. I don’t want to ever be an entitled one.
I’m not special. I know everyone has been where I am and many are likely capable of sloughing it off and pushing through. So maybe I have moved into the dreaded whiner stage, but I’ll choose to believe that my blogging about my burnout is really just a mechanism to help me process the needed next steps, and that the cathartic pleasure in writing one’s thoughts is to some extent healing. So, I thank my tolerant friends who humor me by reading long, self-serving blog posts and allowing me to feel counseled to through that sharing process.
Through this hard season I have been loved on by friends in ways that I don’t deserve. I have friends who just send me random texts with encouraging memes or just at the right time in the middle of the day telling me “I’m amazing”. I have friends who bring me armloads of freezer meals, helping add some sense of routine and normalcy to our harried evenings. I have friends who look after my kids when I have to travel or work on a Saturday, or who drive them to a rehearsal so they don’t have to walk in the rain. There’s the friends that have prayed for me and with me and reminded me to just breathe. And there are the friends that will take my crying phone calls and just listen and encourage and wisely advise.
It’s been a long, hard season and I know that my feelings of despair are not the reality of the hope to come. I also know that the time will come when I will no longer be stuck, and I can get back to making the hard decisions and making changes and taking risks and looking forward to each new day. And while I work through this moment in my life, I give thanks for the outpouring of love from my patient family and sweet friends who tolerate my frailty and lift me up and take a moment to gently point me back to the path of living well.