Burnout

I read an email from AOC today that really struck home. She talked a bit about burnout and how we need time to refill our cup and not always be pouring out of it. It made a lot of sense. It was a beautiful metaphor. I was close to exhaustion but just reading the email was all I really needed. I’ve been working for days and giving so much, literally and figuratively, with both my mind and body in the coffeeshop and my work at Peets.

I finally unplugged from the internet, and just took some time to drink water and sit and listen to music. I spent some time outside just watching the wind go through the trees, the gentle birdsong free of intent, just the atmosphere and me, sounds in the distance, and a steady peace in the quiet as my mind slowly drifted away, into a steady relaxed point. I was defininitely freed from something. My job, which I love, is very difficult. I was so overworked, but didn’t really notice it. The day went well, occasional hicups, but everything felt so easy, even in moments of stress. My team is amazing. It’s like a family. My manager even found a way somehow to get me the time out to focus on a workshop with climate policy, which I’m so grateful for.

But this simple email from her meant so much. It made me go deep inside my mind and find what it really was I needed to do. In my mind I thought about taking a retreat, maybe even resigning from work for a little while. But after I had some water and really let her thoughts enter my mind, and held them for a moment, I found the peace I really needed. It just felt so direct, so shared. I’m so grateful. I put on some Bach and did the dishes, just walked through the apartment and then sat down. Looked at some impressionism and painting books I had around. Nothing remarkable, just everyday things that I may have forgotten. Then put on some proto ambient music and sat down. That’s it really. It’s a silent moment, where I’m sitting right now and writing my thoughts.

The interesting thing though is this came right before I have the first meeting with the Fairfax Climate Action Committee, where for the first time I’ll have a voice as a member, and not a volunteer. And what I realized is that what happened over the last couple of weeks, between all the conversations and requests I listen to every day to make sure everythings staying steady at the coffeeshop, prepared me for this moment. The ability to just listen, carefully, observationally, almost like a science, to the needs of the folks I literally serve every day. If that didn’t prepare me for this meeting I don’t know what will. And all this came through stillness, meditation, and calm. And none of this would have happened without that writing.

I’m still, I’m calm, and maybe that’s a turn of phrase that expresses what I feel in this exact moment, which is very simply, not really anything. I’m just listening. I’m peaceful. This post doesn’t even feel like I’m writing, but I know something real tonight. We’re all connected, and we never know just how powerful our words are when we really reach each other through sharing our difficulties, because we’re all in this together. I’m trying to figure out an artful way to end this post, but I can’t because there’s no ending, just a steady peace, and this, like water, was the thing that I needed to carry on. I can’t wait for this meeting, and I can’t wait to be back at work tomorrow morning, and yes, maybe some painting, privately, unshared, in moments where I can find some peace. Thank you, AOC.

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