On burnout, and reclaiming our lives. A few ideas on how.
My neighbor Julie is 65, and a nurse. She's worked in hospice, which is a good thing. Her husband has dementia. She can barely leave the house, but she manages. She does repairs, finds a handyman for the big stuff, shovels her big driveway, blows the big branches away and manages to take care of her large two- level home all by her lonesome.
Some days what she needs most of all is to just sit and BE.
Bet you can relate. In fact you might relate whether you're 25 or 85.
Lately there's been a plethora of articles on all the various platforms from Pocket to Medium and all the major news outlets about the Great Resignation. Then, articles about what all that means. Then articles from folks, including me, who have already left the building in some important way so that we can detox not only from twelve-hour days, but also learn how to fully be in our own skins.
This is really hard in a culture which worships at the feet of the Dick God of Productivity, that mindless, compulsiveness to produce at all costs, including our loves, kids, partners, animals, health and all else.
Medium writer Jessica Wildfire, who is the first to tell you she tends to be pretty negative, might be, but she's also spot on. She doesn't suffer from the Pollyanna Positive Pimple that so many have, and I appreciate her take on a lot of social issues if for no other reasons than 1) she lives them, and 2) she researches them. To that:
Wildfire outlines where so many people are and why, although she might not speak for all of us, she does lay out the sheer exhaustion as well as the brutal insensitivity of bosses who care more for profit than the lives which are devastated by all the damage of our politics and pressure to work in spite of Covid.
I recently wrote an article about how nobody reads your shit, when the real message is that we desperately need to learn how to be bored. I don't care that it sounds counter-intuitive. It's dead-on accurate.
Maybe the best way for some of us to save the world is to just do less.
She's napping more. I carved out Hump Days every week wherein I throw a thermos in my car and head...I have no idea. I land where I land. I am effing sick and tired of working so hard for so long that every lovely place I ever lived remains a mystery to me because I could not stop my 90-hour weeks.
Tomorrow is another Hump Day. I have no idea where I am going. Layers, food, coffee, my GPS and who cares. I'll get home when I get home, tired and happy. An empty tank, too.
It took me sixty years to get here. More, because I started working full-time at four years old, for my dad on the farm and my mom in the house. For pay. I've never not worked. Hardly ever took a break. I'd start, then I turned that break into work.
MONETIZING my fun. MONETIZING my joy. For Christ's sake.
It's damned hard to ratchet back sixty years of habits. Work defines us, yet it robs us of life.
The Great Resignation is utterly and totally necessary. So is the wholesale dumping of all the idiot influencers and productivity hackers whose life advice is just that much more burden to carry, and that many more hooks on the cat o' nine tails with which we beat ourselves for not being perfect, perfectly fit, young, beautiful and the CEO of some multi-billion dollar company and living on our own island.
Wildfire and I are hardly the only writers calling this out. Plenty of us have hit the wall about the same time, albeit at different ages and different points in our lives. There is considerable research that underscores the critical need not just for naps, but for hours of blank time, nothing time, floating-away time.
Look it up. You want validation, try this: the old saw about two lumberjacks in a contest to cut the most wood. One guy goes at it, never quits. Other guys stops, periodically sharpens his saw, goes back to work. Second guy wins the contest. First guy is dead on his feet, like most of us, with half the wood, in more ways than one.
And after the rest? Whaddya do then?
Anything. It's up for grabs. Because once you find out that you really enjoy and actually thrive on off days, then that may well open the door to a whole other kind of life. I am exploring that right this moment.
But first, I'm taking a nap.