I don’t know if you noticed, but … hahahaha … no, you totally did, I know. BUT, I have been descending into burnout big time recently. It all came out slowly at first, through general angst and harrumphs and wahhhhhs in my D15s. And then it was just a full-on pressure cooker release moment. I am learning to not apologize for it. I also know most of you probably relate and you felt what you always feel with us here at MommaStrong: Oh, it’s not just me. But, I did have to look at myself and see what is going on. It’s like when your toddler has a tantrum at 6:58pm while you are in the grocery store. Sure, you could be mad at him/her/they for it, but most likely you will run through your pilot’s checklist of potential tantrum triggers: Hungry, check. Tired, check. Overstimulated, check. There-are-toys-in-every-aisle-at-the-grocery-store-now, check.
So, this is what I did with myself after last week: I gave myself a big hug. I listened to feedback. I took some, discarded others. Gave myself permission to be human. Felt gratitude for a safe place here where I can throw a tantrum and not be punished. And then I said, what is missing from my toolkit? Why am I boiling over? The answer was so clear: The last year has resulted in no remaining outlets and no still moments in my day to day grind. This is partly because of the load that primary caretakers have carried and partly because my brain is in a stress response, one that cannot and will not take a free moment and use it for a productive outlet.
No, if I have a free moment, my brain either tells me to do 1,000,001 things that haven’t gotten done or it just collapses and asks to scroll or drool on a device. It doesn’t say, OH HEY, that book sounds like a good time. Or, OH HEY, a walk would be amazing right now. Or, OH HEY, exercise for pleasure would be fulfilling. Or, OH HEY, dust off your camera and go shoot some pictures at dusk. No. It says: BLAH. BLERGH. WHO CARES. WON’T HELP. NO THANKS.
I know this was just covered in the New York Times, in their piece on Languishing and so I am not trying to beat a dead horse here. I’m just joining, naming, confronting. I’m also adding a bit more to it to say that I’ve come to realize that I’ve been in a spin cycle and I forgot that while I am certainly IN the never-ending washer, I am also on the other side, with some power and some control. Not much. But some. And this is important because my brain, during times of stress, loves to tell me that it is on either end of a spectrum: Either serene or totally effed. Collected or Chaotic. Motivated or Resigned. And, as it always is, the answer is simply that my work in this life is to live in the tension between the extremes.
I know I have said this a bazillion times, but it is worth saying over and over. And, honestly, most of the time, I think it, but I don’t practice it. The idea makes sense, brings me some peace and some ah-has, but I don’t actually practice it, at least not longer than a day. So, I am circling back and I am going to work on what this tension requires of me. It means that I get to be both things, and all the things. This is good news. But it is also terrifying news. I mean, my stress brain doesn’t like that information. It wants a clear cut decision. It wants something google-able. Living in the tension between the extremes is not clear cut. It is a total and utter free fall.
This means that the question becomes: What do I need during a free fall? I am guessing that you are stumped like I am on that one. No one taught us this. No one said in high school, OH HEY, most of your grown up life will be basically dealing with insane people (who you love), paying bills, and finding joy even though there are no actual answers to anything. There was not a class on How to Free Fall without Destroying Yourself. So, it is ok that we are unprepared. And I encourage us to gather together and say, I Don’t Know and then find our tools for the free fall.
I am going to start this month with a simple, but not easy tool: Breathing. I want to understand it from the inside out and I want someone else to teach me in tiny chunks so that in basically 30 days, I will have a way to sit still, to bring life force into me, and to feel the tension without breaking. I know I am putting a lot on the skill of breathing here, but screw it. People demand a lot of me, maybe my lungs and my diaphragm are equally up for the hero’s journey too.
I figure if I start here, with this tiny breadcrumb of information for my body, then maybe another breadcrumb will appear. I’m not equipped to map the path out of burnout yet, but I am willing to start. You see? Both things. Middle ground. The tension between.
Join me for the month of May during which we will dig into this tool of breathing and see what happens. Our own MommaStrong member, Dr. Leah Frank, who is an osteopathic physician from the US now living in Germany, will be guiding us through all the anatomy, function, to-dos and not to-dos, and interrelated issues that exist in breathing. I cannot even begin to brag enough about the incredible content she is delivering to members this month. CAN YOU BELIEVE YOU GET THIS FOR $12 A MONTH? No, I cannot. I am in tears right thinking about how we show up, this team here.
So, yeah. Join me. If you are a current member, you simply click on that fancy challenges link in the teal navigation bar (once you are logged in). If you are not yet a member, that’s ok too. Just sign on up and then click that challenges link. PS: You get 14 days free, so basically half of your challenge is on us.
I’ll see you there.