(New artwork, available here)
Recently, I had the opportunity to hear Arianna Huffington speak at Emerging Women Live in NYC. I have so much to say about the conference and speakers as a whole (all good), but I'm still thinking about Arianna Huffington's talk about her personal story of severe burnout and her long road toward defining a new way of working, living, and thriving. Super inspiring, so real, so thoughtful, and just so full of truth.
She encouraged us to share our burnout stories so that we can own what's not working, and start an important dialogue with one another about what it looks like to thrive.
I've shared a couple of my burnout stories over the years in this space. Once in 2008 (that was a big one) and another one in 2010 when we were renovating our house while 8 months pregnant and working full time. But I haven't shared the full story of the last many weeks/months. I'm feeling called to share it now that I'm beginning to emerge from it, extracting lots of lessons along the way.
A few months ago I could feel myself on the edge. Moving houses (even if it was a dream come true). Moving studios. Launching e-courses (passion project!). Big transitions in my creative biz (new licensing mgr, new employee). Through it all, I put too much pressure on myself: Pack! Unpack! Decorate! Make art! Blog! Garden! Meet the new neighbors! Launch that new idea/project/practice/product! Enjoy the summer! Be an awesome employer, mother, wife, daughter! Volunteer at True's new school!
I felt myself sinking deeper and deeper into feelings of dread, desperation. Eventually, my inner voice whispered, "Let yourself off the hook. Just let yourself off the hook." I sensed my burnout wasn't just having too many balls in the air for too long, but that I was becoming fully hooked onto bigger issues: perfection, self expectations, unrealistic timeframes, FEAR.
Let yourself off the hook has been my mantra and my practice these last couple of months. And it's been working. When I feel the pressure to do/be/produce, I practice stopping, recognizing I'm in fear, and then give myself permission to unhook. From unpacking the last of the boxes. From creating if I'm not in the mood. From cooking. From emails (huge). From saying yes. From expectations. But most importantly, unhooking from the shoulds, which, of course, are 100% soaked in fear.
The practice of unhooking hasn't been easy, but it's allowed me to consciously hook onto new, healthy, things: Rest! Sleep (10hrs a night!)! Saying no! Reading! Boundaries! Relaxing! TRUSTING (my word of the year)!
I've been deep in this new practice for months now. And as hard as it's been, it's been a deeply rewarding experience to rearrange some brain patterns, bad habits, and slowly but surely find a new routine that feels more like thriving. Because it's no fun to dread the things you used to love.
I have a long way to go, but I've exhaled, unhooked, and detoxed from the I am not enough gremlins. I'd like to take this practice further. I want to cultivate more rest, more play, more trust in the process of letting go. I don't want my worthiness attached to what I do and how much I do it. I don't want it to be attached to anything. We are enough. As is.
So. Here's to new horizons. And releasing, as best as we can with conscious and open hearts, our shoulds, our coulds, and our fears.
Thank you, burnout. There is so much richness, and gold in the dark pockets of your lessons.