On Rest, Work and Burnout


Do you ever have those weeks—or series of weeks—in which one by one, things pile up: frustrations, to-do lists, exhausting work days, injuries, cancelled plans, etc., and then you’re just walking along in this fog of fatigue and realize you’ve hit your limit.  If you’re lucky, you recognize this is happening and take steps to combat it before you reach burnout.  But oftentimes, I’ve found, I have to get pretty tripped up before I’m willing to address that slow and steady progression toward burnout.

This time, it seems, my intuition was ahead of the curve; or rather, my intuition is often ahead of the curve—it’s my mind that seems to (over)confidently ignore the wisdom of my body.   And so I get to enjoy a day off today, planned a month ago, simply for the purpose of rest.  And, here I am wondering as I often do what it is that would feel restful on a day like today.  I thought it would look like getting out of the city to ski on a day when most have to show up to the workplace.  It’s beautifully sunny out and couldn’t be a more fitting bluebird day out on the mountain.  And anyone who knows me knows that rest (to me) is NOT doing nothing.  But after two failed attempts at plans to ski with friends, it seems the invitation to a different sort of rest is being offered.

I’ve been in the midst of a season of discernment and impending transition for the past several months.  The months have been full: full of good, hard work and exploration, full of challenge, full of promise, and most definitely, full of frustration at the length of time it is taking to make change.  Within the past couple of weeks, I’ve had a series of brief conversations that have in mere moments offered light in this darkness of waiting and uncertainty.  A patient, a roommate’s friend, and a dear friend of mine have all offered validation of the difficulty that discernment and waiting hold.  And by waiting I do not mean sitting idly by as I am already adept at doing; I mean active participation in the process of change. I mean listening—and deeply—to the life that is stirring within and without.  I mean choosing to take those steps I’ve resisted for a hundred and one reasons.  I mean choosing, also, to wait until that life in me has had the time and nourishment it needs before becoming visible in the world.  Waiting is hard.

Rest, also, is hard.  When that to-do list continues to grow.  When you are nowhere near where you thought you would be at this moment in time.  When your mind or body or both just don’t seem to know how to slow down that ever-present need to just keep moving… or else.

After hitting a wall this past week, I’m pondering a different way forward.  A way that involves letting go of this need to be “working” or “on” at all times in order to speed up this process and get on with my life, to have an actual answer to that question that my patient and I so deeply loathe: “So have you figured out what you’re going to do yet?”

My transition coach/counselor adamantly believes that there is much to learn in the midst of seasons of transition.  And, the answer to that one question that brought me to him, I am so slowly learning, is not the one and only question worthy of the investment of my time and money.   Rather, learning how to navigate the changing of seasons, learning when and how to rest, learning what play looks like, learning how to be with others (and myself) in ways that honor desire and need—these are some of the elements that contribute to a life that is rich with meaning and joy.

And so I am able to hit pause today and venture outdoors to practice a different way of being in the world.  I’ll hop on a ferry and travel across the Sound to one of the many marvelous islands in Seattle’s backyard.  Alone with my bike, I’ll wander the forested roads thankful for the chance to slow down and take in the abundant goodness that surrounds us, a goodness not dependent upon any sense of worthiness whatsoever, but rather on a sheer willingness to turn, notice, and give thanks for simply being here.

4 thoughts on “On Rest, Work and Burnout

  1. I just “stumbled” upon your blog. I am enjoying your words and will be sharing them with my friends who are in a place of transition, wrestling with what it looks like to slow, get quiet and listen, resting and waiting. It is a difficult task.
    thank you for sharing!


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