Hope: An Antidote to Burnout
As I sit to write this while listening to the Costco on hold music as I schedule my annual eye doctor exam and decide to open a piece of mail that's been sitting on my desk since yesterday, I remember to stop, breathe, and do one thing at a time.
I haven't written a blog post since the summer. There have been so many changes in my life, work, and the way I want to approach both since then. It all began innocently enough with my annual unplug and be present with family for the last two weeks of our daughter's summer vacation. For those of you who subscribe to our newsletter, you may remember that this year I tried something a bit more radical to allow my somewhat obsessive side a real break, I REMOVED email altogether from my phone.
This was a blessing and also I soon realized I curse as I walked up to an outdoor concert a few days later and realized my tickets were in my email. Picture me standing at the entrance scrambling with low cell signal to quickly download gmail so that we could get into the concert. Lesson learned. I keep gmail on my phone now as a middle path, and as this is the place where mostly I get bills and updates from my daughter's school, it isn't as tempting for me to obsessively check.
For a long time I've employed a self-care measure for my email that is an outgoing message to all who write me letting folks know that I have boundaries when it comes to email. The ugly truth is I needed that outgoing message because even with that expectation I was trying to setup for people contacting me, I had NO boundaries. I would find myself checking my email one last time before bed and often getting a message that stressed me out and caused me to have a more difficult time falling asleep. Why couldn't I just stop checking it?!
Yes there's the dopamine rush and the feeling of self-importance that was being fed by the constant connection, but what I now realize was lurking deeper under the surface was an invasive loneliness. Ironically, this loneliness is the self same one I am so committed to healing through this Belonging Series. 2019 began with my heart in a raw space having just lost two beloved people in tragic ways within the span of a week over the holidays.
It feels like one of those, if I had known then what I know now kind of moments because while January was full of self care and a sense of gratitude for all the gifts of my life, beginning in February I have travelled often zig zagging across the country from FL to the Bay Area more times than I can count. And I've hosted many people in my home.
Actually, I'm going to pause and look at my calendar and count just to give myself and you, my darling reader, a true sense.
The year went as follows:
February two trips within just over a week--Co and then LA
March 1st moved into my new office space
March 13th--flew to FL
May--hosted huge screening at Chicago Cultural Center and in that same week hosted three people in my home and then then 5 days later flew to FL
June--travelled to CO and San Francisco twice!
July--hosted a dear friend for two weeks in our home and then flew to CO to present at a conference
August--tried to slow down but my vacuum broke...picture me dragging the thing to various vacuum shops and eventually it just fixing itself.
Also hired a new assistant who quit a week in--started a process I'd begun in May a bit from scratch--scrambling
September--travel to NM
October--travel to LA and FL
So that's 12 trips!
I am a Sagittarius and I do love travel, but with my grieving heart that I was not tending to all along the way and my mission to uplift and inspire that was feeling like a weight on my shoulder rather than a joy as it had started out, I found myself in a state of serious anxiety and sleeplessness earlier this month in a hotel room in downtown LA.
"Grief waits," they say, and I was nearly knocked over by it. Grieving more losses than I can tally and not even wanting to take count, I felt like my pain and broken-heartedness might just take me out this time. I was struggling to see the beauty of being a human in a body. I was considering my options.
Thank heavens for the amazing friends, a great therapist and all the support I have that I was able to recognize the signs telling me to slow down and regroup. Thanks to one person in particular who spent nearly an hour on the phone with me in the middle of the night and helped me come back to myself, laugh a little, and put things in perspective. I truly don't know where I'd be right now were it not for her.
Then, this past Saturday night I went to a screening of a documentary film, "The Area" by Scrappers Film Group at Chicago Filmmakers, where we'll be screening "The Story of Michael D. McCarty" in a couple of weeks. It had been too long since I'd been out with girlfriends for a fun night, and we had a nice dinner and walk on a beautiful, balmy autumn night. Then we watched the movie.
It's a beautiful and raw story set in a small area of Englewood in Chicago as it is literally torn down because of corporate interest and greed and depicts how the residents band together to support one another and to make the transition to new homes with dignity and the respect they deserve. Having recently moved from a home I loved unexpectedly, the pain of what it feels like to give up a home was very present as I watched. Community organizer and a major subject in the film, Deborah Payne, was present for a q&a after the screening along with a producer/editor of the film Brian Ashby.
My heart just burst open again with HOPE once Deborah started speaking.
She spoke about her expectations when approached to be in the film and her experience ever since and the tears just began to flow down my face uncontrollably. She spoke about the power of community and the power of storytelling to make a difference and bring people together.
In her words, I heard echoes of things I've heard from Michael, Alicia, Eric, Lourdes, and countless others throughout the making of this doc series and at the many screenings around the country and world I've attended.
However, somehow over this year of running this way and that in a frantic and not often graceful dance, those words, the impact of this series, and my purpose had started to get lost in the shuffle.
I had stopped letting it all in.
I had put on my armor.
I had gone into hiding inside myself.
It's not that I had forgotten why I'm doing this, but it's that I'd been trying to turn myself into some kind of a one-woman documentary making machine and in the process my heart had slowly started to harden and get crusty.
One clue was that last month as I interviewed someone, I noticed that when their eyes welled up with emotion at our conversation, my eyes did not well up, I did not feel anything. I had become numb.
This is not like me.
I am an empath.
I love people.
I love deep conversation.
I love connecting with people and making connections and helping other people make connections.
But because I wasn't giving myself enough space to feel my own feelings, to absorb and reflect on my own experiences, my heart, discouraged, was giving up the fight. She was slowly shutting down and not wanting to talk to me. Like a peeved cat who turns her back to you after a week away as punishment. My heart was feeling abandoned by my very own mission to feed it.
As Deborah spoke, what broke through and burst forth was hope. I asked her, through tears, what kept her going throughout the 7+ years of fighting for her rights and what keeps her going now even after her home was destroyed anyways, and she reminded me of something I already knew but had not been able to access for several weeks, "be grateful for the little things each day."
It's so simple and yet I'd become overtaken by fear, doom and gloom.
Hope and gratitude I was reminded are the antidote.
My mission is huge.
I want to raise the consciousness level of this whole planet, reminding us all how interconnected we truly are and what that means. How when I hurt, you hurt, and vice versa.
I want to heal the illusion of separation and help us to have more connection, community and empathy for one another.
I want people to remember how much they and their journey matter and that there is more to life than consumption and violence. Find your unique purpose and live it.
And so, I remembered Saturday night, that in order to fulfill and continue on with my bold mission, I have to put down the weight of the world, because it is not mine alone to carry. I have to recharge my batteries and juices. I have to pay attention to my heart's desires. I have to listen to my guidance, slow down for real, and take the time to reflect and reconnect with my purpose. So that I can live it. SO that I can continue to share these important, revolutionary stories with you all.
If you feel inspired, please share your stories of getting to near burnout and how you came back to center. It truly helps when we support one another on the path to greater consciousness and connection. Thank you so much for taking the time to read this! I value you more than words can ever express.