How to make the most of being toast: embracing burnout

“AND THEN SHE CLEARLY UNDERSTOOD.
IF HE WAS FIRE,
SHE MUST BE WOOD.”

Joan of Arc, by Leonard Cohen
(the most gorgeous version
of which is sung by Jennifer Warnes)

I admit it: I’m burned out. Fried. Toasted.

But this time, there’s something satisfying and tasty about being…roasted by the life I’ve chosen. I’m reveling in it. Rather than the usual “How’d I let this happen?, or, I’m weak, or, I should take better care of myself…” admonishments (from myself and others,) I’m curling up to my tenderized being and I’m really very pleased with the state of me.

I’m devoted to tending the fire of knowledge, to blazing my own trail. Burn out is a natural part of shining. Naturally. I welcome it now.

Because I’m such a Typically Tough Cookie, admitting to burn out is not my first inclination. My response to the creeping psyche crispies has been to put on more mascara and tighten my bra straps. But the evidence has been surfacing:

YOU KNOW YOU’RE BURNED OUT WHEN:

  1. Your friend asks where you want to go for breakfast and you say, “Anywhere they serve mashed potatoes and chocolate cake.”
  2. You start to feel a whole new sympathy for Britney Spears’ last breakdown because, “Poor thing, the pressure to be skinny, manage your millions, raise your babies, and remember your dance routine must be outfreakingrageous. Someone needs to nominate her for the Nobel.”
  3. When asked what famous historical figure you’d like to have dinner with, you choose Joan of Arc, “because I want to know if she was a nut-bar or truly vocationally inspired.”
  4. You start listening to inordinate amounts of music from high school (for me that would be The Cure) and Gregorian chants.
  5. You wear a hat, sunglasses, and a scarf to the grocery store. You wish you could wear your Uggs to business meetings.
  6. You generally feel like you’re walking through the world minus a layer of epidermis and it’s really windy outside.
  7. You totally relate to this “Overnight Success” video from Chris Brogan.
  8. When you hear some tragic news about brutality and violence, you want to collapse into a ball of sobbing guilt because, clearly, you’re not doing enough to save the human race from it’s mortal coil.
  9. Your monastic fantasies are unceasing. You dream of living on an island only accessible by boat (but where, magically, FedEx and Pizza Hut still deliver.)

Yep, you done be fried.

RE-FRAMING BURN OUT INTO A BEAUTIFUL POSSIBILITY:

  1. You run long and hard, you get tired. That’s a fact. Marathoners don’t criticize themselves after a race for being exhausted. They rest.
  2. Rest and excitement don’t have to be mutually exclusive terms. You can have some down time and still bubble with the anticipation of getting back into the game.
  3. My wonder goddess coach, Dyana Valentine puts it this way: “Your energetic vulnerability is helping you get clear on what you need.” Damn, that’s goood.
  4. Take stock of all you’ve accomplished. You’ve come far, baby. And you’ve got the road rash and the muscle definition to prove it.
  5. “Life balance” is an insidious myth. Picasso, Oprah, Steve Jobs, Einstein, Maria Callas – they weren’t aiming for balance, they were aiming to rock their genius, and they’ve all had periods of burn out.
  6. Cozy comfort hiding quiet time can make for some amazing new ideas.
  7. On the seventh day, even God rested.
  8. As the legend goes, when the Phoenix resurrects from the flames, she is even more beautiful than before.

I will start a fresh fire and jump back into it. I’m gathering kindling in between unpacking my suitcases and naps. I’ve got Bigger Than Ever Plans. And maybe six months or six years from now, I will be burned out, spent, deeply satiated and in need of cocoa and solace again. I’m looking forward to it.

. . . . . . .

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