Tag Archives: What I Learned

Day of Rest: Burnout Recovery

The door to nowhere…

I’m categorizing this post as a “Day of Rest” because that’s usually what I post, if I post, on a Sunday. To be fair, it could also be a Life Rehab Resources, or What I Learned, or What I’m Doing. I’m realizing that after nine months of taking care of myself and trying to be patient, that if I was 100% burnt out nine months ago, I’m still about 87% burnt out now, and I should maybe be taking a more direct approach (instead of trying to “wait it out”), which for me typically starts with some deep research and contemplation.

I posted on Facebook and Instagram asking for books that had helped people through recovery from burnout, even if it wasn’t specifically about burnout. Some of the suggestions were:

One person on Facebook asked for clarification about the cause of my burnout, as that might help her make a more effective recommendation. As I told her, and I think have said here before, “the reasons are compound: just retired after 19 years in a stressful job, on year 11 of perimenopause, an autoimmune disorder, complex-PTSD, etc. So pretty much pick a reason and I’ve probably got it.” That makes deciding on a direct approach for recovery so much more complicated.

What’s been working for me so far, in terms of practices and support: Therapy, quitting my job, reading, watching lots of TV and taking lots of naps, eating what I want when I want it as much as I want, aqua aerobics, yoga, meditation, massage, having honest conversations with those close to me, asking for what I need, walking and napping and cuddling with my dogs, my infrared heating pad, our new living room furniture, flowers in the bathroom, cleaning out my office, getting more plants, limiting the amount of time I spend “peopling,” listening to music and podcasts, comedy, sitting in the sauna, reading in bed at night while Eric and the dogs are asleep, really good healthcare for my dogs (the better care they get, the less stressed I feel), writing, turning down the volume on bad news, cute animal and baby and dance videos, art, CBD oil, a small dose of THC before bed to help me sleep, the softest pjs in the world, my moon lamp, my HappyLight, and a sunrise alarm clock.

Another thing I have to do is cultivate patience and a willingness (which is currently reluctant) to accept that this could be permanent. I may never have more energy than I have right now and I need to figure out how to be okay with that.

All that said, I have a favor to ask you, kind and gentle reader: if you have recovered from burnout, what worked for you? What did you try, read, watch, do to feel better? If you don’t mind, could you post a comment or send me an email (lifewholehearted@gmail.com) and let me know? One request: as I am in recovery for not one but three eating disorders, even if a diet or nutritional supplement worked for you, could you leave that part out? I have to be super careful about how I handle anything having to do with nourishing myself through food or supplements, so not referencing anything related to that would be really helpful to me. Thank you in advance. You are the best!

What I’m Learning/Doing: I’m (Re)Tired

Craving green and quiet…

This weekend I felt the itch to blog, to share something with you here, kind and gentle reader. I was working on my Something Good post for Monday, reading a post Austin Kleon had made about this being a Leap Year and February having 29 days, suggesting a 29-day challenge. I thought to myself, “Hey, I’ve been writing a lot but not sharing on my blog, maybe I should do this challenge even though I’m starting a day late.” After I finished working on my other post, I created another, a Day of Rest one. As I stared at the blank screen thinking about how to start, I felt dizzy, had to grab the sides of my desk to steady myself. In that moment I realized I needed to rest, not write about it.

Before I go any further, I need to be clear about my privilege. It allowed me to retire, it allows me to do the things I need to do right now to heal, it allows me to take a step back and reevaluate and take things slow, it allows me choices. I am fully aware as I write about the ways in which I am struggling, I also have access to so much support, a safety net that others just don’t.

When I quit my CSU job, I had a very clear plan of what I wanted to do next. I’ve spent the past 10+ years making a plan and creating a foundation. I left room for the specific details to shift if necessary, but I had a very clear idea, a specific mission. I knew I’d need a bit of time to regroup and recover once I actually stopped working at CSU, but I thought I’d take the summer off like usual and start in the fall. That isn’t what happened at all.

I had no idea until I stopped how truly burnt out I was. And even when I identified it as “burnout” I didn’t realize how deep it ran, how serious it was, or how long it was going to take to heal. I had absolutely nothing on reserve, no resilience. I was like a dried out, overstretched rubber band about to snap. I was numb and tired, and when I wasn’t I was filled with rage and grief. To say I’d “hit a wall” was a super accurate description of how I felt, hit it at 100 miles an hour after getting run over by a truck.

In the simplest terms, my plan was to teach and write. And yet, the kind of teaching I do requires holding space for people working on big stuff, which requires me to be my most stable, sane version of myself. As an introverted hsp, on a regular day when I’m at my strongest and most flexible, it takes a lot of energy (and then recovery) to do so, and right now, I just don’t have it to spare. My writing, particularly anything I write about my lived experience, requires that I revisit and re-experience some painful, hard things, and that also requires stability, sanity, and energy.

I experience fatigue, anxiety, and depression from various sources; perimenopause, burnout, S.A.D., complex-ptsd, Hashimoto’s, and being hsp, (add to this list things happening with people I love and in the larger world that provide real and direct reasons to be anxious, sad, and tired); and on most days, I’m not at capacity to teach or write certain things. My efforts focus instead on coping and healing — rest, therapy, self-care, etc. — honoring where I’m at and what I need. I am teaching one regular weekly yoga class with a small group of regulars, writing and reading a lot, and on some days I am able to cross something off my larger to-do list that moves me one tiny step closer to showing up more directly.

That being said, thank you for still being here. Thank you for continuing to share this space with me, for showing up and offering your support. Thank you for not giving up, for doing the healing you need to do, for honoring what you need and want, for helping when you can, for continuing to try. Your presence and efforts encourage me, and I’m so grateful.

 

The First Day of the Rest of Your Life

Trail, trees, and sunrise on our walk this morning

From our walk this morning

One of the first things Eric said to me this morning was, “this is the first day of the rest of your life.” Yesterday was my last day of work at CSU. It was weird, but also right. A lot of people assumed I was some mix of excited and scared, but fear has nothing to do with it at this point. Yesterday felt a little bit like my birthday, a little bit like the first time I left home – which I also did at nineteen years.

I first came to CSU 19 years ago as a graduate student in the English M.A. Communication Development program, a program that doesn’t even exist anymore. While a graduate student, I worked as a tutor in the Writing Center, as a Writing Teaching Assistant, and as a Graduate Teaching Assistant. After graduating, I taught various Composition courses, did lots of coding and web design, was a web project manager for a bit, was an editor, a web manager, and eventually the department’s first Communications Coordinator. I created our first blog, had a big part in redesigning the website not once but twice, had interns and a budget. And then it all got to be too much.

There were seven years somewhere in the middle I spent working in a super toxic situation. The person in charge of a big project I worked on is a narcissist. I used to call him that as a joke, and then one day I looked it up in the DSM-5 and realized he fit the description exactly. As hard as that experience was, as awful as that time was, I learned a lot from it. I learned how not to treat people. I learned how to deal with someone constantly abusing me without lashing out or hurting myself. I got lots of therapy, and started practicing yoga and mediation. When my strategies of self-care and coping stopping working in the face of the abuse, I hit my breaking point.

When that happened, I was going to leave CSU. My plan was to quit altogether. Eric talked me down from a ledge, suggested I write up a new job description. I did, explained I could no longer continue to work as I was but that I still had a lot to offer. They agreed and I stayed. It worked out okay, but the workload just kept growing, and even though I said regularly to those in positions of power that it was too much, that it wasn’t sustainable or healthy, nothing really changed. The stress and overwhelm impacted both my mental and physical health. When I turned 50, I thought about how I’d probably work another 10-15 years, and I couldn’t imagine doing what I was for that much longer. I knew I couldn’t keep going.

My now empty office

To be fair, the job had never been my “thing.” It was confusing though, because my thing IS  teaching and writing, and the position allowed me to do something that sort of looked like that. And yet, I was doing those things according to someone else’s agenda, fulfilling someone else’s purpose, meeting goals that weren’t my own. It never really felt like the right fit, like an exact match. It always felt like a shoe that was half a size too small, or using a fork when really what you needed was a spoon.

After what feels like a decade of prep, months of having little to no time off because I was teaching my own things in addition to my CSU work or completing various teaching certifications, almost eight years of showing up to write regularly here, hours and hours of what career change coach Laura Simms calls a crossfade — “a transition period where your current and future careers overlap. Your current career fades out, and your new career fades in,” I finally was able to make the choice to leave. To be clear, I can only make that choice because my husband has a full time job he doesn’t plan on leaving, I can get on his health insurance, we own our house and have a really low mortgage, we can pretty easily modify our spending habits, and we don’t have kids. It’s a choice I can make because of my privilege. That said, I’ve also worked since I was 14 years old, and NONE of those jobs were pursuing my own purpose. That, finally, is what I intend to do now.

From our walk this morning

I don’t know if I’ve shared it here yet, but my new job title is: Contemplative Practice Guide. I am going to specialize in yoga asana, meditation, and writing as practice. I am going to teach in person and online. My mission remains the same as always, to ease suffering — in myself and in the world. My intention is to hold space for those cultivating the foundation of a sane mind and open heart, embodied compassion and wisdom. My hope is that from that foundation we can work together to make things better. Along with teaching, I’ll still be writing a lot, maybe even finish one of the books I’ve been working on for so long.

This Sunday is my final day of my last module of my 500 hour yoga teacher certification. That means for the next few days I’m focusing on putting together my capstone class I’ll be teaching. It requires that I create a 40-45 minute sequence that includes something from all of the modules so it’s a pretty big deal. After that, I’m going to circle back and finish my certifications from Curvy Yoga and Yoga for All. Then I’ll spend the summer cleaning and decluttering and repairing and painting our house, planting and maintaining the garden, reading books and taking naps, cooking (I want to learn to make bread, in particular), with one trip to Oregon to visit my family. I’m going to be researching places where I can teach locally, as well as considering the online platform I want to use for some classes I’d like to offer in the fall. I’m going to put together a new website that’s more focused on my “work.”

So that’s a little about where I’ve been, how I got here, and where I’m headed. As always, I can’t thank you enough, kind and gentle reader, for being here. For showing up, for listening, for offering encouragement. I am so grateful for you.

What I Learned from Remodeling a Bathroom

PicMonkey Collage1. A designer is essential. I never would have thought this before working with one, probably would have judged it as an unnecessary extravagance, something that only people with a lot of money do. However, now that I’ve worked with a really good one, felt the ease and comfort of the process and seen the final results, I would absolutely do it again. We didn’t use a designer for our kitchen because it was an unplanned project all around, (what we thought would be a small repair to the floor under the dishwasher caused by a leak turned into “surprise, your whole subfloor is rotten and in order to fix it we have to gut your kitchen”). Because we could barely afford the remodel, which was really more like a really expensive repair, and were doing everything by ourselves, we choose the cheapest, most bland and basic materials. It looks fine, but it looks like an apartment, is no one’s idea of a dream kitchen. Our bathroom, in stark contrast, is the nicest thing I’ve ever had. Our designer’s ability to translate what we liked into a manageable set of choices, any of which would have turned out beautifully, made the whole project so much easier. We had access to her discounts so were able to buy nicer materials than we would have on our own, and she was able to connect us with a really good contractor. If it weren’t for her, we’d still be standing in the tile aisle at Home Depot, crying because we didn’t know what to do.

2. Just as important as skillful, the people you work with should be good. What “good” means is probably different for everyone. For me it means that they were nice to us, friendly, had a good sense of humor, were good to our dogs, respectful of our space and our time. The crew that worked on our house brought a roll of carpet to put down where they’d be walking, always cleaned up after themselves, apologized for being late, asked permission to use the other bathroom or get water from the kitchen sink or wash their hands, let us know what was going on, who’d be working on what and when they’d be there, asked for clarification to be sure they were doing exactly what we wanted, and always asked if it was okay if they needed to stay late. We could text our contractor any time with questions, and even though he was supervising the work rather than doing much of it, he was always around, checking in and making sure things were going okay. He even showed up on the final day to do some of the tiny things, like hanging mirrors and such, because they’d run a day over and his guys were on another job. Again in contrast, the primary people on our kitchen job were great, but the subcontractors were jerks, made me so uncomfortable, and didn’t always do good work, and the only time I saw our contractor was the first day when he gave us the estimate and the last day when we wrote him a check.

3. Having a good sense of your own style and needs is important. For example, we needed a detachable hand held shower head because we give our dogs baths in that bathroom, which also meant we couldn’t have a super deep tub because the sides needed to be short enough that they could jump in and out. Even though it wasn’t super clear, I was able to give our designer a pretty good description of our style, which really helped her narrow down our choices. I told her,

I’d describe our style as cottage/cabin. We love Asian things (more Japanese than Chinese), bamboo, wood blinds, wood floors (although we don’t want to have them in this bathroom), seagrass baskets, plants, thrift store finds, old quilts, piles of books, collections of sea shells and rocks. Clean and rustic? If we could, we’d live in a beach cottage or mountain cabin or old farmhouse year round, so a space that’s relaxing, natural, and not too fussy, comfortable, lived in but loved. And yet, we also love the style of a 60’s ranch house, and Danish Modern. Here’s a link to a few color palette’s we like, are a lot of the colors we’ve already used in our house: http://design-seeds.com/home/entry/succulent-hues36, http://design-seeds.com/home/entry/color-reflect, http://design-seeds.com/home/entry/cut-tones5, http://design-seeds.com/home/entry/succulent-hues37

4. You don’t have to agree to anything you don’t want. You can have a slightly shorter cabinet made even though it’s shorter than the standard if you just happen to be slightly shorter than the standard yourself. You don’t have to have granite countertops, or any other type of stone or tile. You don’t have to have the typical extra towel holder by the second sink next to the door if you are so annoyed by that sort of thing that you ripped the last one out of the wall. And if they find a live phone line in the wall, you don’t have to let them connect it to an outlet in your office if you don’t want one. And you don’t have to pick one of the light fixtures your designer suggested if there’s another one you like even better.

5. Not everything will go as planned. Anyone who has ever done any kind of remodeling will be able to tell you this. You just don’t know what they’ll find when they rip down the drywall, and you can’t predict what other sort of hiccups there might be with materials or schedules or even weather. Whatever it is, it will work out in the end, so roll with it.

6. There will be lots of questions. You will be asked lots of questions and you will be asking lots of questions. Thank goodness for texting and a contractor who is quick to respond.

7. A lot of artists have day jobs. I thought it was super cute how the main guy was always singing to himself on the job, and then I found out he’s a songwriter, is in a band. And our designer teaches design as her main gig, but could easily spend all her time making lived spaces beautiful.

8. Opt for the upgrade, it will be worth it over time. We were able to get really beautiful tile, and a gorgeous cabinet and sinks, and really nice hardware, all of which we might not have selected on our own, but which makes such a difference.

9. I’m not good at giving myself nice things. There’s a really struggle there, not that I don’t think I deserve it but more like I think everyone does too and if other people can’t or don’t have nice things, I feel selfish or greedy giving it to myself. So instead I have things I don’t love or that don’t work for me, and feel a different kind of bad.

10. Giving yourself a beautiful space ripples out. Suddenly you want to make the rest of your space nicer, clean it up and make it equally beautiful. But it’s more than just the physical space. For me, it impacted how I treat myself. I gave myself something nice, and it makes me see all the other ways I’m not taking care of myself, not treating myself so well, and I want to do better.

11. The cost, the effort and the expense, will be worth it. It really is that simple. As with most good things, you’ll wonder why you waited so long.

12. Having people in my house was harder than I thought. Even though they were good people and they were getting lots of good work done, it was really hard. I’m an introvert and an HSP, so all the human contact and the noise was a lot to process. And on many days, they were here around 8-9 am and didn’t leave until 5-6 pm, and there just wasn’t enough time to completely decompress from it before someone was back again. I was actually glad for the few times someone was going to be late or we had a day where someone only worked half a day. It made the whole project take longer, but it was nice to have that space. I think the dogs did better with the chaos than I did.

13. Nothing will ever be perfect. I know people who will nitpick every little thing, demanding things be made absolutely perfect, believing that standard is even possible. I learned during this project to love the tiny imperfections — the place where something isn’t exactly straight, or the spot where there’s a scratch or ding, or the slightly off-centered element. I love the reminder that imperfection, impermanence is our natural state, and am grateful for the awareness that it’s beautiful anyway.

 

 

What I’m Learning Now

Love is, above all else, the gift of oneself. ~Jean Anouih

On Thursday, I worked a lot with letting the day unfold naturally, without force or agenda. I was fatigued, worn out, and took a sick day to rest. The plague (several versions) has been circling around campus and there’s a good chance my body is doing everything it can to fight it off. I stayed in my pajamas all day, fed myself well, drank lots of grapefruit juice, watched some inspirational videos while resting on the couch, taking notes and at one point having a long nap.

The Universe is bombarding me with messages about self-love, self-care, self-acceptance. The classes I’m taking, friendships I have, things I read and see and hear make clear what I can give, what is needed. The theme is that there is only one me, I have unique gifts, a specific perspective and calling, and that I must be true to that, honor it, because that’s what I have to offer the world. And most importantly, it is not selfish to be who I am, to love what I love. In fact, it is the deepest kind of compassion, the most profound expression of wisdom.

To succeed at being somebody that you are not (but think you need to be) is still a failure. But to love who you are and courageously be that fully is a life well lived. ~Kute Blackson

I contemplated this blog post that I’m writing now all day Thursday, but made the choice to rest instead. In fact, this past week, I only posted three times, when I typically post every day, sometimes twice. Normally that would make me feel bad, less than worthy and anxious because my stats were down. For years, I’ve been singing as loud as I can, dancing as fast as I can, performing elaborate routines, begging to be noticed, to be loved and accepted, cared for and safe. I can’t do it anymore, won’t–“a life lived in order to please others ends up pleasing no one at all,” (Elizabeth Lessor).

Pleasing another person is often about avoiding the conflict that might ensue if we tell the truth about our feelings, needs, fears, and dreams. ~Elizabeth Lessor

I know I have something of value to offer, but I can’t do it from a place of exhaustion and overwhelm. When thinking about how I might do this, my heart’s work, while maintaining full-time paid work and all the other things I’m responsible for, it is clear to me that the same approach that had been so unworkable, such a failure in my old job–overwork, overwhelm, anxiety, perfection, hustling for worthiness, people pleasing but self-hating–was being carried over into this. The same method of forcing and pushing and denial.

I want to continue loving what I love, so I need to soften my approach. I need to meet this work with gentleness, kindness, and be open to joy. I need to maintain my focus on how I want to feel, the experience I want to cultivate, the process rather than a product. I need to balance my effort with ease.

Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive. ~Howard Thurman

I also must forgive myself for all that came before. All the years of trying to be good, hoping to be perfect, imagining that if I did what others wanted and expected that I would be loved, safe, accepted. The self-denial, self-loathing, self-abandonment, self-abuse, the pushing, forcing, smashing myself to bits, and broken promises. The cycle of starving and stuffing, never satisfied. I have to also forgive myself for my confusion, my disappointment, my despair, my rage, and every action that came from that dark place. I was only trying to be who I thought I was supposed to be.

Your problem is how you are going to spend this one odd and precious life you have been issued. Whether you’re going to spend it trying to look good and creating the illusion that you have power over people and circumstances, or whether you are going to taste it, enjoy it and find out the truth about who you are. -Anne Lamott

I’m choosing that second option, dreaming bigger, cultivating courage and rest and joy, keeping my heart open, showing up and staying with whatever might arise, and doing it all imperfectly. My wish is to leave you, this space, this planet in better condition than I found it, and to ease suffering, in myself and the world.

You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
For a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
~Mary Oliver

Guest Posting

lastretreat02

Good day, kind and gentle reader. I did a guest post for Ayurveda at a Glance: Yoga, Ayurveda and Earth Medicine, the blog of one of my very favorite yoga teachers, and want to share it with you: Meditation Practice: 5 Things I’ve Learned in 5 Years.

What I Learned in Cultivating Courage

I just finished the first session of Andrea Scher’s Cultivating Courage E-Course. In the course description, she says:

One conscious, brave choice — every day for 30 days. Who will you be on the other side?

During those 30 days, I developed a practice. I experienced inspiration, comfort, community, and a refined definition of courage. Here I am, on the other side, and this is who I am:

1. “I am larger and better than I thought. I did not know I held so much goodness.” ~Walt Whitman Every act of kindness is an act of bravery. My first thought often is something generous, but I usually stop myself, especially if a stranger is involved. I let those old, nasty voices about how I’m “too much” stop me, but this class, this practice has reminded me that this is my superpower, my nature, and maybe even my purpose.

2. I am not alone, and with a tribe, I am so much stronger. After 30 days in this class, I remember the importance of tribe, of communicating and connecting, of showing up and being vulnerable. Even though most of us in class were meeting each other for the first time, Andrea created a safe space, a secure container for our practice and our sharing, and we dared to be vulnerable, to connect. We quickly became a support team, a tribe of tender-hearted warriors practicing courage, encouraging each other and celebrating together.

3. What is an act of courage for me is just that, brave for me. Cultivating courage isn’t about becoming anyone else’s idea of brave. For me, right now, courage means cultivating confidence, the kind that Susan Piver describes as “the willingness to be as ridiculous, luminous, intelligent, and kind as you really are, without embarrassment.” Trusting myself, having faith in my own voice, showing up with an open heart, even when it’s hard and even when it hurts.

4. Courage doesn’t have to be big or bold. It can be quiet and gentle, soft and simple. You don’t have to save someone from a burning building, or make a grand gesture to be brave. As Mary Anne Radmacher says, “Courage doesn’t always roar. Sometimes courage is the little voice at the end of the day that says ‘I’ll try again tomorrow.’ ”

Andrea Scher is a maker of magic. She has a compassionate vision, and it’s so vivid, so vibrant that you can see it too, and this shared dream has the power to move you. You know immediately that you can trust her, and that with her support, amazing things are going to happen, you are going to happen.

P.S. One of the NaBloPoMo prompts this week was “What is the bravest thing you’ve ever done?” and another was “Tell us about your favorite pet.” As Andrea was putting together this course, she asked for courage stories, and the one I sent her was about my first dog, Obi, and having to let him go–the bravest and most loving thing I ever had to do. Andrea’s Cultivating Courage e-course has reminded me that this is who I am.