Being burned out in this world as it is, feels like the last slow steps of a march that has brought me to stand in front of a tangled map, the ‘you are here’ emblazoned in the middle of winding ways, no clear path to get out of the maze of quick fixes offered in this endless wandering for a cure.
Coming to a place of burnout is not the end, it is many staggered ends. The sparks from a fire lit so long ago, fueled by beliefs about worth and how to earn it. The pace of life and how to keep it. The measure of life as the next step, the bigger step, the finish line always pulling farther out. Burnout is the flickering light of this is not enough, of chasing the tide of the right to be in this place, and then trying to fit in. It is the pressing of who you truly are under who you wished you were.
But what if burnout could be the blessed fire of the end of all this? After almost three years of this intense and consistently exhausting way of living, this is what I now know. Burnout is saying yes when you meant no, it is polling the room to see if what you want to do is what they want you to do; it is the insidious repetition of things that don’t work, not because you needed to do them better, but because you needed to do them differently. And then never did.
Burnout was my life saying ‘you’ve worn a pattern in the rug, stop pacing.’
Somehow, in the living of our days, we have learned to be beholden, to be traced, tracked and our location known, our life smaller and endlessly available. We have come to believe we owe others our predictability and an explanation for any variance, and in so doing have wound our lives into ever tighter circles. The change forward is radical, needs to be radical; it is not finding a new ‘you are here’ on a map, not running away from the pull of the old tide— it is the parting of your own Red Sea, a crossing into a land unknown and uncharted, a place you have never been.
So how do you avoid burnout? You don’t. You run toward it, raise your fist, shake your hair and yell your biggest ‘NO’ into the winded waves. Then you stop, still, and cast the spell of your new life. The one growing like new pines reaching through the charred forest floor. Green, brave and new; radically growing in the direction of what you have been dying to say. Every inside, unsaid no.
I won’t ever let the fire of this burnout die. I will keep a small flame alive and carry it from camp to camp, to throw in it the things that have stopped working. It will always tell me when I cannot keep walking the same way, the endless way.
Being a fire keeper, a truth teller, and the wild author of my own life is uncharted land; and from here, I can see the shore, brave and green.