I have come to think that burn out has different stages and scenery. It’s like watching a prairie fire over time–eventually, it burns itself out. You’re left in a quiet, peaceful, albeit grey area of ashes and soot. This is the layer that brings back life, if you let it.
“Hello. Is this is the ER check-in desk?”
The attendant looks up; I expect her to say something like “No, this is the Clown and Circus Motorcycle Club. You want down the hall and to the left, pass the screaming banshee who met with an unfortunate accident, but before the cafeteria and gift shop.”
I get a nod instead. I take a breath and plunge into the story, perhaps for the fifth time that day.
I find myself indignant at clocks in the morning, or rather at the time when I arrive somewhere. I tend to run behind at set times when it’s routine; I tend to be early when it’s a non-routine event. Have I lost you yet?
I’ve tended to be a few minutes late to work most days since I started my adult career. Nothing outlandish; five minutes or less usually, sometimes ten if you include limping from the parking garage (granting I survive it another day), nursing my burn wounds from another wrong-way driver. I flip flop between berating myself over it and giving myself grace. I get excellent reviews at work and excel in my field professionally. I do make up time, but through the honor system and when projects call for overtime. Why then does punctuality seem to be my hang-up? I pondered this and here’s what I came up with…
There have been two mass shootings in America within the last 48 hours. I’ve been seeing articles about how many mass shootings there have been so far this year and how it’s outpacing the number of days in a year.
I feel like we’re living in a surreal version of 1984 in my country, albeit American flavored. When our Founding Fathers included the Right to Bear Arms into the Constitution, it was in reaction to British rule and relationships. The guns back then took minutes to load, aim and shoot ONE round. One.
I get this Political Cartoon image in my head of politicians being bunkered in at the Capitol in an Armageddon type of setting. They’re the only ones left and the last survivors of the human race are outside killing each other. The President will turn to his staff and go “Well, we protected their right to bear arms!” And another will say “But there’s no one left to vote for you now.”
A few weeks ago I wrote this about resetting my mind from materialism and the constant onslaught of American marketing. Marketing in America is like trying to walk through a hallway of funhouse mirrors. You can quickly become disoriented and you intentionally have to want to leave in order to get out.
If you’d like to join me on this journey, here are some of the steps I’ve taken so far with the saint. See if some of these would help you, too. Remember to give yourself grace and to not compare yourself to others. We’re all on our different journeys.
One hobby I’ve developed is watching–and learning–when people lie. Writers are good observers, I believe, and we often become magpies of human behavior. We sit, we listen, we take the stimuli in and sort through it, stacking the dainty treasures into our writing closet to pick ideas from later. The collection is our mermaid cove of dainty human curiosities…
Every year when I visit my lovely gynocologist to do my health (fit as a fiddle), wealth (take my money) and stealth (ninja power level 9000) check, I usually do the same things:
- I forget how to get to the office. I remember on the way there.
- Once arriving, I try going through the same locked door. I walk down three feet and find an unlocked door. The mysteries of building security.
- I see at least one child being mischievous. It was two this time. They were both wearing surgical masks and a newspaper was suspiciously crumpled near them on a chair.
- The waiting room has at least one baby, usually more, and a few nervous and bored fathers. I suspect the nervous fathers are first time dads and the bored ones have been through the process a time or two.
- I ask the health tech if I can use the restroom like I’m back at school and am expecting to be told no and asked to finish my homework first.
- I eat a sucker at the checkout desk after everything is done. Why? Because I forget how old I am. And the check out secretary just smiles and hands me my paperwork. Peace, lady. ☮️
- I miss my turn on the way out to get back to the main road. Every. Single. Time.
Somewhere along the line, we lose ourselves. We find ourselves at Costco, staring at the shiny camera on the shelf, the thing that will give you x (book advertisement) and help you do y (YouTube). Marketers spend billions of dollars to trap, ensnare and keep you in their cycle of wanting, buying and eventual dissatisfaction. Set this process on repeat and there’s the foundation of the economy and personal debt, I would argue.
Despite my best (albeit fragile) attempts, I fell into this snare recently. It happened slowly, but grew in intensity. The items were mainly to help me with my writing or my writing room. I found myself getting gentle warnings of this modern day idolatry: tugs at the heart that something wasn’t quite right, conversations with people that just happened to touch on the traps of materialism and my own self reflections that eventually increased over time. After some more reflection, I feel this was God poking me with His great holy stick from on high, golden, bedazzled and gleaming with polish.
*poke, poke* *poke, poke*
After about a hundred pokes or so, the message clicked. I’m kneeling down at the cross now and I’m cutting the ropes–the snares–I’ve suddenly found twisted around my ankles, digging into my skin, starting to leech at my soul. I’m tired of the cycle of materialism, the power money can have over you if you let it. I’m not playing the game anymore.
Summer officially began last week. I love all the seasons but if I were asked to rank them they would follow as this, with the first being the most liked:
Summer is a time of great production–a humming of activity and doing. Everything is growing, producing and dancing in nature’s rhythms. Fall is a slowing down of the dance, a gathering up of cloaks and grains and storing food away. In Winter, the dancers freeze and rest. In Spring we thaw and prep ourselves all over again.
Picture it. America, 2019. Middle of Spring. You’re driving back from work and the usual mixture of cars are speeding, cutting people off and acting like the selfish creatures humans daily prove they are. You come up to a car displaying several political stickers on their back window, supporting a politician and mindset you find despicable and abhorrent. But you carry your thoughts elsewhere and ponder at red lights about what to make for dinner…