I’ve been thinking about writing this post for a long while. I actually started writing it last November and then left it as a draft. As often happens over time, feelings soften and you gain perspective and maybe that was what I was intuitively waiting for. I also questioned my motivation for writing about my experience and what it was exactly that I wanted to say. So, with no further ado, this post is, in short, about stress, burnout and epiphanies of sort.
Last Fall I experienced the most stressful time of my working life. Some of you may know that I’m a paralegal and work for a municipality as a prosecutor. This involves dealing with many people from all walks of life on a daily basis, going to court, presenting evidence and arguing about legal issues. There is a lot going on all of the time, and I often feel that I need to be in three places at the same time. Many people want to speak to me, argue with me and get me to withdraw their charges. You should also know that I’m an introvert and a HSP (highly sensitive person). So, in retrospect, it’s no surprise to me now, that this was a recipe for personal disaster.
During that time our office was also short-staffed, so there was also that. It wasn’t fun and to make a long story short, I developed adrenal fatigue and became extremely burned out. I ended up taking a month off in order to rest and recover.
The good news is that I learned so much about myself and my values during that time off. I did a lot of reading including books about personal “Types”. I realized how against my nature is the work that I’ve been doing. I started thinking about what kinds of work actually align with my nature and values. I began thinking a lot about letting go with grace that which no longer serves me.
In a journal entry dated September 10th, I recorded these words by Mark Nepo:
There are many ways we grow as a human being but two ways are:
1) We are broken open;
2) We willfully shed – we put down what doesn’t work after a while.
Mark Nepo says that the definition of Sacrifice is really “To give up what no longer works in order to stay close to what is sacred.”
Another book that I thought was heaven sent was The Art of Uncertainly.How to Live in the Mystery of Life and Love It by Dennis Merritt Jones. Reading that book felt like a balm as I contemplated my future.
Jones asks, “What if we could learn to accept “I don’t know”, and to embrace the possibility that the future is full of mystery, excitement and unlimited opportunity?”
The main themes during that time were discovering personal authenticity and grappling with fear and indecision. One of the questions I asked myself (which I’m almost embarrassed to admit now) was “Who am I if I don’t do this work anymore?” as if what we do for a living defines who we are, yet all the while having the nagging suspicion that this was not where my true potential and meaning in life lies.
Fast forward to today. Here I sit in my Muskoka Room on this wintry day having decided that my 9 to 5 isn’t what I want anymore, that my work there is done, and it’s time to close that door so I can open another. After months of indecision, anxiety about the future, about making the wrong decision, about money, I’m only a few weeks away from my last day at work. As the time draws nearer, I am filled with such a feeling of relief and elation and deep gratitude. I know that I am making my way now towards what I came here to do. With God’s help.