burnout

June 6, 2021

It started with a blocked ear. Was it a build up of ear wax? Was it Covid 19? I’d heard about a woman with a rash who tested positive for Covid. And someone else whose conjunctivitis was a symptom of Covid. Back in March, every little symptom rang an alarm bell. I finally called my doctor who told me to squirt some saline up my nostrils. Salt water cures all. And within a month or so, my ear unblocked. In retrospect, I think a blocked ear was my body’s way of shutting out all the noise. The three ringed circus in our home, sirens on Bedford Road, Covid cases on the rise, shall we meet for a Margarita on zoom? Over on Robert Street it was just as loud. Drilling, grinding, sanding. Our renovation was in its last few weeks. Did we choose the right taps? Will we have a kitchen sink when we move in? I started to label boxes. Our second move in a year, this time in the midst of a pandemic. My ear unblocked and my legs went numb. It was as if there was no blood or oxygen running through them. “Jason, why are my legs so tired?” “Because they’re holding you up.” Then came the twice monthly flu symptoms that lasted for days at a time. I remember sitting outside in August shaking like a leaf that won’t let go its branch. It’s challenging when you’ve always counted on your body to perform for you, and it suddenly starts to resist. To recoil. To rebel. I ignored it at first. Then I fought back. I will swim in that ice cold lake no matter the outcome! And then in the Fall, with the wind pushing me along the beach on my 43rd Birthday, I surrendered. This isn’t what I want my 40s to feel like. I have mountains to climb, rivers to swim. Finally, the leaf let go of its branch. I’d always associated burnout with bankers and lawyers, people in pin stripe suits on stair-masters to big bucks. It turns out, burnout happens to any human being who consistently pushes her body beyond its limits, and who consistently overrides who she is and what she needs. Exhaustion is the body’s signal that we’re doing all the above. And if you can’t hear the tiny but mighty voice of consciousness within you, your body will block both ears and lockdown your legs so that you have no choice but to stop and listen. A pandemic was the last straw. And I am sorry that it took an enforced global halt to make me listen. Correction, act. But as human beings we rarely take action unless we’re forced to. And while at first it seemed that my body was letting me down, it soon became clear that it was protecting me. Burnout can be a gift. An opportunity to recalibrate. To slow down. To reflect. Yoga has helped enormously. I’ve morphed from hare to tortoise. Clay remains a steady companion. I garden a little and walk a lot. All activities that ask for my patience. Persistence. I take vitamins, and balance my activity with inactivity. It’s quieter now so I can tune into that tiny conscious voice a little better. Any meaningful recovery takes time. I am marking my progress alongside the perennials we planted in our garden. And the Oaks and Maples that are “resting” in tree protection zones around our neighbourhood.

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