Recovering from Burnout

blue butterfly

Thirty years is a long time for an empathic introvert to work in the field of addiction and mental health and in an environment of constantly expanding bureaucracy. Don’t get me wrong. I am thankful to have served. I learned a lot. Parts of it, I even miss. About 20%. But that job took a lot out of me.

A couple weeks ago, I was driving down the street near my old office. The same street I used to drive Monday through Friday. The same street I drove to get home at 9pm on Thursday nights – my late night when I did my group. I liked doing groups, but the paperwork had increased to overwhelming proportions. I often prayed for deliverance as I drove home in those last years when I was a single mom, especially on Thursday nights.  Deliverance came in January of 2017 when the love of my life made it possible for me to “retire.” It felt more like an escape to freedom after years of captivity.

I don’t go to that side of town much anymore. It had been months since I’d driven down that street. As I approached the turn to my old office, I felt tension in my gut. How many years had I just sucked it up with deep breaths? Then, I passed by the turn and felt relief, gratitude, and defiance wash over me as I realized, I don’t have to go there anymore.

Could it be that I’m still coming out of survival mode? When I started my career in the 80s, I was eager and excited to help. After about twenty years, when the bureaucracy mushroomed, survival mode and being a single mom,  kept me there for another ten years. I think I’m starting to come out of denial, starting to realize how burnt out I was.

I used to think burnt out people didn’t care. But I still cared the whole time I worked at that job. Maybe I cared too much sometimes. I still care now. But I’ve learned to care about myself, too.

Maybe burn out isn’t so much about not caring as running on empty.

I’m still drawn to articles and memes about self-care. I’m protective (sometimes defiantly) of my time and space. I’m learning to say no to things that drain me like committee meetings and anything with a hint of bureaucracy or supervision, so I can say yes to what energizes me like helping first graders read, painting community murals, and organizing books at the mission thrift store. Now, I have time to say yes to the creative work that nurtures me.

Maybe this is what it’s like to be an assertive person with a healthy sense of self worth.

glass of water being filled

 

Do I harbor resentment? Perhaps. In time, I hope to let it go. Wouldn’t it be nice if resentment just faded away? That would be easier than letting it go. But right now I’m still feeling the need to protect myself.

I’m still putting back what was lost.

 

 

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Honoring the Empath Within

blue-butterfly.jpg

“…if I was around someone who had a temper, someone who seemed to have no boundaries, or someone who was negative, I would feel a desperate need to figuratively throw glitter at them….”       Cynthia Sageleaf

I’ve known I was an empath for many years. I’ve never liked conflict or anger, and I finally became sick and tired of being a people pleaser. If you’re an adult, and you can’t be peaceful, then leave me alone.

I’m protecting my space, now.

Having worked as an addictions counselor for 30 years, I shielded when I remembered to, but sometimes things moved pretty fast (faster and faster as the paperwork increased).  I’m still irritated by one of the higher ups praising us front liners in a speech for  working “tirelessly.” Sorry lady, but we were tired. People get tired. I got tired.

The only way I survived that job was to toughen up, to turn my natural sensitivity way down, and bury a portion of myself. Now that I’ve been retired for one year,  I sometimes feel a little guilty about not doing more with my degree/license/experience to help people.  But I’m getting over that.

Last night I was in a meeting where a sensitive subject was being discussed. The tension felt like electrical charges jabbing into my body. I felt emotionally overwhelmed and wanted to run away. I stepped out of the room a couple of times and didn’t hang around afterward.  I’m starting to realize that with my defenses down, my empathic receptors are more exposed. When that happens, I want to hide out for a while.  And that’s okay.

For many years, I was tough, the breadwinner, the career woman. Now I volunteer two hours a week with first graders. I love their spontaneity and that I don’t have to do paperwork on them. Along with family issues that come up from time to time, I’m  going through all the stuff that belonged to my parents which is big job, physically and emotionally. In some ways, I still have to be tough, but now, it’s on my own terms.

My favorite days are when I get to stay home all day, do some painting or writing, and don’t go anywhere further than my own back yard.

moss-face.jpg

 

 

Butterfly Angels

Butterfly Angels Three

The annual art fair at church got me painting something new.  My husband cut the butterfly shapes out of scrap wood, and I loved on them with paint.

The first one was the Blue Butterfly Angel. She fluttered in slowly over a couple of weeks.  I didn’t plan too much and let her come.  This is good for me, because in the past, I’ve planned too much. My goal has been to be more abstract.

Butterfly angel in blue.jpg

 

The second was a Butterfly Angel Mermaid. I made one like this for my granddaughter, and I know mermaids sell big where I live, so I’ll probably make more.  She took a couple of days as the date for the art fair approached.

butterfly mermaid nov 2017

Right after I finished the mermaid, I started on the third angel. I knew this one would special because I could see angel signs in the grain of the wood. I had traced the shape with the stencil to use the indented oval (a knot hole?) for the “face.” This piece flowed more quickly because, 1. I was warmed up, and 2. I let myself go allowing the wood grain, and the angel, to guide me. It was an emotional experience reminding me that this is the work of my heart.

christmas-tree-angel-with-green-face.jpg

I let some of the wood show through on this one. And used a melted marble for the face.

I was a counselor for most of my life. Recently, I have become a writer. But drawing and painting have always come easier to me than anything else. I’ve been an artist since I was a child. For years, I’ve heard a voice urging me to paint angels! The peace  I feel when I heed that call is like coming home.

I sold the mermaid at the art fair and have plans for the Blue Butterfly Angel. But it’s okay if I keep the running/dancing tree angel who reminds me to let go and follow my heart.

You can take no credit for beauty at sixteen.

I love her wild, natural hair and her confidence. Sometimes it’s nice to just be your real self, with no make up, letting your hair do what it wants, honoring your soul.

Purplerays

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“You can take no credit for beauty at sixteen.
But if you are beautiful at sixty,
it will be your soul’s own doing.”

~ Marie Stopes

~ Image by Summer Wuerthner
Text & image source: Lace, Fringes And All Things Ornate https://web.facebook.com/Lace-Fringes-And-All-Things-Ornate-1283216498363236/

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Honoring the Gift of Art

 

Healing

Let Healing Flow, by JoAnne Silvia

Wondering what to do with this blog, since I have another one that takes priority, I was thinking of dropping this one. But then the idea came to me to use this as a place to honor my visual art.

The painting above reminds me of a difficult time of my life and the gift of art as therapy. Things are so much better now. Healing flows when I return to the gifts of art, animals, and nature, my first loves.

I’m not sure what will develop here, but maybe I don’t need to worry about it. Maybe I can just let it happen. That would be different. And wonderful!

What are your healing gifts?

Finding My Wings

The Spiritual Passenger,

right on time,

read my mind

Before knowing me:

“Say for instance, you fear trying to use your artistic gifts to pursue a career.”

That’s the one.

And with that, the fear within the questions:

Can I depend on the offer to support me living that dream?

Is it possible that I can depend on someone other than myself?

Am I worth that much,

that someone would give me such a gift?

The answers came, to nourish wings

longing for flight.

I have taken the leap.

I’m flying!

bird in blue sky

 

Inspired by:

http://thespiritualpassenger.com/2015/11/11/overcoming-fear/

 

Questions To Overcome Obstacles

I’ve been posting a lot on “Anything is Possible” but realized it’s time to get back to “Loving Me, Too.”

Here’s something that’s been waiting patiently in the wings:

Susan’s post: http://www.gardenofedenblog.com/atoz-blog-challenge-o-for-obstacles/

asked these questions which I felt compelled to respond to. I’ve done so in a stream of consciousness style with just a little editing.  The  questions were great prompts for helping me take a look at my life.

What is preventing me from living a larger and more loving life?

There’s this thing called time. It goes faster and faster each year. You’d think I would have more of it now that I’m “retired,” but there is so much I want to do. Get to the question. It’s not just time, it’s fear, too. I need to look at each activity and evaluate it’s value. Some things have to be done. A related question is: What would living a larger, more loving life look like?

In what way am I not living in what remains of my life, as authentically as possible?

I seem to be outgrowing some people and activities that have been obligations for many years. I’m just starting to step back from those and stepping into more creative activities with more creative people, like my volunteer work on the Forest of Dreams mural and rock painting. I used to want to take up rock climbing. Now, I’m taking up rock painting. I want to do more of that and more work in and with nature.

In what way do I collude in oppressing my own self? Especially as we know that time is no longer infinite as we thought it was.

I have this sense of obligation, a historically over-developed sense of responsibility. My “good girl” is firmly entrenched in my personality. She has served me well in some ways, but she has held me back, too. I don’t want to be a bad girl, I just want to be more, me. I want to continue to grow spiritually and mentally in ways that don’t feel like “busy work.” I don’t want to be on a committee. I want to help children learn to read, and I want to paint more and swim more and take more walks in the woods. I want to make time for these things.  I will stop colluding in my own oppression by taking my time in responding to requests to engage in activities that don’t feel like me. I will ask myself, is this how I want to spend my time? Is this the best use of my skills and talents? God gave me the talents of drawing and painting, but I did not value them much in the past. God gave me patience. I want to use that patience with children and animals.

So, now, I need to ask myself: What am I going to do about it?

Just answering these questions over a month ago has made a difference. I’m painting more and I’m not on any committees.  Lot’s of ideas and possibilities in the works!

Here’s one of my recent paintings on a piece of scrap wood. I had called her “Umbrella Angel.” But someone pointed out the whale’s tail. So she’s my first whale’s tail angel.

Whale's Tail Angel #1