The Courage to Consider Quitting


On Sunday, I began listening to The Burnout Generation by Anne Helen Petersen. I stopped it after ten minutes. Not to quit, mind you, but to digest what I had just heard in the introduction. To be perfectly honest, I felt as though we might as well have been sitting at a table with coffee cups in our hands because the only thing she was leaving out was my name. Everything Anne said about burnout could have easily dropped from my own lips. I was stunned but…honestly? I was not wholly surprised.

Burnout was not something I had considered while trying to put a name to what I have been feeling for a few years. Honestly, I had never imagined burnout to be anything other than an absolute breakdown, a dramatic, debilitating inability to carry on. The one and only year I worked in a high school as an English/Etymology teacher, I was told that the teacher I was replacing had suffered a “total emotional breakdown, disappeared after Christmas; we had a sub for the rest of the year”. So. That was fun. By the end of that year, I think I began to understand the reasons.

This spark of considering of burnout, coupled with turning directly to a chapter in Emily P. Freeman’s The Next Right Thing entitled “Quit Something”, definitely caused my eyebrows to shoot up today. There are adages everywhere that tell us to quit what doesn’t feed our joy, to quit what isn’t good for us, to not be afraid to walk away from what isn’t for us or is no longer. A hobby, a job, perhaps even a relationship. We are told repeatedly that there is no shame in quitting what has ceased to be good for us.

This always causes a bit of a train wreck in my brain. Quit? Is that possible? Is that a thing? Is that allowed? In the Practice section of the aforementioned chapter, Freeman encourages the reader to meditate on a few questions to help determine if it is indeed time for them to quit something:

Are you working hard toward something only to realize it isn’t quite right anymore?

Has your heart changed on an issue but your mind hasn’t gotten the memo?

Have you been tricked into believing that doing more and working harder will lead to finally having or being enough?

I found (and still find) myself lingering over those questions and over my own fears associated with quitting, particularly even approaching the idea of considering (can you tell it makes me nervous) quitting the one career that I worked more than half my life to be able to do. How could I possibly even contemplate leaving that? (My adversarial question: What else could I even do? What am I even qualified to be able to do?) And yet…what if that’s what has been hiding in that corner of my heart for years? That unsettledness? What if it is this nudge towards something else? What if…?

These are the things that cause me such anxiety and worry that I want to cry and give up on the whole idea of a new chapter. As I was reading, as usual, Emily seems to have seen my heart ahead of time (she has the cheat codes for my soul, I promise!) because there are two sentences in this chapter that I have highlighted in bright, bold purple.

Just because things change doesn’t mean that you chose wrong in the first place.

Just because you’re good at something doesn’t mean you have to do it forever.

As I try to listen to that nudge of my own life and calling in God, I know that I need courage. Courage enough perhaps to stay but also, if I am led, the courage to walk away. The courage to quit.

**Postcript Note: I have linked Emily P. Freeman’s Podcast episode “Quit Something”, which was the inspiration for this chapter of her book. Please, do click the link above and give it a listen.

Grow


For the past month, I have been intensely engaged on a journey to better health and fitness. I have developed better habits over the past few years altogether, but, at the beginning of the school year, I decided to be more closely concentrated on my eating habits and expanding into new exercises and fitness goals. Since then I have done better than I imagined I would or even could, and I have met several goals/milestones already. Honestly, I am ecstatic! This is so wonderful to me, and I am excited. But I also worry.

What if my growth stops? What if my progress peters out? What if I get discouraged? What if I give up? I don’t want to do any of these things. I want to continue growing and bettering myself. I want to keep getting and feeling stronger.

It can be so easy to be excited about a new chapter or journey, and it can be equally as easy to feel discouraged when things start to settle into routine, slow down, stop entirely, or, for the love of sanity, move in the opposite direction. As I continue on this journey, I will remind myself that work will not happen on its own; I have to do my part to get results of any kind. If I have a goal, then I need to act like it, even if it just one little step that I take that day. Every step towards growth helps.

Space


It is a universal truth that our house lacks space. There is stuff everywhere. That’s what happens with life: it can fill up with stuff. Therefore, it can be difficult at times to carve out a space for myself in our house. Somewhere that is mine. With future plans in motion, I am hoping that will change with some work, but, for now, it is what it is.

My space right now seems to be my desk as school (but even that gets taken over) or, more frequently, the car. I spend a minimum of 90 minutes per day driving. Often, the car is the one place in which I can be still and alone, usually before I pick up my daughter at the end of the day. There, I can listen to Audible and lose myself in a story or helpful book while I drive. I can think. I can pray. I can let the outside world slip away while the road slips past under my tires.

I do not necessarily like to drive but the car is often my refuge. I have fond memories of long talks and Glee sing-a-longs with my husband when we would travel hither and yon before our little girl came along. I can think of long stretches of quiet as I drive to the gym on Saturday mornings or laughing to “Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me!” with the fresh new sunlight warm on my arm as we head out to a leisurely brunch. I have screamed out frustration, hurt, and anger in the car. I have poured out my heart and soul on telephone calls as I drive just to get away. The car is where I can be close to and alone with that loved one for just a little longer. The car is where I can linger.

It’s where I can make sacred space for myself.

When the Storm Forms


January 19, 2019 – Hope*Writers Prompt: Brainstorm           

Sometimes, a bolt of lightning strikes my brain (Well, that must hurt!) and it starts a hiss. That hiss grows into a rumble like distant thunder. I like that rumble. That rumble is fun. That rumble is twitchy. That rumble is smile-inducing because it means there’s something new to explore. A new idea to pick apart so as to see how it works, and then put it back together again in a way that is accessible. A new character with stories being born in their mouth and limbs every second: stories to live, stories to tell. A new world that blinks at me from behind its caul, begging me to be gentle in my examinations and explorations of its workings and people. That rumble means (hopefully) an oncoming storm of newness, the arrival of a new something to write about, to dive into, to disappear within for a while. It’s the shelter into which I duck as the storm finally breaks.

**Postscript: extra points if you caught the quote in the first paragraph and can tell me what film it is from. ^_^

Photo from vunature.com – Sky Nature Electricity Landscapes Night Cities Lightning Storm Light Skyscapes Beautiful Photos

The Next Right Thing: Soulcare


Today, as I drove my daughter to summer daycare, I was dressed and ready for what has become a routine for me. Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday–as best I can–I hit the gym in the early morning. During the week, I do so after I drop my girl off at daycare (I call it summer school with her) and the other days, when my husband is off work, I leave the two of them asleep and slip out before our day together has begun. I did not get the luxury of going to the gym and working out on my own hardly at all during the school year because of scheduling, location, etc. So, this summer, I determined to get that back. To work on regaining my strength and tone and generally doing something just for me. And, for the most part, I’ve enjoyed it.

This week has been harder, however. The weekend ushered in a downswing in my emotions that has been hard to kick. Rationally, I acknowledge that the cause could be a combination of several different things that are physically beyond my control, but that doesn’t make it any easier to endure, does it? I have tried to go about my normal routine of working out, running errands, and taking care of some teacherly work (curriculum revisions for the new year), but, as I drove this morning, I found myself making a decision. Or, rather, I found myself asking a question, and this is what it was.

Does my soul need care more than my body does today?

In other words: is going to the gym what I need to do today or is the right thing to do something else?

As you know, my reflection focus for this year has been on doing the next right thing, taking just the next step. So I asked myself what was the next right thing for me today?

The overwhelming reply that filled me within was: “Soul care over body care today.”

That does not mean that I cannot or won’t still take care of my body. For me what that means is today is not a day to traipse myself out to the gym. Today, the next right thing was to come home, to stay in, to closet and care for me and my soul. So I came home, I opened up my laptop, and, in the quiet of my kitchen and solace of my earbuds, I listened to an episode of Emily P. Freeman’s The Next Right Thing podcast. Episode 36: “Stay in Today”. Sounds utterly perfect, right?

Oh-ho! But wait! It gets better.

This episode wasn’t anywhere near what I thought it was going to be. It wasn’t about staying in and closeting yourself for self care at all. Instead, what Emily talked about was infinitely more poignant and pointed for me today. She spoke about just this very topic: doing the next right thing. Just the next step, not a hundred more down the figurative road. During this episode, Emily stated something about herself with which I identify 100%:

“No one needs to tell me to make things complicated.”

Making things complicated is easy for me. As she listed off examples of how she manages to complicate things for herself, I might as well have been doing a hallelujah dance on the other end of the internet connection, because everything she does, I do, too. As I stated in my first blog post of this year, I am not good at sticking to limitations. I am not good at just taking one step. If I don’t actually take a few more, just in case, my brain will certainly precede my feet there. I can imagine a whole year down the road and feel guilty about not accomplishing things that I haven’t even attempted yet. I can think myself into tears over an imagined conversation where a pretend person states fictional disappointment in me, my work, my mothering, etc. I am not good at taking just the next step, doing just the next thing.

But today I am going to try, starting with sitting in the quiet and listening to that God-appointed podcast (really, His timing and leading were perfect). Then writing this blog post.

Today, I want to tenderly hold, fill up, and care for my soul as well as my body, because I cannot live without either.

A Greatness I Never Expected


Now that I have had a few minutes to sit and breathe, I think I am ready to talk about this. This past Friday, I did something completely new. This past Friday, I did something terrifying. This past Friday, I did something I felt wholly unqualified to do. But I did it anyway.

This past Friday, I stood up in the church and community that I grew up in and spoke to the 2016 graduating class of my old private school. I stood up almost on the same spot where, sixteen years ago, I had given the valedictorian address for the graduating class of 2000. At thirty-three years old, I stood up to give these graduates whatever guidance, admonishment, and encouragement I could.

Yep. I felt totally unqualified to perform this task, but I did it anyway. Let me start at the beginning.

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A Long Way from Home – Day 6: What Am I Waiting For?


Highlights from my morning reading: 

Simply Tuesday, Chapter 5: “Success and Envy”, by Emily P. Freeman:

“True smallness is an invitation to live as I was meant to live, to accept my humanity, and to offer my ability and my inability, my sin and my success, my messes and my masterpieces into the hands of God.” – pg 94

“What is good for my inner health is often frustrating for my work [as a hard worker who is also a slow processor].” – pg 95

“The soul and the schedule don’t follow the same rules.” – pg 95

“I cannot wait for the world to stop to embrace my permission for slow.” – pg 96

“And here’s to not letting our slowness boss us. Embrace it and learn it, but don’t force perfection. Let slow do what slow does best: nourish, strengthen, and hold.” – pg 97

= = = =

When  I read the bolded statement above, I gave a little mental wince, as if I had been caught out. And I was in a way. This is what I have been doing, is it? Waiting for the world to stop, or to at least pause a little, so I can embrace slow for my soul and take some rest. Something this week is teaching me is that I cannot wait around for someone to offer to slow my world down for me, to give me a chance to rest and care for myself. I have to take the initiative, ask for the help, and slow down when I need to slow down.

My weariness is catching up with me. I can truly feel it today, the tiredness sitting heavily on me, urging me to just stay in bed and sleep, sleep, sleep. Unfortunately, that’s not entirely possible with a three-year-old child and grandparents with their own schedules and engagements to keep. So I have done my best today to occupy my daughter with her own self-activities in between play time and meals so that I can rest as much as I can. It’s been a good day.

The days are winding down and soon I will be home but I will do my best to make the best of these days, to slow and rest and to listen and come away when my heart and soul feel called.