I Took A Break! Here's What I Learned

Monday, July 16, 2012

I'm a pretty emotional person. Much of my writing comes from the same place of vulnerability that causes me to tear up when Serena Williams won her fifth Wimbledon and to feel inspired by the words of Margaret Cho on dieting. However, though I know this about myself - that my emotions can get antsy and want to overflow like so many river embankments - I didn't suspect that I would be incapacitated by them for some time during the past few weeks.

In short, I've been in a rut.

For someone who created a zine on Emotional Stress Burnout, you would think that I would return to the basics. But in truth, whenever I get down in the hole where I'm not writing/sleeping a lot/needing support, all advice (including my own) signifies exactly squat. I smolder, beating myself up for the work I'm not doing and the fun I'm not having and the hours spent reading Poe or drawing crappy stick figures rather than creating "real art."

But I think that these periods of time are really not about that at all. When you experience burnout, it's like your entire vision becomes fixated on the close-up: what am I doing today during this very minute that will change my future? What should I be doing instead? However, these are the times when we need to look at the big picture most. When our friends and family members can look at us and say that overthinking is the enemy and that you have infinite permission to be doing whatever you want. You don't need to use every minute of your life to some profitable perfect end. These downtime moments are where you learn that is impossible.

What you need during burnout are all the things you're unwilling to give yourself when you're being infinitely productive - mistakes, rest, support, and distraction. Oh, and also lots and lots of food.

It's unlikely that I'll listen to myself on this point every time I enter times like these. But I like to get it out there regardless. Mistakes, rest, support, and distraction. They make the big things come together - solely by balancing out the drives towards perfection, productivity, individualism, and focus. When we strive too far in one direction, it catches up with us. And the best thing to do is lie still and have it pass over us in its own time.