It actually came as a surprise, the sudden awareness of my felt need for rest.
I was mindful enough to have known this year would be full of challenges, what with the bumps and scrapes of being newly married, the on-the-ground care in supporting both my parents with my dad’s ill health and ultimate passing, the intense task of training in aikido –the martial art of peace (ironic, yes?), not to mention daily work with clients including an engaging, multi-month project at work–yes, life indeed was full . . . and focused . . and frenzied.
Somehow I hadn’t really considered that I’d be so tired . . . . until I finally collapsed in a heap.
By the time I did notice, really notice, the depth of my being overbooked, busy, ‘always on the go-go-go’ as my dad would say, all I wanted to do was nothing. Not-a-thing.
You see, I’d lost my rhythm, that natural interplay of energies between rest and work, between pushing to make things happen versus allowing life space for each moment to unfold.
It’s the kind of thing I warn clients about, how continuing to push hard too hard for too long or not attending to your basic personal needs will wear you down, zap you of your energy, make daily life a bit more tense and twisted.
And, I knew better. (I teach mindfulness practices for heaven’s sake!).
Our bodies–our thinking capacity, our ability to ‘feel’ into ourselves and other’s concerns to then take effective action–require rest to recalibrate our psychobiological systems, to renew ourselves in order to meet the challenges of the day.
We know this yet when we try to juggle so many responsibilities and opportunities it’s easy to get caught up in all the action, losing sight of what’s most important.
Or, even if we do know what’s important to us, if we’re overcommitted our energies float about in all directions like bits of confetti in the wind.
This was the situation I found myself in these past few months.
Congruent with my values and what’s important to me, I’d still fallen prey in my day-to-day life to what Annie McKee, managing director at Telios Leadership Institute, calls “the grip of the Sacrifice Syndrome.”
This vicious cycle of overmuch is fueled by the wear of weighty responsibility, mental and physical fatigue, constant self control in dealing with life’s inevitable crises.
The result? Burnout, or getting out of rhythm with one’s self. Its infectious impact can spread to others resulting in strained relationships, dips in mood and self-confidence, impulsive or rash decisions, and certainly compromised health.
The Sacrifice Syndrome is a violent response to too much, for too long.
Thomas Merton, a Trappist monk, author and peace activist during the Vietnam era, shares his thoughts.
“There is a pervasive form of contemporary violence . . . [and that is] activism
and overwork. The rush and pressure of modern life are a form, perhaps the
most common form, of its innate violence.
To allow oneself to be carried away by a multitude of conflicting concerns, to
surrender to too many demands, to commit oneself to too many projects,
to want to help everyone in everything, is to succumb to violence. . . . it destroys
our own inner capacity for peace because it kills the root of inner wisdom.”
I certainly hadn’t thought that I was enacting violence upon myself, or my loved ones, with my choices these past few months. However, given my fall-into-a-heap state, the only conclusion is that, yes, I fell prey to violence against myself, even if unwittingly.
Pausing to notice my level of fatigue was the wake-up call I’d needed.
My next step? To get back into rhythm.
After declining a number of social opportunities, taking a few extra days off, getting more sleep (which included daytime naps!), I cozied up with a good book. And I re-committed to cultivating mindfulness each moment. This essential practice allows for reflection, rest and renewal.
How’s your rhythm ?