m at the bottom of a pool. Cement bricks poured around my ankles and feet. A straight jacket pulling tighter and tighter around my torso. Securing my arms into my chest until they feel like one and the same. Holding my breath and seeing legs above me. My struggle becomes frantic, erratic, and fruitless. My muscles fill with lactic acid; fatigue.
That’s how the first few days of 2021 feel. Who said 2021 was magically going to improve life as we know it?
In fact, it’s almost been worse as I’m surrounded by twenty-plus COVID (+) patients, more symptomatic, staff falling ill, my boss quitting without notice, leaving me with more uncertainty.
Not to mention the expectations I place on myself. I live in between two worlds—one, where I get up and go to work every day in healthcare. The second world is slowly emerging around me where I write in the early mornings, the late evening, fifteen minutes here when my child is napping when I’m making dinner.
I expect to write and commit to finishing my fiction piece, write blog posts, attempt pitching, finish a copywriting course, a freelance course, and think about how I can transition to writing part-time.
Instead of fighting through the fatigue like I usually do, there’s a worm crawling around in my head. Telling me to give up, to cry, while I sit on the floor and tape off our dining room, prepping it to be painted, because we have to do that right now.
Boohoo, right? Man up, Woman up. Get the fuck back out there. I listen to Foo Fighters and try to rally. I was blessed with one innate trait. Most of the time, I think it’s a blessing. Not giving up, ever.
Except I’d rather be sitting around in my pajamas right now, watching Netflix feeling sorry for myself, drinking wine, and eating chocolate. And not making any resolutions to work out, write, work, or otherwise.
Maybe it’s 2020 fatigue. Is that even a thing? I tell myself I need a vacation, and sunlight, which in central PA in the midst of winter with a deadly virus, a job, and a family, won’t be happening.
Am I depressed? Are my melancholy, fatigue, and laziness something to be concerned about? Should I ride it out until my mood, resolve, self-discipline, and energy return? Or should I push through as I usually do?
Perhaps I am in burnout mode. The MayoClinic explains, “job burnout is a special type of work-related stress — a state of physical or emotional exhaustion that also involves a sense of reduced accomplishment and loss of personal identity.”
Fatigue and physical/emotional tiredness, check. Both my commitments, work, and writing are overwhelming in their own ways, with little reward or what I’d expected for the new year. Not to mention my personal identity. I’m struggling with what I’m doing with my life right now. Two worlds and everything.
My gut was telling me my body and mind needed rest. Less, go, go, go, and more relaxation, instead of making resolutions and setting up more expectations. To get out of survival mode. To Houdini, my straight jacket, grab onto a leg and get some help with all the things.
Rest was on my agenda since burnout was literally making me tired. Sleeping in particular, more of it, earlier at night, and sleeping in when I can. Why not let myself enjoy watching the Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, read the Dresden Files by Jim Butcher. Take up completing a puzzle. I’ll sit on the couch, or better yet, I’ll lay on the couch.
I should listen to my body. We all should. We all deserve a break.
A second way to battle burnout came to me through a sermon that’s stuck with me all these years. I don’t get to church too often anymore. Yet, I’ll never forget the lesson involved in his sermon. He preached about what we expect and, in contrast, what really happens.
The priest went on to say; usually, the two are completely different and how letting go of our expectations can truly change our outlook on life. Improve it.
Expectations and working towards a goal are completely different. An expectation is what you expect to happen, where a goal is a plan to work towards. My goal is to alter my expectations for the next few weeks. Heck, even do away with them.
What had I expected? Something better in 2021. To stop living in two worlds. One where I go from my full-time healthcare job to transitioning to writing.
I was expecting someone would start reading my blog. My posts. I’d start pitching articles. I’d finally start writing part-time, at least. I’d go from a shitty website with a few views to someone recognizing me, my work. I’d have a viral post. I expected to stop feeling so drained before I even started my shifts as a healthcare worker. I expected COVID to get better, even when I knew it was getting worse. I expected and hoped things wouldn’t change daily at work.
I expected that I could keep myself going full steam ahead, writing about two hours a day, fitting courses in, my full-time job, family responsibilities, and still be able to take care of myself.
The reality is I need my full-time job, and transitioning to writing is not near. I found out I can not do it all and be good at every single thing I put in front of myself. In fact, I get worse at producing words, worse at empathy, and harder on myself for not achieving anything. The more I pile on my writing plate, the easier it is to give up.
I don’t plan on hiding and not going to work or writing anymore. It’s still happening. If I want to write, I need to devote energy there. However, my focus may need to be more narrow and on one or two writing projects at a time, instead of five or six. And I’ll create time for myself to rest and destress.
I’m already starting to feel better.