Oh yeah. This is what it feels like. Burnout.
The summer semester ended with a flurry of paper-writing and research protocol-revising and Power Point slide-making, and then I crumbled to the floor in a dead heap. This time every muscle in my body remained tense because they knew of no other way to be. This time my brain shut down entirely because the fuel had all been burned out. This time my heart hid in a corner because where else could it go? There was nothing left to feel but exhausted.
Now, after 2 weeks of my best attempt at rest, I nervously await the rejuvenation of my muscles, the alertness of my brain, and the eager anticipation that is supposed to fill my heart up again. There is just one problem: the fall semester starts in 4 days and none of that re -charge/-juvenation/-freshment/-newing has come yet.
I still have nothing left.
Being the planner and optimist that I am, I have been trying to come up with a plan for how to conquer this last year of school while carrying the heavy, dreary burden of burnout. The funny thing about burnout is that you don’t have any energy left to think or fight your way out of its miserable weight upon you. It just sits, and you sit under its weight, because it has sucked you dry. And so my feeble desire to plan a way out waits, in a small corner of my heart, for something to come and rescue me.
That’s it? These 2 words are all I’ve been given over these last 2 weeks of contemplating, meditating, praying, reading, and conversing. And yet, the bounty of grace-filled words that have been written on the topic of rest over the last few weeks has been amazing. First, I encountered a radical and thought-provoking piece on practicing the Sabbath in my college alumni magazine here. Then, an inspirational blog for women called SheLoves Magazine devoted the month of August to rest, where I have been moved by blog posts here, here, and here. And then, I began reading The Message Bible (yes, a Bible, and another topic for another day) and stumbled upon Matthew 5:3:
“You’re blessed when you’re at the end of your rope. With less of you there is more of God and his rule.”
That’s it. There’s no plan, no formulated fight to push the weight of burnout off of my shoulders. All I can do is acknowledge that yes, I am at the end of my rope. And no, I do not have any idea as to how I will muster the strength and passion to finish out this program. So let’s see what will happen. Let’s see what will happen when I start my semester still tired, still weary, still empty. Maybe there will be more room for the Divine Spirit to move. Maybe I will actually listen to my weary soul and create rest stops along the way, as blogger Desiree Adaway encourages us: “We all need time to stop our work, not when it is completed, but when we need to stop.”
And so, with tired hands and an empty heart, I reach out for tomorrow with a white flag named rest waving across my face. And I will continue to revisit, as often as I can remember, the sacred and almost-too-simple words God gave to me in this time of rest:
“Monique, please stop. Stop your worrying, your self-bashing, your striving to be perfect in everything. I know, and you know, that great things are happening in you, and through you, to the world. You are more than good enough. You are who I designed you to be. Celebrate this with me today. I love you. So rest.”