But what we find as practitioners is that nothing ever goes away until it has taught us what we need to know. If we run a hundred miles an hour to the other end of the continent in order to get away from the obstacle, we find the very same problem waiting for us when we arrive. It just keeps returning with new names, forms, and manifestations until we learn whatever it has to teach us about where we are separating ourselves from reality, how we are pulling back instead of opening up, closing down instead of allowing ourselves to experience fully whatever we encounter, without hesitating or retreating into ourselves.
– Pema Chödrön
“When Things Fall Apart.”
My adult life I’ve cycled through intense work, burnout, sickness, resting, intense work and eventually leaving a job due to this cycle. Last week I hit the sickness part of the cycle at the perfect time. I was taking a couple of days off work for a conference which meant that I didn’t try to power through getting work done while sick. The conference was intended as inspiration for creatives and I was still able to watch much of it through a live stream. I heard things I’ve heard before and always said “that’s a good idea” but never really took action on. I would always bow to the “realities” of life – that sounds fine for that guy, but he doesn’t have things going on like I do. I’ve got bills to pay and roofs to put over heads and student loans to pay.
During that sickness and resting period I read the quote above and I felt that it was describing this part of my life. I keep going through this cycle because I keep running away from this problem. I keep looking at everyone else around me as the problem when the problem is me. The problem is how I handle overwork and saying no. I want to do everything – and rightly so, there are millions of amazing things to do – but I cannot do so without hurting myself and making myself miserable. I have limits, I am not Superman. The world will always ask more of me as it does of all talented people. I have to handle that.
So I’m changing my attitude. I’m not going to be David-do-anything. I’m not going to always get the job done when no one else can and hurt myself by pulling all nighters just to maintain an image. During more intense periods of work other things will need to bend, but not my important other things like sleep and movement and time with loved ones. Meetings and commuting and that sort of things can bend. One on ones with my team members are crucially important, but can be pushed for the short term to ship something for a client.
One of the speakers (I believe it was Lee Steffen during Panel 02) at that conference I mentioned said that life is like juggling different balls: work, friends, family, health, and sprituality. He said that all those balls are made of glass, other than work. Work can bounce, work will recover. If you are like me and don’t ever let the work ball drop then you are probably cracking the other balls. Let the work ball bounce and see what happens.