Monday, October 13, 2008

Paying Attention

In the "All Done" post last week, I mentioned that I've recently transitioned to self-employment. As you might have determined by my description of my soul-sucking former job, I did not leave it on a happy note. I left because I was burned out. I'd never fully understood what people meant before when they said that. I'd been stressed before. I'd been in need of vacations before. But I'd never been burned out before (and I don't recommend it).

Burned out meant that the thought of getting out of bed in the morning to go to work made me feel like shutting out the whole world--hence the hour-long snooze marathons that would ensue, only to be followed by rushing around the house to get ready in time. Burned out also meant that despite being a person that loves breakfast and truly believes that it is a very important meal, I couldn't eat. I'd sit down for the smaller and smaller portions of blander and blander foods that I'd serve myself for breakfast, take a few bites, and be "full." The few times I mindlessly pushed through a meal had me running for the bathroom, panting and gagging over the toilet (never fun). I was exhausted by my workday before it began, and by the end of the day, my mind would be numb to thoughts of doing anything. Collapsing in front of the TV became the best evening activity I could think of. Running errands became a mountainous hurdle to surmount. And going to bed with the thought of getting up to do it all over again was depressing and disheartening.

Sundays were the worst. After two blissful days of (usually) not working, thoughts of the upcoming week would creep in and my mood would sour. By the end of a Sunday evening, even I didn't want to be around myself.

I could go into all the reasons I burned out. They're numerous and have nothing to do with working too many hours, which is what I thought would eventually be the cause. It had more to do with managements unrealistic expectations, responsibilities shoveled onto me without the authority to see them through, and being treated like an expendable commodity. I can pinpoint the day that this burnout, two years in the making, started, and I remember with crystal clarity the day that I realized it was never going to get better.

When I left that job, I felt like I'd been given years of my life back. I was filled with energy and optimism. I had a chip on my shoulder large enough to land a flock of pigeons on, but the unwavering motivation to prove to whoever cared to notice that I could do way better (monetarily, emotionally, physically) without my previous job than I could do at it. I still feel the same way a month later (though I've chiseled down the size of that chip a bit; I think it'd only fit a vulture or two now).

In the past month, I've pushed myself harder than I had in the past two years. As every self-employed person can tell you, working for yourself is more than a full-time job. It's about self-promotion all the time and always hunting for the next project. The workday doesn't always end after 8 hours, especially not if you're trying to be fully self-employed and be a (yet-unpublished) author, too.

I've loved it all. I love how much time I get to spend with Cody, family, and friends. I love making my own routines and my own schedule. I love taking breaks when and where I want. I'm right here at home, so all my meals are better, fresher, healthier. I can fit exercise in at any point in the day. I can play with my cats when I need a break.

Only, I haven't been allowing myself to do much of that. I've been so focused on work and on that chip on my shoulder that tells me I need to constantly do more. When I'm doing marketing research for Madison, it's telling me I should be looking for job opportunities. When I'm working on a query, it's telling me I should be figuring out how to market my book. When I'm looking for jobs, it's telling me that I should already have them or that if I could just sell Madison already, I'd feel much more fulfilled. When I finish work for the day, it's telling me I should have done more household chores, and when I spend more of my day doing household chores, it's telling me that I should have written more.

It's a faulty, flawed thought process. It makes no sense, not even to me. And it took me a while, almost a month, to realize the real problem. I'm a firm believer in the Universe and the law of attraction. I feel that the Universe is very friendly and kind, and that it gives me what I need when I need it. When I first left my soul-sucking job, I received lots of work. It was just what I needed--a decision-affirming boost to rocket me into success. But in the last week, that workload has diminished, and it has felt like I've been running uphill on a treadmill as I look for more work and as I research how to sell Madison. Last night, I finally took notice. When I'm on the right path, good things come to me easily. When I'm headed the wrong way, the Universe is going to let me know, and things get more difficult.

You see, I'd been thinking that simply quiting the job that had fried my last nerves and whittled my core, sustaining strength down to nil would be all that was necessary. And it did work--temporarily. But like a person who has been seriously, physically ill, it's taking my body and mind some time to recover. I hadn't given it that time. I'd expected it to jump right back into 100%, full-throttle mode. Finally, I'm listening. I'm taking a day or two off. I'm going to relax and meditate and read and spend time laying in the sun. I'm going to go to Borders without a goal and wander through the aisles simply for pleasure. I'm going to sleep in without guilt. I'm going to take the vacation that I've needed. Then, when I'm truly rested, I'm going to ease back into my work schedule and I'm not going to be crazy-demanding of myself.

That's the plan, at least. Wish me luck.

1 comment:

AFY said...

It perks up my day to see you posting almost every day now. I'm so glad that not only are you free of [El Corporation], you have enough of yourself back that you can do what you love.

It was actually kind of hard for me to read this post, because everything (everything!) you wrote about, I was experiencing or am experiencing, too. (The part about the quitting not being enough to completely heal the burn out -- that struck a particular chord.)

It's heartening to know most of us are in healthier places, but it's particularly therapeutic to read about how you're getting better -- so it brightens my morning to see a new post from you in Google Reader. I always think: "Oh, cool, I'm so glad she's able to do this again regularly!"

(So, please don't stop. :] )