It seems like it always happens this time of year, fall burn-out sets in. Not just general weariness, but pure debilitating fatigue that has tenuous layers of emotional, spiritual and physical exhaustion. If you scratch the surface, of a parent or child in this state, you just might get more than you bargained for. Raw emotions lurk underneath the realm of the over-achiever façade.
It finally dawned on me last week at the mall just how spent I was. The sky was dumping rain and my family was ecstatic. Wet fields meant a reprieve from the kids’ grueling sports schedule. So after almost five hours at church, we headed off for some much needed sustenance and a little retail therapy…my older daughter’s love language. After pigging out at Ruby’s, my daughter begged to go to Justice for girls, a shop geared for hip tweens and enabling mothers.
So in we trooped to Justice; the baby sleeping in her stroller, my daughter shrieking at the totally cute leggings, my son running off to Tilly’s and my husband, well…I don’t actually remember where he went. And that’s when I saw it, a music video playing on one of the 10 screens placed around the store with Taylor Swift. I should have walked away, knowing how utterly prone I was to an emotional hijacking, but I fell for the romance and escape of it all. And so, in my highly fragile state, I was sucked in to Taylor’s compelling storytelling lyrics.
Alas, it was a woeful tale of a child abandoned by her father, and then growing up scared that her own husband would repeat the abandonment of her youth. So there I stood in Justice, a cacophony of mall buzz all around me, and I lost it. Tears began to pour down my face, big gulpy sobs for poor little Taylor’s heart, and I felt a deep well of emotion erupt from my soul. For a moment, the world stopped and I just reveled in the release.
This is what fall burn-out does. It takes high-functioning adults, exhausted from work, kids, and sports playoffs and on and on… and turns them to mush, in places like Justice, no less. I realized this was a red-light symptom indicating that my cup might be running over with too many blessings and leading to detrimental burn-out, not just the tiredness that makes me long for summer and lazier days. So, I added up all the things we are involved in right now as a family. Then I looked at the list and reflected.
Pastoral ministry, running a church, leading two Rooted groups, teaching two bible studies, a career in tech sales, freelance writing, two online magazines, one blog, two acting classes, fall baseball, cheerleading, Mini Pearls (kids cancer research), Jr. High youth group, commuting three hours a day, three kids (one of them a teething baby), no sleep, attempted exercise, running a women’s ministry, school, homework, a football team heading for the West Coast Conference, fantasy football commissioner, and oh yes…another fantasy team, friends, kids friends, family obligations, cheer team mom, little scholar football rep, football chain volunteer, laundry, cooking, cleaning, and oh yeah…trying to remain spiritual, read the Bible, pray, and be blessed to be a blessing.
Just my schedule alone is something like 140 hours a week. That leaves me with an average of about four hours of sleep a night. Quite frankly, I’m surprised I haven’t lost it at the grocery dtore or maybe even driven my car into the grocery store.
What the heck am I thinking?
The scary part is that I am pretty sure I am not alone in my race to accomplish, achieve, and appear busy. All of my friends are overwhelmed too. Sometimes I feel guilty for watching TV, annoyed at my husband when he takes time out to play, and frustrated that I don’t have more time to accomplish another 400 items. Sounds a little more like Martha than Mary, and that makes me sad because I want to be more like Mary. But, in all reality, we live in a Martha world and sitting on the floor like Mary at Jesus’ feet is counter-cultural. It takes an inordinate effort to swim against the current of identity defined by productivity.
What is this psychotic expectation of achievement that we have all bought into? I thought I could confidently say that I found my meaning and significance in Christ, but if I am honest, my agenda belies my statement of faith. Rest doesn’t feel like rest anymore, it’s more a catatonic expression of paralysis. Too tired to move, too tired to talk, we zone out and veg.
I think it’s time to stop the madness and climb off the hamster wheel. The hard part is figuring out how not to get thrown off the wheel. The world sucks you in and then spits you back out. Oh, but my inner hamster both loves and hates the wheel. While I want to jump off it’s also scary to think of not running so fast.
There’s an old saying that comes to mind…if the devil can’t make you sin, then he’ll make you busy.
So busy, that I imagine he has a field day with us when our defenses are down.