Just Emile

Handling Burnout

I am currently burned out. This feeling, however, is not foreign to me at all. I have been burned out many times in my life before, too many in fact to recount with any high degree of accuracy.

I have never complained about being burned out, nor do I feel I have the right to. My modus operandi has always been to follow difficult, albeit rewarding, paths and to do so voluntarily and deliberately. And in doing so I had to accept that there would be downsides.

In my work, in my career, I have been on a learning curve since 1996 and it's still ongoing. I have been burned out after working offshore, after losing dozens of nights of sleep writing code, after seeing whole projects fall through when they looked like a sure thing and much work had been put into them. I know the feeling all too well.

But almost always in the past, I would push myself through and just execute what I had to execute, complete what I had to complete. It's an excruciatingly difficult thing to do, to push hard when you are burned out. It's probably a stupid strategy. I know it's one that brings deep depression and unhappiness. But in those times, nothing was as excruciating as the thought of failure. Caffeine, steroids, uppers, performance enhancing drugs ... none of them can even come close to fear to move one forward.

I don't feel like judging those periods in my life, that part of my past. It happened. I did what I did due to the circumstances at the time and the way in which I interpreted them, the way in which my world view showed them to me. It was what it was.

One of the habits that I have developed over the years is to look at the circumstances around me, and see if current strategy can still work, or is still relevant. Keeping the same strategy when things change around me is not the way I want to work, to be. We are all possibilities. We are all capable of evolving, of adapting.

I have been burned out before. I am burned out now. But this is the first time I have been burned out at 48 years old. This is the first time I have been burned out after my Father passed away. This is the first time I have been burned out after we had to put down Ginger. This is the first time I have been burned out and can't kiss my Mom. This is the first time I have been burned out in a fucking worldwide pandemic.

Clearly, c..l..e..a..r..l..y the circumstances have changed. The environment has changed. Shouldn't the strategy to handle the burn out change as well? I am leaning toward ... “Of course it should Emile, you fucking idiot”.

There is also another first. It's the first time in my life that I can work for 1 hour a day answering student questions and still have income at the end of the month to cover all expenses and save.

Clearly, once again, circumstances have changed.

So based on this, I thought that I would want to handle this burnout differently.

So let's see ... what does that mean exactly?

I can't do the self-imposed deadlines for a while. I need a break from them. I am emotionally and creatively drained. But I don't want to spend my days staring at the TV (yuck) or sleeping. I like to learn. I like to tinker with new software and hardware. So, for me, for one aspect, getting back on track means working on the new courses I have planned, but at whatever pace I choose. For the first time in my life, at whatever pace I choose. I so know my “inner-asshole” is going to fight me on that, but I will win.

It means that I can take time to be sad, to be depressed, to be down, to feel like zero, to feel the pointlessness. To miss Dad, his face, his deep voice, the conversations about the workshop. To miss burying my nose in Ginger's soft fur and feeling her want to run away ha ha. And more, so much more to miss.

The circumstances have changed. So the strategy must change. This time I will not be “heroically” bulldozing my way through my burnout. This time the intention is to take deep breaths in and out, and move slowly through it, unscheduled all the way.

Let's see how this feels.

Check, Check, Check

We did it!

Got the education, check. Got the job, check. Got married, check. Got kids, check. Got that new car, check. Got that house, check. Got the big screen TV, check. Got the retirement annuity going, check.

Great job. Well done. Magnificent.

I hope, that in the midst of all of these things, that ...

... we take the time to meet ourselves, to explore who we are. ... we cultivate and develop at least one passion. ... we find a solution for (almost) every problem we complain about. ... we take time to truly see others, and listen to others, and hold safe spaces for them. ... we, because of actions, leave our worlds slightly better than how we found it. ... we remain curious. ... we become interesting people all by ourselves, without all of the accessories. ... we give more than we take. ... we lead more than we complain. ... we grow and adapt, and are courageous enough to leave things behind that don't work for us any more.

I hope for these things and more.

Seeing

It's difficult. It always is. To be able to see it. To watch someone head down a destructive path ... slowly, almost invisibly. And what's worse is that there is usually no way to make them see, for people who are yet to be able to see will not understand colour.

The Spaces In Between

Sometimes my exercise for the day is a 30 min run or a 1 hour walk at Munroe Road Savannah. After gulping down an entire bottle of water, I will sit on one of the benches and stare at the grass. There are usually a few birds foraging, together with the sounds of the nocturnal creatures. Sometimes, if I go a little earlier I would get to see the sun set, which is always a treat. The cell phone is always locked away in the car.

This is one of my spaces in between. In between the chores, the to-do lists, and the constant problem solving. As we all go along our busy lives, nature is still there doing it's thing. It has been for 4 billion years. It's truly amazing that we feel such a smug sense of importance when all we are is a temporary happening.

I need my spaces in between to gain perspective, to remember the reality that the Sun rises every morning and sets every evening perfectly. And nature goes on regardless of the psychological drama in my head, regardless of how many problems I am solving, my own or those of others. She keeps on doing her thing.

Sometimes when I am washing down the driveway on mornings, I will look up at the various species of birds on the telephone wires, all of them singing their own song. And as I see past the birds I will notice what types of clouds are in the sky, whether they are cumulonimbus or those high flying cirrus types.

Sometimes I will sit sipping a coffee at Heartland Plaza, watching the trees on the opposite side of highway, and seeing the cars zip by as they are oblivious to them. I mean, really, how does something that large start as a seed. Just add water, sunlight and stir! God made a grave mistake when he created human beings, but damn ... he surely got trees right.

Sometimes I tag along when Thoreau takes a walk through the New England woods so I can see what he sees. The wild berries, the dandelions, the whir-poor-will, the wood-chuck, the squirrels ... described in such detail that you can't help but see it in your minds eye.

Over the years I created another person for the purpose of solving problems and executing to-do lists. But he is not allowed to enter my spaces in between. In those moments, it's just me, the me that I received without effort.

Who Knew?

There is something oddly reassuring about deliberately and consciously ending the day, getting into bed, and pulling a blanket over my legs. Surprising.

Maybe

I read books. Reading is one of my passions. I am almost always in the process of reading a book. Many of the people around me can't wait to tell me about conspiracies, tragedies, deaths, sickness, inefficiencies, corruption and the like. I listen, and sometimes, every now and then, I wish they would end the diatribe with just this line ... “So Emile, what book have you been reading lately, and what's it about?”

Maybe, just maybe, one day I will be just as valuable as the gossip.

Dream Head

Soft Warm Scent of lavender Silky smoothness Safety Easy inhale Easy exhale Head finding a place to rest Soul becoming the ripple-less surface of an undisturbed pool No striving No problem solving No trying No effort All that I need to be is what I am Complete Accepted unconditionally Cherished wholeheartedly Loved fiercely Cradled gently Protected with a promise

Eyes closing Breath slows Drifting off Becoming the sound of three words

I ... am ... enough.

Incorporating Chaos

M. Scott Peck starts his literary masterpiece, The Road Less Traveled, with these three words ... “Life is difficult”. He then immediately ends the paragraph and begins a new one. That statement is meant to stand on it's own, as a sentence and as an entire paragraph. The next paragraph then proposes a theory ... that once we admit this, that life is difficult, and fully accept it, ironically life becomes less difficult by a fair amount. We no longer “rage against the dying of the light”, but merely accept the “dying” as part of the “light”.

I find this to be quite an endearing and attractive idea, and maybe not without merit. But I have wondered if it could stand up pragmatically.

I have reached a point in my life where the difficulty level has increased, and for all intents and purposes it seems that it may stay at this new level for an extended period of time. It will most likely increase at some point.

So I have been trying an experiment. I have been trying to incorporate on-going chaos and difficulty into the natural framework of living. Specifically, I want to know if it is indeed possible to thrive, to do remarkable things, to contribute, to live a meaningful life despite the swirling vortex of negativity that I find myself in, despite the people and circumstances that will attempt to pull me down.

I am beginning to have very very small successes with this experiment. It may be a new equilibrium point, where even though I am not happy, at least I can be useful. Where I at least can be a walking solution, as opposed to yet another of the world's two-legged problems.

The Dark

My brother and I were dealt a significant financial blow due to my Father's illness. It has set me back significantly in many ways. So I have started again to build back. In 2019 I achieved my dream of freedom, but it is no longer there. So I must rebuild. We all went through a small hell for a month. My Father's body went through basically everything that could go wrong.

I visited him the other day. He was going to have dinner. And what he said was that he was looking forward to having a “doubles”.

I don't think I have anything in me left to “be the bigger man”. A statement like that could only be understood by psychiatrists or psychotherapists. If I knew that I almost died, and knew the effect that it had on those around me, emotionally, physically and financially, would I ask for a “doubles”. No I would not. The thought of one would terrify me.

Could it be that my Father loves food more than his sons? This might sound preposterous, but I have no more energy in me to recognize the preposterous. So I am going to run with it until I see some evidence to the contrary.

For some time now, I knew that I did not understand people. Now, additionally, I don't really care to. I have no desire again. None.

I will continue to fulfill all of the responsibilities that are necessary for the care of my parents. But am I not valuable enough such that it must work the other way as well? Shouldn't my parents fulfill their responsibility toward me? Am I not deserving of that? Or am I yet another thing to be used up and thrown away?

I don't know. I don't want to know. The side of me that gives the benefit of the doubt got hammered recently and is non-functional.

Today, this word came into my head .... “Thrive”.

I sat back and pondered on the word. And it seemed that I had not thought of the word in a long time. It felt like I had not felt the effect of this word for ages.

Almost everything around me is about surviving, about just scraping by. It's a constant stream of bad news, of the same old thing. Scrape, scrape, scrape, scraping by like scavenger fish sucking at the sea floor. Wretched.

There will always be a part of me that looks at life and what it has to offer, and then feels that it would have been better not to have been born. Before 1973, I was nothing and I knew nothing. There is a part of me that finds that to be a beautiful thing.

What's the use of existing, of knowing if all there is is just this scraping by, just this surviving? None really.

These days it's almost like I am awake and dreaming at the same time. It's like I am two people, each existing in a different world, but contained in the same body, in the same mind.

The awake part just executes tasks off of a to-do list. One thing after the next, after the next, after the next. Getting things done. And it's just tedium he feels. Just going through the motions, doing the do. Smiling every now and then but not really meaning it. Dead inside.

And then there is the dreaming. A student posts his completed Udemy course certificate on LinkedIn and does so with pride. And I tell them Congrats! And they say thank you. And it's sacred, and it's protected. In that space, we both demonstrate a personal responsibility to one another, a mutual respect, a mutual appreciation.

That's like a dream. That's thriving. That's legacy.

The nightmares have started back. Last night I was in a silo and it was slowly being filled with grain, until it covered my head and flowed into my throat, gradually choking me, and killing me.

I'm scared to go to sleep tonight. I'm scared of being choked again.

Yet another day of tedium tomorrow ... another list to execute. Some more acting and pretending. So be it.

A New Udemy Course

I am working on putting together a new Udemy course. I feel confused, frustrated, overwhelmed and disoriented. The entire project seems absolutely hopeless. I keep going back and forth, over the same things and I just can't seem to get a feel of it.

In other words, things are perfectly normal.

This happens every single time. It's going to happen every single time.

Over the years people have complained to me and asked me about the easiest path to learn this or that or the other. Errrrrr ... how the fuck should I know? Easy path? What the fuck is that? Go ask your Mommy, maybe she will tell you something sweet and calming.

People say that I am smart.

But that's not my superpower. It's that I lean into discomfort. This morning I am uncomfortable and I hate it, so I know I am heading in the right direction.

Onward!!! ... Boomshakalak!!!

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