It feels silly, but I have to be honest. I’ve had the draft of this blog post open on my laptop for over a month. The blank page stares at me square in the eyes every time I open my computer, reminding me that I have work to do. But I can’t. I haven’t…even though I’ve been wanting to write something, anything, for a while.
A month ago, I had a conversation with a friend who recently landed a full-time job as a Creative Director here in the city. Before the job, she was drawing and painting in her free time. Now, not so much. She says she feels burned out; that she’s using up all of her creative juices Monday through Friday and doesn’t have the energy or inspiration to let her creativity overflow into her off-hours art.
I’ve been thinking about overflow (and burnout) for a while. But I’ve stopped here. I’ve known the title of this post since I began the draft, but I haven’t had anything to say about overflow because frankly, I’ve been running on empty. I can’t fake this until I make it.
As I began to take inventory of my life, I noticed a pattern – I’d made meaningful progress sleeping well, exercising regularly, eating healthy, and planning fun adventures to look forward to, but I was still exhausted. Utterly exhausted. My efforts to sculpt the “healthy life” haven’t been enough to cultivate real rest. Why? How could it be? Although I’m not at Oscar anymore, I’ve still found a way to overbook my social calendar. I love adventures with friends, enjoy building my side recruiting hustle, and want to do my job well – but sometimes (translation: all the time) I exceed my capacity and end up feeling drained. I realized a clear signpost of my burnout when I had begun to think of scheduled time with friends as an obligation, something to push through and to try to enjoy as best as possible, not as a joy. Two weeks ago I told my counselor that I was “so glad” to get a miserable virus that knocked me out of commission for several weeks. I had to stay home to get well, and I was thankful for it. That was the final straw.
It’s taken almost 27 years for me to learn that I’m not an extrovert. I love being with people, but I also love alone time. Growing up, my mom would call it “SRB time.” She still does. I recharge best by myself, with a book, a bike, a long walk, a bouquet to arrange – you get it.
Why does all of this matter?
It matters because I’m finally learning that overflow and sabbath rest are intrinsically connected. You see, I thought that if I measured out my time in the perfect combination of rest, work, exercise, and fun and disciplined myself to stick to that plan, then I’d magically become this whole and healthy person. What I didn’t realize was that creating a balanced life meant I need to realize something outside of the perfect Instagram formula: the way God made me. The Psalmist says, “for he knows us, he remembers that we are but dust.” As an introvert in a bustling city, I too often forget how draining this place can be for someone like me. I don’t give myself the room to recharge and enjoy – what the Sabbath is all about. But I must. Remembering my frame – that I was created for God’s good pleasure as an introvert – is giving me the freedom to pull back from all of these good things, even if progress means an initial baby step backwards (I write this post with a fever from my bed, evidence of pushing too hard).
The Sabbath was made for humans. We all need it. But we need the rest that is right for us and we need to protect that rest. We’re all different. The perfect equation of sleep, work, commuting, exercise, and rest for one person, may not be the perfect equation for you. Arranging fresh flowers is one of the most life-giving things on the planet to me, but it may not be for you. When I give my soul uncontrived rest, I take the oxygen mask and put it over my face first. Once it’s secured, I can turn to help someone else out of my overflow. I must protect my Sabbath rest to have the capacity to be whole, and to let that love and freedom overflow to others too. I must remember that I am but dust.