By the Sister:
You know how people say if you go too hard for too long you’ll crash?
In the last two months, I’ve crashed twice. And I’m not talking metaphorically.
First I backed my cousin’s SUV into a fence. Then, as I was backing out of a tight parking space, turned hard into a yellow pole, denting the heck out of my sweet little new car.
The first crash was a massive inconvenient annoyance. I couldn’t believe I did that! And it wasn’t even my car! My cousin was more gracious than I could imagine – she isn’t in a hurry to get it fixed and just isn’t that worried about it. (That was a lesson all in itself on instant forgiveness & serious perspective.)
The second crash was a breaking point. It was the icing on a five-layers-of-overwhelm cake that had been served up for several weeks.
The message I got loud and clear was: WAKE UP. But first, I had to go to sleep. Because in both crashes I was mentally and physically exhausted. My brain had been in full on GO mode, spinning at 150mph, thinking about all the “to dos” and “should have dones” and “what ifs” and maybe I should and maybe I shouldn’t and then back to the to do list and then the I should be better at that and I can’t believe I forgot to and I really wish I could… Spin cycle.
And I needed to rinse.
I “know” about self-care. As an attorney representing foster youth, I learn about secondary trauma and how vital taking breaks and breaths can be to avoiding complete burnout. Substance abuse training is mandatory for attorneys because of the high rate of lawyers who end up turning to drugs or alcohol to cope with their realities. In the nonprofit I support, our whole mission is to provide trauma-informed care to vulnerable refugee children. I’m helping to train other people in how to take care of themselves so they can be fully present for the people they serve. And here I was, needing to put the training wheels back on.
In reflection, I realize that I don’t think I need restoration as much because I don’t always see the seriousness of the stress in my work. I think, because I’m happy and I love what I do, that I’m somehow immune. The dented fender is a great reminder that I’m not immune at all. That it gets to me. That I need to sleep. That the old saying rings true, “even sunshine burns if you get too much.”
But as quickly as I fell into overwhelm and sleep deprivation, I was able to get myself out. Right after the crash, I reached out to my best friend and my brother. I bawled my eyes out. I released all the junk & worry & emotion that had been building up. I took a break from work, blurry eyed and all, to meet an old friend for lunch. And that night, when my mind started spinning again, I called a fellow attorney friend for some advice.
I got some real sleep. I went for a walk in the sunshine. And within a couple of days, I felt renewed and refreshed, and far more aware of how important daily self-care and staying connected is. I just wish the universe had chosen a less expensive way to wake me up.