Beyond Burnout: Demoralization 101

Our late spring has Mother Nature trying to catch up with herself. The lilac aroma still wafts across the grass, encircling my head with an intoxicating invitation to skip work and lounge on the deck all day. Tulips and daffodils stubbornly remain, not ready to relinquish their brilliance. Along the tree lined creek stands the startling sight of a nearly bare oak tree. Puffs of leaves here and there resemble a grandpa whose gray tuffs of hair show up in the oddest places. Aging without ever being visibly diseased or even distressed; it has been a safe and sturdy home for many squirrels and birds over the years. Today there remains one lone nest near the top, vacant and vulnerable. I don’t know if this late spring caused the leaf delay or if there is something deeper, more life threatening. We will wait, and watch.

While I have willed on Grandpa Oak these last few weeks, I have thought of you. Strong, productive, caring, nurturing and for some of you, more than a bit worn out by the world around you. I am not sure why Grandpa Oak remains so leaf-less. My guess is he will be fine, it will simply take time for him to catch up with his own self. And perhaps, that is your story as well.

When we travel beyond burnout, there is a subtle shift as we fall into the land of demoralization. It is a dark, dreary land, where possibilities have seemed to disappear, and potential, a thing of the past. We feel barren, void and vulnerable, and often are left feeling there is no way out. While in this place of demoralization, we feel we have lost our voice and sometimes we have. We don’t even know how to look for it again.

Grandpa Oak is not alone. We watch, wait and send love to him as he sorts himself out and begins to right himself. That is how nature is – she takes care of herself, even when she is distressed. She rises out of the ash.

We too, can rise out of the ash of demoralization. We rise up and out, not alone. Whether you are stressed, edging on burnout or downright demoralized, you are not alone. We are a community that stands together. As someone who has been in that very dark and dry place, I know it can feel as if things may not change, yet change is possible. You may be in a place where you cannot see light at the end of the tunnel. Have compassion for yourself, wherever you are in the process.

Do you need time to catch up to yourself? Does your voice, or your own self feel lost these days? Take a deep breath and acknowledge where you are. Here is one thing I have learned writing these weekly pieces for the last two years: if you are feeling this way, you are not the only one. There are others, the key is to find them. Support during this time is important. Realizing you are not the only one feeling this way can actually feel uplifting.

For today, I will leave you with words from poet Rainer Maria Rilke:

Let everything happen to you: beauty and terror. Just keep going. No feeling is final. Don’t let yourself lose me.




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