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  • Writer's pictureTrisha Lord

A slippery, sneaky slope...

I didn’t write a newsletter in October, a decision not taken lightly. From where I now sit, I can see that knotty choice was an early warning signal. I’m discomfited to say that I slid past it cushioned with all sorts of plausible reasoning that basically blinded me to the forecast.

I’m coming back to that.

I’m glad for the Swedish word smorgasbord as I embark on November’s newsletter – for its’ secondary definition of “an often large heterogeneous mixture: mélange.” Because I have a funny feeling that’s what this newsletter is going to turn out to be. Hopefully, as per the word’s primary meaning – it will also be tasty!

The mélange is likely to be a consequence of my having ignored the signs. Burn out has become a phrase that gets bandied about in common parlance, in the same way that someone can tell you they are feeling schizophrenic. It’s a far cry from feeling really tired to burn out, just like it’s a far cry from schizophrenia when we are feeling a bit emotionally unstable.

And yet, getting to burn out is a slippery slope. And more than that it’s a sneaky one as well. It creeps up on you. There you are, living your best life, loving your work, enjoying your hobbies, squeezing in (note that phrase) your self-care routines of meditation and yoga. Ok, so your life-saving ocean swims have gone for a ball of the proverbial, just not enough time for them. But, hey? Life is good. You are busy! You are in demand! You don’t notice that the sacrosanct two hours in the middle of the day you have diarized for the entire year to ensure you have a break and take care of yourself, have started to be encroached upon to fit in those clients you just can’t find a space for anywhere else. (I told you it was sneaky).

And then you go on your bucket list overseas trip. Italy. Wow! It is so beautiful, and delicious.

And then you pop over to London, and there is the kind of divine work that is the reason you do what you do.

This was evidenced for me by the reflections that came from the closing round of the final (only for now, I hope!) workshop of this client engagement that started during Covid in 2021. At that time the organisation was troubled by lack: of communication, trust, connection, direction, alignment. As my co-facilitator and I listened to their final consensus I found myself – and I’m not exaggerating here – in awe. Ah! I thought. So it is possible. An organisation really can create a culture that is a thinking environment – a place in which everyone experiences that their thinking matters, is wanted and needed and taken into consideration, and that they belong and are part of the co-authored future they are creating.

And then you zoom off to a gathering of esteemed and honoured colleagues, who are also – many of them - friends, and consider hard questions, and navigate uneasy territory together, lovingly. But it is tough.

And then! Then there’s the cherry on the cake…. A fifth flight in 3 weeks, to Ireland, for a one day to visit the beloved ‘surrogate mother’ of your boarding school years, your 90-year-old auntie AND then gather that evening with twenty-five other women for the FORTY-FIFTH reunion of your high school class!

And then you come home. Back to back-to-back appointments. Five days later you still haven’t been to the ocean that is 3 walking minutes from your front door. And when you do finally get there because – hallelujah! a client has postponed last minute (the hurrah about that is itself a signal by the way!), and you have your glorious immersion in the chilly South Atlantic, as you pull out of the car park to go home, you miss the car in your blind spot and it crashes into the side of your car.

On the Maslach Burnout Inventory Test, my results came back BE CAREFUL. I’m not critical, but the car accident was definitely the wake-up call. Now I’m on the road to recovery. I have managed to turn back from the signpost indicating “beat yourself up for being such a!bleep!” That’s not going to do much for my Maslach score now, is it?

This road is a mirror image reversal of the one I took to get here. It requires slowing down, saying no, feeling into the edges of capacity with tenderness. Not riding roughshod over vulnerability, recognizing limitations, being ordinary not super-human. But I know I can come home to myself. I’ve been here before, and I’ve got myself back to centre again. I wonder what it might take to stay here. Or, at least, not stray so far from it next time.

And as for homecoming: there is nothing quite like it. Rome is magnificent, London is magisterial, Dublin is poetic. Yet nobody greets you on any of those streets. People are glassy-eyed, looking at the pavement. Cape Town sparkles. She is beautiful. And people say hello! And their eyes say: I see you. And being seen is what you need in order to come home.

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