There is a famous quote by Anaïs Nin (whose work I have never read, to be transparent) that I often see floating around in the self-improvement realm. It goes a little something like this...
"And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom."
To be honest, this quote gives me a bit of the yucks when I read it. Maybe it's been over-quoted, maybe it's been sullied by toxic positivity, maybe it's the use of the word blossom. But the gist, none-the-less, is clear and quite valuable. There are, indeed, times in our lives when holding on becomes far less tolerable than letting go. We are forever subject to change, no matter our efforts to resist it. We are subject to the force of surrender.
This past spring, I reached such a point, and I let go.
The last two and a half years have been unimaginable. For everyone. And, for me, personally. The burden of stress that has been the pandemic, the challenges of the first 18 months in my career, personal trials that I could never have foretold, all took their toll on my nervous system. Letting go was bittersweet. Saying goodbye to the humans I have been so honored to work with brings heartache. Acknowledging my limitations in a field I'm deeply passionate about brings disappointment. Turning to face the shadows of my own healing process brings grief and fear. In the corners, fluttering in the peripheral, are the flickers of opportunity, potential, and relief.
Burnout is the biologically programmed surrender of an overtaxed nervous system. It is not something that a person experiences when they aren't practicing enough self-care. It is not a personal weakness. It is not failure. Burnout is endemic to capitalism. It is the result of a system that places far too great a burden on the individual and thwarts the social impulse towards mutual aid and rooted connection. Burnout is a symptom of the extractive forces of colonialism. It is an empty vessel being scraped for goods. It is the point at which a nervous system can no longer sustain impulse or action.
So this spring, I chose to move into stillness... into silence... into chrysalis. To allow my soul the chance to let go, to fall apart, to disintegrate so that the imaginal cells in my own body, my neurons, could transform, reintegrate into something stronger, more authentic, and more at peace. I tentatively gave myself three months, though I knew it was preposterous to assign a deadline for healing and in truth that deadline has passed and I am still resting. During this time I have been practicing what I preach to so many others- spending time outdoors in the forests, by the river, in my garden; making art with words, with paints, with my body; connecting with source through ritual, ceremony, and prayer; and self-reflecting in my own therapy, in my journals, in meditation. I am practicing the art of transformation that I have so eagerly encouraged my clients to practice.
I cannot fairly say how it will be when I do come back to work but I know it will be a slow and gentle return. I know I will refrain from practicing individual psychotherapy for some time. If I have come to understand anything from the past two years, it's that my original calling towards art therapy was the right one for me. I never meant to become an individual counselor or talk therapist and I have become disillusioned with the concept of individual therapy and the medical-industrial complex over the last few years. I originally pursued an education in art therapy so that I could work in community arts. Community building has always been my deepest passion. It's what my heart desires to return to.
Will you meet me there?
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