Burnout

6 Nov

I’ve been thinking a lot about this blog, and why I have it, and what I want to get out of it.

A lot of what I’ve written here has been political. Much of it has been my own small attempt at affecting change, and there have been times that I’ve felt pretty positive about what I’ve done. Like the whole Gap Manifest Destiny debacle – I’m fairly certain that I helped mobilize the effort to have that t-shirt pulled. I feel like I did something good there, you know?

That sort of thing is what the internet is amazing for – it can help coalesce individuals into movements, or bring together like-minded people to fight for causes that they care about. It can be crucial for organizing protests, keeping people engaged, and giving minute-by-minute updates on what’s happening. The internet can be really fucking amazing. It can also be pretty terrible. There are times when interacting with people online feels like swimming in a giant sea of negativity. No matter what you have to say, no matter how nicely you say it, there are always fifty people ready to shout you down; there are always people who are more than happy to tell you how wrong (and ugly) you are. For the most part, those are people who are legitimately engaged in the discussion; don’t even get me started on the disgusting crap put out there by the trolls.

And yeah, before you say it, I know that I need to grow a thicker skin. I know that I need to just learn to ignore them, hold my head high and carry on about my business. And I’m trying, trust me, I’m really trying. You know what, though? It wears on you, it really does.

Part of my problem is that I’m a people-pleaser. I say yes way too often. I smile and nod a lot. I want to make sure that everyone is happy, all of the time. I have a hard time standing up for myself, and when I’m challenged on something I’ll often back down, concede defeat, or, most shamefully, burst into tears. I just want everybody to love me all of the time, even though I know that’s impossible, and even though I’m not willing to extend the same courtesy to everyone else.

I’m trying to be less of a doormat. I’m working on it, seriously. I want to be someone who stands up and fights for what’s right; I thought that having this blog would help me in that.

I wonder, though, if this is the right way to go about it. I mean, I’ve used this blog as a platform to be pretty damn vocal about what I believe in, and it seemed like that would be to the greater good. It seemed like I would be getting into the trenches, fighting the good fight. Really, though, what am I doing here?

Let’s be honest: most of the time I’m preaching to the choir. While I might occasionally educate some of you about some random fact, for the most part I’ve been trying to convince you guys of stuff that you already believe in. That’s not to say that there aren’t people who disagree with me – there are, for sure. But let’s be honest here: I’m not likely to change their minds, in the same way that people who are anti-abortion, or anti-caesarian, or prefer “equalist” to “feminist” are unlikely to change mine. And some of those who disagree with me are my friends and family; some of those are people I love.

Sometimes it feels like what I’m really doing here is alienating people that I care about, just because they believe in different things than I do.

Lately I feel really bogged down by everything. It seems like there’s so much going on in my life, and I can’t figure out how to get a handle on any of it. I feel like for every one thing that I accomplish, there are ten more things still left to be done. I feel like the things I write here are half-baked, badly considered and not well thought out; my only excuse for that is how little time I have to devote to researching and writing my posts. I wish I could say so much more, go so much more in-depth, but I just don’t have time. I’m doing what I can with what I’ve got, though. In fact, it seems like my motto these days is, I’m doing the best I can. I say it to the people I work with, I say it to Matt, and, above all, I say it to myself. I say it as if it will somehow get me off the hook for all the things I’ve left undone, all the things I’ve half-assed or bailed on or otherwise not given my all.

You know what, though? That’s just a bad excuse for not doing all the things that I’m supposed to do. It’s really no one else’s problem that I’m doing the best that I can, and it’s definitely no one’s problem but mine that my best just isn’t cutting it. Either I get my shit done, or I don’t. Either I succeed, or I fail. Or, to quote Yoda, “Do, or do not. There is no try.” Black and white, here, people.

I’m trying to come up with some kind of brilliant ending to this post, or a beautifully constructed sentence that will wrap everything up in a perfect cohesive bow, but I’m drawing a total blank. I don’t even know why I’m posting this – is it in the name of honesty? Or do I want you all to pat me on the back and tell me I’m doing a good job? I don’t really have the energy to try to untangle what my motives are. If I’m being honest, I would probably say that it’s a combination of the two, with a good dash of wanting to know that it’s possible to create some kind of change in the world.

I guess I just really need to know that I’m not running myself ragged for nothing. When I say that, I’m talking about more than just this blog – I’m talking about working and teaching and trying to keep my apartment somewhat clean and, most of all, being the mother that Theo needs. I need to know that all this shit I’m doing is going to be worth something someday, you know?

I’m just so burned out right now that I can’t see how anything I do could ever be worth anything.

Abandoned Halifax Infirmary – photo by Angela Carlsen

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18 Responses to “Burnout”

  1. annie November 6, 2012 at 3:57 am #

    What makes you think your best isn’t “cutting it”? Cutting it according to who? You inspire me every day. And I find your posts incredibly informed, impressively well-researched, and so educational I’m constantly bringing them up in conversation with people you’ve never met. I don’t know how you could possibly think you’re not making a difference – I WISH I could do what you do. And, yes, that includes motherhood. There is no right way or wrong way to be the person you already are, Anne. We’re ALL just doing the best we can at all times. And I’m sorry, but ‘Do, or do not. There is no try’ – pop-cultural nostalgia aside – sounds like a kid with a hero complex to me. The world I know is try, and try, and try again. And don’t give up just because you fall short of an idealist, dysmorphic image of yourself.

    • bellejarblog November 7, 2012 at 3:10 am #

      Thanks buddy. Seriously. Also, this was my face when you said I inspire you: :O (sorry for the shitty emoticon, I don’t understand how gifs work) – basically I think you are brilliant and the best and I don’t understand a world where I would inspire *you* so, um, thanks. I love you.

      • annie November 8, 2012 at 1:23 am #

        dude, you don’t even know! i would say that i’m super proud of you, except i don’t want to sound in any way condescending by implying that i have some sort of measuring stick for achievement. but, seriously, look at you my friend… you have accomplished incredible things and you’re still just picking up speed. i really think this blog is the beginning of something great that you really and truly deserve. i talk about it almost every day. i’m so happy we’re friends, i love you so much. xox

  2. Sara November 6, 2012 at 4:13 am #

    As a member of the choir to whom you are preaching, FYI, I haven’t always been singing along. I grew up in a very conservative Catholic background and, believe it or not, blogs…and FARK (yes, freaking FARK of all things) exposed me to different ideologies and ways of thinking that have helped me grow and evolve. So while you (and I) may be preaching to the choir, members of the parish do pop in every once in a while, things affect them, and it plants the seed of change. And really, I think that if the voices get strong enough and reach enough of a consensus, it creates a norm and change is slowly affected even in that way. I totally understand burnout, but I hope you don’t feel ineffectual. Blogs like yours are what helped shape my worldview to a kinder and more inclusive vision when I was younger, and helped me grow into the woman that I am today. It’s good shit.

    • Shannon November 6, 2012 at 1:54 pm #

      I could have written this exact comment, if you switch out Catholic for Christian.

      Word for word. I would have never have said it as eloquently, but yes. Read her comment three times. Once for Sara, once for me, and once for all the other parishioners out there who have been challenged and changed by people like you. People like you creating safe spaces and no bullshit. xo

      • bellejarblog November 7, 2012 at 3:17 am #

        Love you ❤

        I hope my space feels safe. I hope I don't come off as judgmental.

    • bellejarblog November 7, 2012 at 3:16 am #

      Thank you. And I had totally forgotten about FARK until right now, so thank you for that! I think you are pretty amazing, especially after your post yesterday, so thank you for your awesomeness, too ❤

  3. Rosie November 6, 2012 at 4:21 am #

    I know just how you feel. Try to remember that your voice is needed. We need your stories, your perspective. You help me keep telling my stories. Your perspective informs me, helps me understand how I fit into the picture. We empower one another and *that’s* why we preach to the choir. The more of us who do, the more will, and our voices will rise above the noise. I believe that.

    • shannon November 6, 2012 at 7:17 am #

      Listen to this lady!

      And then make me a sammich. Please.

    • bellejarblog November 7, 2012 at 3:20 am #

      Thank you, especially for this: “We empower one another and *that’s* why we preach to the choir. The more of us who do, the more will, and our voices will rise above the noise.” I really needed to hear that.

  4. shannon November 6, 2012 at 7:16 am #

    God I would kill to go for coffee with you.

    This: “Lately I feel really bogged down by everything. It seems like there’s so much going on in my life, and I can’t figure out how to get a handle on any of it. I feel like for every one thing that I accomplish, there are ten more things still left to be done.”

    I feel that so deeply.

    I love your voice. I want your voice. Your voice makes my life better.

    This from that amazing article I read last night and kept quoting:

    “Letting go of the preoccupation with outcome, even while we fight for it, makes us more effective. If you require payoff, you’ll burn out quickly. But if you are committed to the struggle, you can keep on keeping on. Even when you don’t “win,” there is fulfillment in your involvement in something worthwhile. So here’s the final advice I’d like to leave you with. Your primary source of power lies within you. Strive for integrity. Your value system has to come from you, not just something you’ve absorbed from your culture. Exorcise the oppressor’s values lodged in your psyche. This is not an easy task I am recommending. It is tough sifting out what’s legitimately right and good and in the best interest of you and our community, and ridding yourself of the ugliness of fatism, racism, sexism, homophobia, and all the other toxins in our environment. Have compassion for yourself throughout your journey. Recognize that it may be a destination you never get to, but it is the journey that is important.”

    The whole piece is amazing—but that was written for you right now.

    I love you, Anne.

    • bellejarblog November 7, 2012 at 3:59 am #

      Thank you. I love you, Shan. And this is critical: “If you require payoff, you’ll burn out quickly. But if you are committed to the struggle, you can keep on keeping on.” It’s especially important because it’s something we talk about a lot in yoga – doing actions for their own sake, and not because you’re attached to their outcome.

      You’re amazing and you’re lovely and I’m so glad we’ve connected ❤

      • shannon November 7, 2012 at 7:18 am #

        Me fucking too.

  5. jennie1ofmany November 6, 2012 at 3:25 pm #

    Some things I like to remember:

    1) I think you’re great.

    2) The blog is for you. If you need to take a break, then take a break. It will still be there. You’re not writing for a daily or weekly paper or magazine, with a print deadline.

    3) You can’t possibly please all of the people all of the time.

    4) You really, really, really can’t please all of the people if you’re going to go around holding strong opinions that threaten dominant paradigms.

    5) IT’s a lot easier to listen to the haters than to the people agreeing with you.

    6) The haters take the time to write. A lot of people will silently agree with you because they have nothing to add (this is one of the nice things about FB’s “like” button: it gives people an easy way to say “word,” without making a stupid “I agree,” post.)

    7) There’s nothing wrong with providing a space for a community to come together, pat each other on the back, and say “Good job. Yes. You’re so right.” Sometimes we learn something from each other that we can take into our arguments with people outside the community. Sometimes we just get the comfort of knowing that, hey, we’re not the ONLY ones who think the Gap t-shirt sucked a lot, or that parenting is sometimes incredibly boring, or that yes indeedy, there’s still a reason to call yourself a feminist.

    8) The nature of blogging—of any writing—when you have a full-time non-writing job, and a child to raise, and other demands on your time, is that not every piece of writing is going to be a beautifully polished jewel, or well crafted anything. Polishing and crafting take a lot of time, and that’s great if you have a room of your own or a job writing and polishing. But if you wait for time to perfect every blog post, your blog’s gonna sit empty and forlorn. If you were a full-time columnist, I’d expect deep research and careful crafting. For this form, I think you do brilliantly. You consistently provide well researched, thought-provoking posts that engage me and make me feel connected to you and to your ideas. You mix the personal and the political so that I feel like you’re more than a collection of feminist slogans.

    9) Change doesn’t usually happen in big, sweeping, history-changing moments. It happens in tiny increments. Sometimes these build to big, dramatically satisfying climactic moments, but mostly, those are only apparent in hindsight. Teaching is mostly presenting the material to people, so that they can take it in. It doesn’t lend itself to history-defining moments. Parenting … well, it feels like lurching from one learning moment to the next, with a lot of mess in between. But you’re raising a kid who will have as his default assumptions the idea that parents can work and parent equally, that love and commitment make a family, that people have worth no matter where they’re from or what they look like, that saying what you believe is important. This is no small thing.

    • bellejarblog November 7, 2012 at 3:48 am #

      Thank you. For all of this. For taking the time to leave this amazing, detailed comment. I can’t tell you how much it means to me. I especially needed to hear this: “There’s nothing wrong with providing a space for a community to come together, pat each other on the back, and say “Good job. Yes. You’re so right.” ”

      ❤ this really made my night – all of these comments did

  6. Jenna Tenn-Yuk November 9, 2012 at 5:39 am #

    Thank you for writing this honest post. You touch upon a number of insecurities and worries many of us experience, such as wondering if we’re actually making a difference in this world.

    It’s clear you are making an impact on people’s lives from reading the comments. No matter how small that change is, it matters to someone. I’m sure there are many others who also value your thoughts, but will never come around to telling you. Sometimes you just have to put yourself out there, and hope your ideas and stories are challenging people, fostering conversations and connecting with simply one person.

    As someone mentioned, you also need to do this for you. I think having a blog really helps people to clarify their own thoughts, passions and vision. I’m sure you’ve re-read this post and the wonderful comments, and may have a new perspective as to why you have this blog. Or maybe you don’t and that’s completely fine, but you’re on the right track by asking these questions.

    • bellejarblog November 11, 2012 at 2:50 am #

      Thank you. I have to admit, sometimes trying to make a difference does seem overwhelming, especially on the internet because, well, internet. I am feeling better about things in general and this blog in particular, though.

      Thanks for taking the time to comment. I always enjoy reading your blog & find what you have to say so valuable.

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