Are You Burnt Out?

Like it or not, each day begins with a sunrise and ends at sunset, we have little control over how this story begins or ends. As Susy Kassem says, every spark returns to darkness, every sound returns to silence, and every flower returns to sleep, the journey of the sun and moon is predictable, but your story, now that’s your own creation. She calls it art.

I love that.

Grabbing my computer out of the bookcase where I tucked it last night, I return to the post in the draft folder, my art if you will. With a house full of people I’m finding it very difficult to write or think for that matter. I mentioned this to my creative writing group last Wednesday and Tasha (a rather sagacious person) said, “this sounds a little like avoidance to me?”

It was as if a light bulb went on!

OMG, she’s right, I am totally using the chaos as a shield, as if an umbrella throwing me some shade, justifiably, as I’m trying to protect my tender skin. I think it was Maya Angelou who said “when you know better you do better,” maybe it’s time to step into the light.

In my defense, focus is key to cranking out good work, just sayin. So I’m writing stories, they’re not as illuminating as I would hope, but let’s just fan the embers and move on.

Carl Von Clausewitz says, “if the mind is to emerge unscathed from this relentless struggle with the unforeseen, two qualities are indispensable: first, an intellect that, even in the darkest hour, retains some glimmerings of the inner light which leads to truth; and second, the courage to follow this faint light wherever it may lead.” (I bet Carl was extremely focused when he wrote those lines, just an observation, not an excuse)

I have a theme going here and I can’t seem to mute it’s appeal.

Mary Ellen, also in our creative writing group, says in a recent post, “the brain is primarily designed to focus on one task at a time and, when it’s called on to multitask, it does so at a cost. Productivity, accuracy, and levels of personal and professional satisfaction all suffer,” and she’s a therapist so she should know.

“Stories are light. Light is precious in a world so dark. Begin at the beginning. Tell your story,” says Kate DiCamillo. Larry and I recently celebrated our thirty-seventh anniversary (please don’t do the math, we married very young), when he brought me my coffee this morning, he plopped a suspicious black box down on the nightstand, leaned in to kiss me good morning and said, “happy anniversary.”

I said, “happy anniversary honey,” one eye on the intriguing box, “I thought we weren’t doing gifts this year? The remodel, remember? What’s this now?”

“A little something I picked up, open it.”

Gently lifting the hinged lid, I peek inside, and spy a beautiful necklace sparkling in the light of the lamp on the nightstand. I gently pull it out of the box, admiring all the shiny bits, and say, “wow, this is stunning Larry. Thank you, I love it, help me put in on.”

He fusses with the clasp for a second or two and I hasten to the bathroom to check it out in the mirror. It’s gorgeous and I’m compelled to run my fingers over the smooth stones.

“It’s beautiful Larry, so glad you broke protocol, I have to show the kids,” as I rush to the kitchen I hear Larry say, “you’re welcome,” I think he was expecting a little more gratitude?

I find Nic and Tony grabbing a cup of coffee by the sink.

I practically scream, “Look what Dad gave me for our anniversary,” before they can answer I ask, “Where’s Julie?”

Nic says, “nice, happy anniversary.”

Tony says, “happy anniversary Mom, how many years?”

“Thirty-seven.”

Julie and Thalita come in from the back of the house and I hurry to show them.

Julie says, “Wow, that’s beautiful Mom, are those diamonds,” then a little louder, I believe for the benefit of her husband, “nice anniversary gift Dad, way to go, where did you get it?”

Larry enters the kitchen and says, “yes, they’re diamonds, and I got it at a jewelers.”

“What do you two have planned for the day,” Julie asks.

Larry says, “We’re going to walk the neighborhood and end up at San Jose Café for breakfast. Who’s around for dinner tonight? We’re thinking La Villa Lasagna and a Christmas movie?”

Amazingly they’re all available, I believe we roped them in with the lasagna, but clenched it with my famous burnt popcorn and a movie!

On our walk through the neighborhood, Larry looks over at me, adorned in sweats, scarf, gloves, and sparkling necklace, he says, “It’s amazing, thirty-seven years,” he snaps his fingers, “it went just like that.”

“I know, it feels like yesterday we were trying to buy our first house and figure out what the hell to do with a newborn, it went by in a blink,” old people always say things like that, it used to make me cringe, and now here we are walking the same streets we did as teenagers, squawking about the passage of time, instead of daydreaming about our future.

“We really had no clue.”

“None.”

Later that night Julie, Nic, Tony, Thalita, Dante, Larry and I linger around the dining table, letting the lasagna settle, enjoying a glass of wine. So many conversations circled the table but I remember talking about what the future might hold, especially after we get this virus under control.

The isolation spins a mysterious cocoon, says M.L. Stedmen, focusing the mind on one place, one time, one rhythm, which is the turning of light. I think we concluded that the future can not be predicted, you just have to live your best life day after day, regardless of circumstance.

Although I do think it’s nice to be able to depend on some things, like relationships, family, and shelter, constants are rare in our continually changing world, sometimes I feel as if we’re always rewriting our story?

What we do today can have a potent effect on our future, we have daily opportunities to assist, encourage, and enlighten each other, especially those who are burnt out by heavy burdens, instability, and inordinate worry.

Clearly the ability to adapt and persevere are worthy skills to develop in today’s world. As Krista Tippett says joy is not a luxury, it is not a privilege. It is a resilience-giving, life-giving birthright and we can’t call forth in the world something we don’t believe in and embody.

Joy, therefore must be an incarnation of sorts, because it has to be embodied before it can be manifest in the world. This makes Christmas more of a necessity, than a merry tradition, Jesus as conduit of God’s light in a dark world, and as it turns out radiance is our birthright, because our primary purpose is to love.

As Simone Weil claims, “love is not consolation. It is light.”

Die Hard, with Bruce Willis, is the Christmas movie they selected (I campaigned hard for It’s a Wonderful Life but was unanimously overruled), damn I’ll never forget my shoes again, but talk about resilience, that dude would not give up. It goes down big with Willis yelling, “Yippie-ki-yay…,” and not spoil it for you, but goodness prevails.

The next morning, I think it was still dark out, when Julie poked her head into our room and says, “I want to file a complaint with the landlord.”

Larry looks up from reading the paper, slightly annoyed, he says, “That would be me.”

I’m in bed, sipping coffee, thinking to myself, good Lord, what now?

Julie says, “the light is not working in the kids room. It was working yesterday and today nothing. No light.”

Larry says, “the lightbulb burnt out, go buy one.”

Seems obvious?

Julie says, “I believe that’s the landlords responsibility, besides I can’t reach the fixture, and if I happened to drop it that would be a very dangerous.”

I snort a little coffee up my nose but try to remain neutral.

Larry gets up from the comfort of his wingback chair and heads to the kids room not ten feet away, reaches up to remove the fixture, and unscrew the burnt out bulbs. I hear him grumble about unorganized supply cupboards and general disorder of all things in this house.

I practice selective listening, snuggling deeper into the warm comforter, wandering if I can get him to refill my coffee after he manages the issue with the tenants (which implies we are benefiting financially from this situation, which we are not, although having Nic, an extraordinary chef, is a definite advantage).

As Larry digs through the hall closet for several cuss worthy moments, he returns to the kids room with two new bulbs, discarding the old ones, he safely replaces the fixture, and finally returns to his chair.

I’m just about to ask for a refill when from the next room Julie switches on the light and says, “wow, that’s almost too bright Dad,” some people are hard to please.

“File a complaint with the housing association,” says Larry.

Yes, there is nothing so honorable as improving the light for others, I decided to procure my own refill, as Larry seemed a little out of sorts?

As darkness encroaches on the dwindling light of day it seems the lightbulb becomes all the more valuable.

Lately I have been finding treasure in places I least expect, I have been hearing wisdom from the tongues of my children, and I have been finding beauty in the very places I’d prefer to avoid. I am learning so much from a journey none of us expected, or wanted to take, but here we are, generously lighting the way for each other.

Are you okay? Light up the comments with your story!

I’m Living in the Gap, replacing burnt out bulbs, dealing with unmanageable tenants.

  • “We cast a shadow on something wherever we stand, and it is no good moving from place to place to save things; because the shadow always follows. Choose a place where you won’t do harm – yes, choose a place where you won’t do very much harm, and stand in it for all you are worth, facing the sunshine.” E.M. Forster
  • “What if I’m in charge of my own damn light switch?” Jandy Nelson
  • “ Nothing can dim the light that shines from within.” Maya Angelou.

A Happy Thanksgiving to all who celebrate this tradition, to my followers in Canada, India, United Kingdom, Germany, Australia, China, France, Kenya, Philippines, Finland, South Africa, Nigeria, Nepal, Sweden, Malaysia, Netherlands, Bangladesh, Qatar, Japan, Mexico, Spain, Turkey, Indonesia, Ireland, Singapore, Brazil, Pakistan, Poland, South Korea, Italy, New Zealand, Portugal, Serbia, Morocco, HonKong, Romania, Russia, Switzerland, Greece, Saudi Arabia, Jamaica, Togo, Belgium, Croatia, Norway, Denmark, Vietnam, Puerto Rico, Taiwan, Sri Lanka, Bahamas, Latvia, Ukraine, Namibia, Malta, Thailand, Dominican Republic, Hungary, Austria, Israel, Zambia, Belize, Suriname, Egypt, and Peru, I’m wishing you all a blessed unfolding of the holiday season.

19 Comments

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  1. I am suitably envous of 37 years, Cheryl. Congratulations!
    My first marriage lasted 8 years.
    My second marriage also lasted 8 years. (Coincidence?)
    My current marriage has lasted 11 years, (so far) though we have been together for 20.
    As for light bulbs, there seems to be an unwritten rule in every country on Earth that it is a man’s job to change them. 🙂
    Best wishes, Pete.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you Pete! You certainly have some unique marital experience, love to read a reflection from you on best and worst practices for marriage. And yes, changing bulbs is definately a man’s job and I’m grateful that Larry is so handy around the house. Warmly, C

      Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks Nana, recently I’ve had a lot of material to reflect on with so many of the kids staying with us, it’s been crazy fun. I’m ever so grateful. All too soon it will quiet down and Larry and I will look across at each other and have no idea what to do with all the quiet. Happy Thanksgiving! xxoo

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you Crystal, we had a low key celebration, but we had most of our kids with us so I felt as if we went really BIG! My son leaves to go back to Portugal today and I’m feeling sort of blue, so hard to let my kids go, so the truth is I write to remind myself I just have to “live my best life day after day.” All my best Crystal, C

      Liked by 2 people

  2. Sorry this is late but congratulations on 37 years!!! I thought having my 2 grandkids live with us was exhausting but after reading your post it’s not so bad. Although having a chef here would definitely be a nice break. 🤣😂🤣

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Awe, thank you Diane, the years pass too quickly. It’s been a very strange year in many ways, not only a pandemic, but many of my adult children (with their children) have returned to our family home, some for months, others for weeks. I’ve enjoyed it immensely, but it has come with it’s share of frustrations. Thank God for my son-in-law Nic, who is such a blessing, and quite amazing in the kitchen. Warmly, C

      Liked by 1 person

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