Acting from the Subtle
About a year ago, I burnt out at my day job pretty solidly. I took some days off right away, and then I took some extended time off during the summer a few months later. I started interacting with people and situations a bit differently. I weighed the pros and cons, adjusted my schedule, made a point to focus on what truly matters in life. I let work matter less. If I’m being truly honest, my mission over the last year has been to work toward mediocrity in my work life. I used to really push myself and work hard to receive stellar reviews and good performance measurements. I was at the top of the class, you might say. These days I’m happy if I can truly connect with someone on the other end of the phone or message in a way that matters. I’m happy if I leave the work day feeling like I could pick up the phone and call another person. I’m happy if I can interact with my colleagues in a way that puts my values at the center of whatever communication I’m trying to send out. And if I’m being truly honest, once again, I’m still pretty burnt out. My schedule has the same, or more, appointments on it as last year at this time, evaluations and performance metrics continue to permeate the energy of the weeks, and I still use a computer all day everyday. I’m not sure I can stay in this position and have the feelings of being ‘burnt out’ just go away — corporate businesses generally don’t agree to cutting one’s caseload in half. They typically don’t get on board with encouraging their employees to spend more time reflecting in silence or writing or simply sitting with people without a goal for the time spent. It’s scary for our mainstream business culture to agree to things that don’t come with outcomes to track or productivity measurements to improve.
So I’ve recognized that if I’m going to stay in my day job and thrive as a human being, mediocrity is my new goal for success. It’s hard to let old tendencies of wanting to be a top performer or make good grades or always receive glowing reviews go. But I’ve realized that, at least in my current life and work situation, being a top performer isn’t what matters to living the life that I want to live.
Buddhist teacher Cynthia Jurs spoke in my Space Between Stories class last weekend. She spoke of acting from the subtle and how important it can be to stop and breathe in the midst of the chaos that seems to punctuate our world more than we want it to. She spoke of focusing on the space that is in between where we are and where we want to go and that it’s that space that allows new things to come into being. From that space we can learn to recognize our gifts, and we can offer those gifts out into our communities, our workplaces, and our families. She reminded us that it is from our gifts – those gifts that are unique to our own being — that we can affect the “powers that be” in the deepest way and contribute to the healing of the world.
So as I go about my work days, my mission now, I suppose, in addition to being ok with mediocrity, is to be a vessel for peace. It is to live from a place where it is ok to be with joy and with suffering, and everything in between. It is to let whatever is inside this feeling of burnout speak what it needs to speak and use it to go about each day centered in love for the world. Even when I’d rather do anything other than pick up the phone to call John Smith to ask him about his exercise goal.