“Rest doesn’t improve restlessness because you’re not tired, you’re weary.” – Jody McPhearson
It’s the Monday after Thanksgiving and I’m back to the grind at work. I just had 6 days off from work and…I’m uneasy. Exhausted. Simultaneously bored and overwhelmed and my motivation is waning. There’s less room in my chest for my lungs to expand and less room in my lungs for oxygen to refresh me.
This doesn’t make any sense. I “should” be “refreshed” because I just came back from time off. I even got some good news today. Today wasn’t a particularly busy or stressful day at work.
And yet as I prepare for my evening staff meeting as I have done on most Monday nights for the last 7 ½ years, I feel my chest tightening. I feel like I can’t relax or be productive, so I’m paralyzed somewhere in the middle, feeling like I’m wasting my time away. My husband says this is what his depression feels like. My normal leisure activities (reading, playing the piano, writing, etc.) all feel unappealing. A few anxious tears leak out of my eyes as I try to figure out how to pull myself together enough to be present for my staff because I have to leave in 20 minutes.
Regardless of sleeping in and getting more rest last week, I am weary. Bone-deep weary. Even 6-day weekends and sleeping in multiple days in a row doesn’t cut it anymore. I read an article from Forbes magazine about burnout and met the criteria for 10 out of 10 symptoms, so that’s super excellent…
How do you stay present in the season you’re in, be proud of the job you are doing and the effort you are giving, finish well even though you know a chapter of your life is coming to an end, do the hardest emotional work of your life in counseling, fight for your marriage when you’re both pretty crispy from burnout, and try to chase your dreams/build a new future for yourself all at the same time? I don’t feel like I have enough energy for even one of those things, much less all of them.
I have a paper chain hanging on the wall over my dining room table, one link for each week left in this season. A countdown to an important milestone and an opportunity for freedom.
I see the light at the end of the tunnel; I know it’s there. I can hear that still, small voice whispering “You’re almost there. Change is coming. Release is coming. New air and fresh breath and relief is coming.”
I want to lean into faith. I want to not feel shaken.
I don’t want to lean on multiple rounds of coffee to get me through each workday and Zzzquil to lull me to sleep on too many nights because my mind and body struggle to unwind. I know this isn’t sustainable, the way I’m living and the way I feel, and yet I know I still have a bit yet to wait.
So in this season of Advent, I have to figure out how to listen for that still, small voice. For its comfort and the way it snuggles in close around my tears. For the soothing, warm blanket it offers me as I gaze at the Christmas lights on my tree and sing about “a thrill of hope” and how “the weary world rejoices.” For its reminders that I am tenacious and resilient, that it will stand by my side with added patience and endurance. Sometimes I need that still small voice to be an audible, real-life, human voice so I have to go to the people that are in my corner and have them remind me of what’s true. They resonate with the still, small voice that tells me that I can have and give hope, joy, peace, and love in this season, even though I’m weary.
So for those of you who are weary and maybe don’t know what that still, small voice even sounds like… maybe I can lend you mine. Reminders of truth for you, that are just as much for me.
It’s okay to be weary.
It’s okay to say no and to set limits in the midst of the holiday chaos, so that you can get still enough to hear that still, small voice. Maybe it sounds like God. Maybe it sounds like you. Maybe it sounds like your beloved or your best friend or your parent or your safest person.
No matter what, make sure that still, small voice sounds like Good News.
Nicole Clifton is a Phoenix-native, voracious reader, an Enneagram 8, a passionate advocate against injustice, and committed to being a life-long learner. Her educational background is in psychology and she is in her 8th year as a Resident Director at Grand Canyon University. As a Resident Director, she has loved mentoring and engaging with college students about topics such as embracing diversity, LGBTQ awareness, healthy relationships & boundaries, sex trafficking, body image, forgiveness, and the power of vulnerability & owning our stories. Nicole and her husband just celebrated 7 years of marriage this past summer and are figuring out how to chase their dreams together.