Uncertainty fatigue is real and it’s affecting everyone I know. I keep hearing different versions of the same story from the far corners of my Zoomiverse and it’s one that resonates deeply. Whether we call it burnout or exhaustion or the Great Resignation, the word I keep hearing (and feeling) is “done.”
For the last two years I’ve been wearing more hats than Bartholomew Cubbins. I’ve been running a business, coaching clients, facilitating for organizations, working at a corporate gig and serving in a leadership role on a nonprofit board. Somehow, I convinced myself that never leaving the house meant that I had that much more time to give.
I fell back into old patterns – saying “yes” to too many things and then feeling exhausted and resentful about how many things I had to do. I told myself that the needs – of my community, my business and the organizations I work with – were urgent and important. I treated my self-care like I was trying to keep a beat-up old car running, giving myself just enough to get through the next mile. An added benefit: staying busy gave me no time to think (or feel) about the uncertainty of the last two years.
Expanding our capacity for uncertainty is a skill set that we can build. Letting go of the need to control as many variables as we can get our hands on and pushing the edges of our comfort zone can reduce stress and anxiety over the long term. I’ve been practicing this for a while; but there was always a bit of residual anxiety that made me question whether there was something else I really should be doing. Until there wasn’t.
At some point in the last year, that faint strain of panic that had been softly thrumming in my veins for the past several years melted away. I don’t know where it went. It feels absurd to say that the absence of anxiety made me feel anxious, but it’s true.
I found myself wondering: Where did it go? Was I just so depressed that I couldn’t access the part of myself that cared enough to be anxious? That didn’t feel quite right, either. Had I finally learned to “surrender” and “tap into the flow?” Or can I not tell the difference between surrendering and giving up? I’m not sure I recognize the line between apathy and equanimity anymore. Maybe I’m just exhausted.
I thought about my lifelong tendency to perfect and please and plan my way to the top of Certainty Mountain, only to wind up exhausted and banged up at the bottom of a cliff, wondering what the hell just happened. I’d taken a big step back from that in recent years but there’s nothing like a global meltdown to bring up old patterns for another layer of healing. Also, I’ve never been one to take my lessons from the universe easily; I much prefer to be bashed over the head with truths that I absolutely can’t ignore.
Here is what I know right now: Something has to change, and we all seem to be feeling it. But also, change doesn’t always happen overnight, and it doesn’t always look the way that we (or others) expect it to. Taking back our time, our energy and ourselves is not selfish. It’s OK to be done – with a job or a relationship or anything – and we are not obligated to explain ourselves to anyone.
What if I thought less about my legacy and more about my life? Maybe it’s time to stop thinking of sustainability as a magic combination of functional self-care and productivity hacks that will enable me to do more and just DO LESS. IT sounds terrifying and liberating all at once, doesn’t it?