I am a burned out, recovering workaholic. I’ve been in school for 23 years–24 this fall. One of my acquaintances once said, “I’ve been going hard in the paint since I was 5 years old!”
To be honest, I’m still learning how to cope with the demands of my adult life. I always feel both busy and tired, even though I’m the one to blame for my exhaustion. I mean, did I really need to hang out with friends or write until 2 am?
Here are the lessons that I’m learning about being a happy, healthy, sane adult.
1. Taking care of myself is an act of worship
I met a fairly well-known feminist scholar a few years ago. She’s a woman of color. When I asked her about her publishing record, (she had back to back books and articles), she told me to be careful. According to her, the stress of academia has disproportionately hurt women of color.
My grandma has been telling me for YEARS I need to slow down and rest. My own advisors have told me that. But when I’m in the middle of a project, I don’t hear that. I just want to push through. Today, my body reminded me that I’m human, and that writing is hard work, and if I don’t eat, or I don’t eat well, I will die.
When I was going to skip another meal so I could get to a meeting, the Lord reminded me that taking care of myself is one of the best ways I honor Him. It’s so much easier for me to take care of others–to anticipate their needs, and try to meet them. But it’s hard for me to ask myself, “what does RJD want right at this very moment?”
2. My happiness/well-being is important
I don’t think I always know what makes me happy. I’m so busy working and fulfilling social engagements that I don’t make the time to sit in silence before God and figure out what is best for me. And then I get cranky and mean to people I love when they go ahead and do stuff to make themselves feel happy.
It’s easy for me to fill my life up with activities–my dissertation, syllabus writing, housework, talking to my lovely friends–than it is for me to sit and be honest about how I’m feeling and what I should do next.
3. Every good decision comes from prayer and a time-out
Once in a while, I feel like the roof is caving in and I don’t know what to do next. I’m learning to stop, think, pray, and act. When I stop, I stop all actions so I can see my situation clearly. When I think about the situation before me, I know how to pray. When I pray, I can be honest with the Lord about what I need to know. And then I act (hopefully making the right decision!)
The Lord is a patient teacher: He watches as I make the same mistakes over and over again. Out of love for my work, family and friends, I give out a lot of time and attention. This isn’t a bad thing, but I also have to invest time in my relationship with Him and myself.