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Broken wings.

I started a series titled "Packages" one of the years I was blogging, and the premise of it was that when we go through life, through experiences, and through meeting others, we pick up baggage. Sometimes we move through life so fast that we never take time to center ourselves and unpack. You know how when you return from a long journey you assess your inventory? Some things you throw away after serving their purpose, and some are still useful. Some things just need a good wash and then they're good to go. That's what different seasons of life bring to us. We can pick up so many traits and habits and seldom trace their roots. Did this come from childhood? Did this come from a work experience? Is this truly my personality to my core or is the environment influencing me? These are important questions to pause and ask. 

For years, I chased burnout. Part of it could be attributed to work. I spent years during the pandemic in a fast-paced environment where I could make little to no mistakes. I was used to always having to be on point. But also, I struggled with people pleasing and perfectionism - traits that I've learned that many gifted/neurodivergent people struggle with. I felt stuck in a cycle. I would put something down, and then eventually pick something else back up. It wasn't just hobbies or projects. Anything that called me to put out energy more than I received back, I somehow felt led to. It became habitual for me to put others' feelings and desires above my own. I thought it was the good, Christian thing to do. I somehow picked up that principle through the years. I mean, "Why go through life being selfish and mean," or so I thought. 

Always showing up for others would work for a time, and then it would become too much, and it'd crash and burn. Looking back, I could very visibly see the toll it was taking on my mind and body. I'm sure others could see and feel it too. It affected relationships. Sometimes I'd physically be in a room, but because of building stress, I was not present. But no one could pull me from this pit, only me.

Please, hear me: I believe in doing good works. I've won awards for the number of hours of community service I've done. I believe in helping people. I'm not here to discourage anyone from being a good person. I believe in finding your purpose and making an impact on this dark world. We all should. I encourage and promote this idea of community and looking out for one's neighbor, however, I have to be transparent in warning you that there is a balance that is needed. There is a such thing as too helpful. Because a lot of my life surrounds helping others from work to home, to community, I have to be even more intentional in that balance to ensure my needs are met as well. As a woman, it is my nature to nurture, but I must not ever forget that I deserve to be nurtured as well. It is even biblical, for my fellow believers:

Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength. The second is, Love your neighbor as yourself. There is no other command greater than these.” Matthew 12:30-31

It is impossible to pursue peace and live in healthy harmony with others long term without first loving ourselves. If we neglect self, it can only begin a chain of dysfunction in relationships leading to resentment, strife, discontentment, and strain. The correct order is loving ourselves correctly, and then sharing the abundance of that love with others. We don't pour from empty cups over here. 

Burnout is sneaky and lethal. I saw a quote that said, "Burnout is caused by constantly borrowing energy from tomorrow to get through today." We don't even realize we are utterly depleted until it is too late. 

But it is all a choice. God does not make us choose better. You can choose to live always giving yourself with no discretion, but will it be healthy? Do YOU have inner peace? Is this dynamic sustainable long-term? The truth is, "When you put yourself on sale, no one will argue the price." Even dearest loved ones will not always be cognizant of your limit that is solely your job. 

It is easier than you think, however. It starts with a simple decision: I cannot live like this any longer. Then, in the details is how you overcome. What I've learned through my healing is that you win in the little things that people often disregard. Every time you say yes when deep down you should say no, you push yourself deeper into the pit. Every time you disregard a boundary, you are harming yourself. Little by little it adds up until it is visible. On the flip side, when you build a lifestyle of healthy boundaries and healthy practices through daily habits, the healing sticks, and you stop reverting to old practices as often until they are finally obsolete. It's layers to this. It's not just going to counseling. It's not just having support from loved ones. It's not just going to church. You can't just know the right thing to do, YOU have to fight in your day-to-day actions as well. It must become a practice. It starts with a decision.

Don't be discouraged if you currently find yourself in a pit. What I've also learned is, broken wings can still fly. What broke you down in one season, can bring about significant growth in the next if you let it. When caterpillars transform into butterflies, it's far from a simple process. Their entire caterpillar body is broken down into goo while nominal cells begin to remake the pieces into what we call a butterfly. It doesn't happen overnight, and from the outside looking in, it appears that not much is happening. But everything is happening; the making of something beautiful is happening, and the caterpillar yields itself to that scary change. 

Will you also trust the process? 

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