At the end of June 2020, I bought the book Burnout: The Secret to Unlocking the Stress Cycle by Emily and Amelia Nagoski.
I had just finished a season of unexpectedly homeschooling my Waldorf child; moving my school of emergent healers, aka Eagle School, to an online forum; switching my 1:1 healing practice to phone sessions; and moving my girlfriend from Minneapolis to Portland.
I was exhausted before I opened my eyes in the morning and my body was showing signs of wear. I had no idea that what felt like an untenable pace at the time was about to hit an all out stride of blow-out, burn down, bonfire nervous system paralysis. I froze. I stopped posting on Instagram; stopped checking voicemail; sent out an automatic email message informing the sender that I was, essentially, buried.
In my haze of unfocused reading retention, this is what I remembered:
- Kiss someone (I got a puppy)
- Reach out to your friends
In late November, I bought another book, My Grandmother’s Hands: Racialized Trauma and the Pathway to Mending Our Hearts and Bodies by Resmaa Menakem. These words lasted:
- Do this with your community
It’s been a year, and I am thawing and awakening. Here is what I learned:
- Move. I found a thirty minute video of Mira Pham krumping to the beat of Vietnamese electronic music and I tried to follow along. What began as an embarrassment of efforts transformed into long stories in the form of dance running down my arms and legs. Movement broke the lock on my bodily experience of ancestral trauma. It is setting me free.
- Breathe. I started practicing letting the trees and plants and squirrels and puppies and goldfish breath through me. It’s a lot easier imagining that lungs are a shared organ.
- Laugh. I lean towards seriousness so laughter is a practice. It’s hard to conjure belly laughs in a pandemic quarantine. I tried reading journals from my 20s; I was met with ass cringes more than laughter. Looking for laughter, I started really listening to my child. One day he climbed so high in the bay tree that I called out, “Bird, you have some serious tree climbing skills!” He answered with his arms stretched out wide, “Mom, my skills are vague.” Laughter requires paying attention.
- Cry. I don’t have time to cry, mostly. If I am not with my clients and students, I am with my child making sure that he’s not on “extended bathroom breaks” during his Zoom class or I am feeding mouths and scrubbing pots. Recently, I went on a solo journey to a cabin in the woods. At first, I was so overcome with my out-of-practice aloneness that I was afraid. I turned out the lights and was immediately met with a stand of Douglas Fir trees lit by the moon outside my enormous window. I lost it. I cried so hard. There is something about being in the dark with trees that makes it okay to be small.
- Do this with your community. I am beyond grateful that I have spent every day of the pandemic in a hoop of the most incredible human beings. Right before the first lockdown, I began another cohort of the Under the Eagle’s Wing Apprenticeship 2020 program. Twenty souls have been moving and breathing and laughing and crying with me. We thought of ourselves as lone wolves; as misfits on the margins and, yet, we found out that the most potent medicine there is is belonging. When burned-out, “do this with your community” is the most important lesson of all.
News about Under the Eagle’s Wing Mentorship Program 2021 coming soon.