Replenishing

I’ve been feeling weary lately.

I’ve just moved house, and my goodness I forgot how much work it is. Quite apart from packing up all my worldly belongings and moving them from Point A to Point B (South of the River for once), I’ve done a lot of decluttering and selling on gumtree. Not only have I cleaned the new house to make it comfortably habitable, but I’ve cleaned the old house from floor to ceiling over several days. (Beth I even had to go back because we hadn’t sufficiently dusted the lights or scrubbed the insides of the window sills.) We’ve been taking bushfire safety seriously and I’ve been climbing ladders and sawing branches. I’ve cleaned and returned a car we’ve been borrowing, been cleaning the dojo more thoroughly and have been teaching three times a week (one more class than my usual two). Not to mention the psychological fatigue of learning how to survive in this new location – learning how to use the oven, to find the shopping centre, to get the nearest petrol station… It’s been an exhaustive amount of newness.

Yesterday, after teaching karate the night before and then getting up at 5:25 to teach it again, I was worn quite thin. I was snappy and impatient and peevish. Poor Beth, nothing she did could cause me to smile or feel less vexed.

So I went to bed around 10:30, a little later than planned. And I slept for eight hours, and it helped. I longed for escapism (Shadow of the Tomb Raider or Overwatch would have done nicely), but I forced myself to engage with the outside world. Getting dressed I saw my tea set, and I had a sudden desire to experience tea ceremony. I gathered my things, and as I prepared each utensil I felt as if each layer of worry was slowly being lifted off me. I performed ryakubon, tea ceremony done with a tray, and it was perfect. Not in the sense that I made no mistakes, but in the sense that every movement was intentional, every experience in the present moment. The tea was wonderfully invigorating, too.

I’ve been thinking a lot about burnout lately, partially because Beth is recovering from it after some trying work experiences, partially because I’ve been burning hard and fast lately. I’m reminded that if energy out is greater than energy in, burnout is inevitable until something changes. I cannot keep up this pace forever, and so today I will rest.

I’d like to finish with a thought that came into my mind.

It might be easy to walk a mile when you’re healthy and hale, but it’s a lot harder when you have a broken leg. Being determined not to let it slow you down and walking on it anyway will just do more harm than good, and when infection finally sets in and the pain is so great you collapse, the recovery period will be a long and slow one.

There is no shame in noticing that you are depleted, that you are beaten down, that you are hurting. It’s good to rest, if you can, so that when you’re ready you can pick up your load again and continue on the journey. Forcing it before you’re ready won’t do yourself any favours, let alone those who love or rely upon you.

Be kind to yourselves. It’s a gift to those around you, too.

PS: Thought I would share with you the new homes I’ve found for my tea utensils.

The Way of Tea

Chanoyu, or the Japanese art of Tea Ceremony, is something that’s become increasingly close to my heart over the past three years. I thought long and hard about whether to write this piece in my personal journal, or whether to write it here on my blog, accessible for all time to the wide public. I don’t want to bring discredit to my teacher or my school through my ignorance or my thoughtlessness, but at the same time I want to live in a world where I can read other people’s blogs as they walk their own path of chado – the Way of Tea. So, here I am. Suffice it to say that all mistakes are mine, and that these are my personal reflections.


I will start by saying I was recently reading Miyamoto Musashi’s “Go Rin no Sho” (The Book of Five Rings). Musashi is one of history’s most famous and most skilled swordsmen, and in the opening chapters he strongly advocates for all so-called warriors to deeply pursue the arts. Musashi himself was a master of many forms of art, and so I find it comforting to think that by studying chanoyu I add a little yin to my yang, and deepen myself as a person and a warrior.

But going through the motions has nothing to do with chado at all. It doesn’t matter if I sit perfectly in seiza for half an hour, carefully and exactly moving my body to produce perfect bowls of tea, if my heart is not in each and every moment. This is a humbling lesson that I was reminded of by the delightful Tsutomu-san of the Green Tea House in Subiaco. “The steps are easy”, he said, “but the mind is hard”.

I’ve been thinking a lot about wa, kei, sei, jaku lately – the four tenets of tea ceremony. Harmony, respect, purity and tranquility. Simple words with profound meaning that I could spend my life pursuing and still never quite live by.

Seasons Reflections

For the first time in my life, this year I felt a longing to be with family at Christmas. It was hard to describe – and perhaps it’s ubiquitous so I don’t need to – but I wanted to be around my cousins, aunts and uncles because of their differences rather than in spite of them. I liked the idea of all the members of my family putting aside their vast differences and being together just for a few hours once a year. I guess that’s the universal Spirit of Christmas, right? Overall I found it a little more trying than I expected.

I’ve heard a few people talk about “the racist uncle” as a kind of stereotype at family gatherings. I wasn’t too worried about racism this year (though it has come up in the past), and instead I discovered that there are many things to discriminate about. This year, I noticed judgemental language (often directed at me) that targeted vegetarians, vegans, Pokémon enthusiasts, people who enjoyed alcohol, people who didn’t give to charity, people who are sensitive, people who don’t have the latest model of smart phone, and religion and the people that practice them.

Furthermore I have discovered that I don’t really like the idea of Christmas presents. From my experience today, they are often generic and not usually liked by the people who receive them. Beth and I have worked so hard to declutter our home lately, throwing out, giving away and selling hundreds of books, games, consoles, clothes, furniture, figurines and other accoutrements. The last thing I want is to take home a bunch of new stuff that I am not in love with and want in my life, because then I have the task of rehoming the item and I risk the gift-giver being hurt if they find out.

It’s taken me a few hours to process everything that has gone on today. It was affirming to discover that I have a dislike for the materialistic side of Christmas, and that perhaps next year I will make donations to charity on people’s behalf, or provide other options that sit better with me. (I know gifts aren’t about my feelings, but I don’t think I could bring myself to give something to someone that I myself was repulsed by.) I’ve also learned that it’s hard for me to be around people who’s value systems are quite opposite to my own. Today I met people who valued eating animal products, having lots of (expensive) possessions, hobbies over relationships, negative self-talk, making fun of people (ostensibly to “toughen them up”), and being right rather than to letting people be happy. It’s fine that people have different values, though I think the frequency and intensity of those value clashes wore me down foster than I anticipated.

It’s been a busy few days, and I’m glad it’s over for the moment. Merry Christmas everyone <3

Lessons from Living Solo

Beth has been dog-sitting at her parent’s house for three days now, and here are some of the things I’ve learned about myself:

  • I am always busy. When left to my own devices, I cram my schedule full of work, training, seeing Beth, and the necessities of eating, showering and keeping the cat alive. Even my relaxing is scheduled, and despite all the freedom I’m still consistently late XD
  • I’m messier than I thought. With no one to be tidy for, I leave clothes, dishes and miscellaneous stuff lying around.
  • This causes me to forget or lose things because I just put them down and have no idea where. When Beth’s here, she reminds me where I’ve been or where she’s seen my glasses, wallet, phone etc. Without her I just don’t notice it’s gone until I need it. (Case in point, moments after publishing this I spent five minutes going back and forth to the same rooms looking for my phone. It was next to the TV and not in any of my usual spots.)
  • I forget how many blinds and curtains we have, which lamps to turn on/off, and remember to open/close everything before I go out.
  • It’s always cold. I enjoy the idea of saving money more than I like the idea of warming the room with a heater.
  • I’m noisier. I sing, I crank up the TV, I don’t close the doors.
  • I don’t do nearly as much housework as I want to. I noticed the sinks are dirty, the cat litter’s full, the floor needs vacuuming, and I do precisely nothing about it.
  • I leave all the doors, cupboards and drawers open. Well, not all of them, but enough of them, under the assumption that I’m going to go right back in there so I don’t need to waste time closing it again.
  • Twice now I’ve had to get out of the car and gone back into the house to grab something I’ve forgotten, like my wallet.

All of this is reminding me painfully of my father. Perhaps the apple doesn’t fall so far from the tree after all!

PD through PD

Personal Discovery through Professional Development.

I spent way longer on that title than I wanted to.

 

I’ve done a lot of learning and growing in recent times. My work has taught me so many things that I probably would never have learned otherwise, and it’s kind of hard for me to keep track of it all. Every tiny nugget of wisdom changes who I am and the way I move through the world, and week after week, month after month, all those learnings are adding up to something quite spectacular. I feel like my heart is growing, and I can care more easily and more deeply. I’m also learning a great deal about not caring too much, and knowing where I end and another begins.

 

That’s why I sat down at my computer this morning and started reading about burnout. I’ve noticed in the past few weeks in particular, my patience has been at an all-time low.

Working in mental health, sometimes the people that I support seem (to me) to be “stuck”: they’re in pain, and they don’t want to do anything to change their circumstances. As someone who loves to rescue people, it’s been challenging for me checking my inner-white-knight and being with people where they are. I’ve felt a lot of frustration and, in the case of one person, two years of it built up week by week until I finally realised I couldn’t hold onto it any more and I had to share it. My manager and I sat with the person and I let some of those emotions out from behind the dam and it was cathartic. I realised that my frustration was actually concern, and that all I wanted was the best for the person and I was worried about them.

 

Since then, I’ve found it really hard to keep my frustration removed from my client interactions. I’m really struggling to sit with people where they’re at because I want so badly for their lives to be different. And that’s an interesting one that I’m still working through: How can I still care about the people I work with, without caring so much that it drains my cup? The solution, I think, are boundaries: in a nutshell, being okay with not taking on other people’s stuff.

 

I find it amazing that three weeks I was noticing these experiences and I didn’t really take any heed of them. Looking at them in hindsight, they are increasingly alarming signs that I was heading towards burnout. I’m grateful that it was brought to my attention seriously, so that I can give it the serious attention it merits. I’m more aware now of what I’m feeling relating to work: what feels good, and what feels draining. As my awareness grows, I’m more informed about the decisions I make: what boundaries to set down, and how I want to work in a way that is sustainable and joyful. I want to value self-care more (which, even as I write it I’m thinking “I don’t have time for that, my black belt grading is coming up, I’ll self care in two weeks from now”) and be okay with letting myself rest and heal more often. I want to continue developing methods of decompressing between appointments and after work, maybe seriously get back into meditation and reconnect with that well of inner peace within me.

 

I don’t really know where I’m going with any of this. I haven’t eaten breakfast yet, and the cobwebs of nightmares still cling to me. I guess I just wanted to say, to myself and the world, that I value my wellbeing, and that I’m continuing to work through stuff. I am continuing to seek that balance between growing and resting, and I’m getting better at it all the time.