As an ex-Personal Trainer, the phrase “Feel the Burn” has never been unfamiliar. And in our most recent election I certainly felt the Bern. However, in today’s episode of Life in the Woods we are talking about a different burn.
Around these parts, The Burnout Burn is in full-effect as we bid adieu to the fresh-faced fountain of Summer’s youth.
People are tired.
People forget and put on their grumpy pants in the morning.
It’s mid-Summer and the constant beat of the midnight sun drum is becoming less of a motivator and more of a task master.
The crowds that were surprising in June and early July are now commonplace and our little home is full-up, full-on, full-time.
The questions have changed from “how was your Winter?” to “what will you do in the Fall?” and in that delicate dialectic seasonal switch it’s obvious that the Solstice has passed as the sun finds her daily retreat a bit sooner everyday.
But despite The Burnout, despite the fledgling energy levels and the growing inability to answer without offense when a tourist looks me up and down and says: “Well you certainly don’t live here in the Winter.” (thank you for that very unexpected approximation and judgement. Cheers to you too) I feel it’s been a Burn I can learn from.
You see, I’m an introvert.
I think the true term for my specific brand of Me-ness is called an Extroverted Introvert.
Sounds like an oxymoron, eh?
But it’s a label I’ve found that’s actually helped me to make sense of, well, me (you can read a pretty spot-on account of it here).
Make sense of yes, but in the past I still tried to push through the introversion into the extroversion. It made social situations easier, it made it seem like I was always “up” and it meant I felt less guilty less often because I didn’t indulge the introverted side. I just pushed, pushed, pushed it down.
Go out every night of the week?
Have my phone on all day?
Hang out with a new group of people?
Bring it on!
And the thing is, I like to go out, I like to be in contact and I love meeting new people.
Just not all the time.
And so, after years of submerging my introverted side in an ocean of guilt, letting her up only for necessary air and the plunging her back down again, I finally realized it wasn’t working.
The Burnout would show up in all it’s many faces in years before and I would fall apart. I’d be overworked and under-slept and over-socialized and I would just deteriorate, only to put the pieces back together again and into overdrive and…
do it all over again.
But here, The Burn is different. (I know, I know. Alaska’s always different in my eyes but it’s true! At least for me.) This place is a boiled down version, a high-concentrate of The Burn because everyone is trying to cram everything they can into every hour of every day. There’s a celebration or a training or a party or a natural event that brings people together every night of the week. It’s not the normal 9-5 thank god it’s Fri-Yay, Margarita Monday just to get through the week type of life here.
And it’s wonderful.
But if you are susceptible to The Burn (and I have yet to find anyone immune, though there certainly live within this haven some masterful socializers whom seemingly re-charge through social interaction. Super-humans? Or just masters of disguising their need for solitude?) and I certainly am, it’s going to come on full-bore here.
Welcome to the woods.
And you thought it’d be quieter.
So, this year when I started feeling The Burn I decided to try a different route, the road certainly less (if perhaps maybe never) traveled by me, myself and I:
I let myself recharge. I looked my introverted side of myself in the eyes and I gave her a hug, and a night at home.
Lordy did that feel good.
Before I knew it, I was saying “No” to things.
How had I not utilized this power before?
And don’t get me wrong, as the kids say these days, I often have a serious case of FOMO (fear of missing out. Please don’t anyone remind me that I just used FOMO in a piece of writing) but it only lasts as long as it takes The Chief to go down the driveway and head into the social circus that I am then left with this ultimate sense of relief and knowing. Knowing that I did the right thing for me.
It doesn’t mean that I don’t adore being with my friends or making new ones. It doesn’t meant that I don’t like people or that my extroversion is a farce. When I feel “On” it’s a magical sensation, one to cherish and enjoy and let out into the world. But when I’m depleted, I don’t want to bring that out. Not being out in the world doesn’t mean that I don’t want to be social. It means that I can’t. If I’m truly listening, I realize that sometimes I just can’t. Not if I want to avoid The Burn and the inevitable dropping of all of the pieces. Not if I want to take care of myself.
It’s a truly powerful thing (albeit seemingly elementary and one which perhaps most have already grasped before their third decade around the sun, but not me) to listen to oneself. It’s taken me years just to even lend an ear, much less listen, much less act upon what I knew needed to be done. In fact, it’s taken years just to figure out what I actually need.
I had to practice. I had to trick myself into not judging the answer that was hidden behind bravado by asking myself rapid fire questions:
What do you want to eat?
Pancakes! (That was an easy one).
Pilates or a walk down by the river?
Shorts or leggings for the walk?
Shorts! (Gotta give these albino white leggies at least a few rays of sunshine per year).
Go to Town or not?
Hold the phone…no Town?
That’s right, inner intuition. No Town.
Now, to follow through.
Often a 20 minute cuddle session with Lou (by which I mean me giving her pets and her ignoring me for 15 of the 20 minutes) eases the anxiety inducing decision and before I know it, the window to leave has left the building. I’m full-fledged in my decision to stay home and…
suddenly it feels glorious.
Sometimes The Chief and I both make the decision together which always eases the FOMO (there it is again!) but it’s the times when I’m the lone soldier, bowing out of the Army of Fun when I feel the proudest of my choice.
I’m taking care of me.
And truly, if I don’t, who else will? No one can tell you who you are. We have to listen as we tell ourselves.
Tricking myself for years into being out when I needed to be in wreaked havoc on the trust I had with myself but slowly and surely, it’s coming back. I guess I just needed the intensity of the Summer drumroll here to push me into it. I needed that hyper-extroversion to show me the truth of my introversion and to appreciate it.
I’ve read two books this Summer (more than I’ve read in my first two Summers combined), I’ve spent time alone in our garden, I’ve harvested herbs and taken walks with my Lou and I’ve spent time with me, allowing myself to be just that: me.
Sure, there’s still a lot to learn about how to avoid The Burn and the inevitable singe will happen. It’s mid-July in a full-up tourist town, but in taking the time to restore, The Burn gets a little cooler.
Cheers to oxymoron personalities and the seemingly opposing sides of their needs.
And cheers to you and your needs. Take a listen, they just might surprise you.