it helps to say that i’m on the edge of burnout. in the past i flew right by all the telltale signs and right into the flames, almost welcoming the rest that came when i relinquished all ability to live in my life.

right now i feel like i don’t want the rest that comes inside of, or post, burnout. i want to intentionally bring my attention to my well being, and make adjustments so that i can sustain. i want all of us who are tired to learn how to stagger our efforts with each other.

when i think of staggering, i think of geese migrating long distances, and how they take turns holding the lead position because it is the hardest labor. cutting against the wind, setting the direction, setting the pace – it’s maximum effort. we all need to hold that position sometimes, and we all need to fall back in the formation sometimes, in order to all make it, to collectively go all the way.

that means collectively paying attention to the signs of burnout.

my signs include feeling tired and irritable and uninspired to connect with others or engage new ideas. i recently found myself rewriting the words to that song “if you don’t know me by now”, adding the lyric “i may never ever want to know you.” crispy.

in groups i often see signs like flakiness and haphazard communications, constant conflict that people accept as inevitable, and a shape of power under – no one wanting to take responsibility for impact, everyone feeling like victims of the world, powerless to shape the future.

i’m naming this precarious personal state as an invitation to stagger. i recognize that i am not alone in my exhaustion and we all need to name how we are and what we need so we can sustain our efforts.

for now, if you don’t need me, let me rest. there are so many incredible people out there! i list many of them in Emergent Strategy, and there are lists of awesome people at Social Transformation Project, or this list Mia Henry just pulled together.

if you have energy to lead, i am down to follow and support.

free labor feels heavier right now, so if you just need information, consider picking the internet instead of my/others brains.

if you do need me, be gentle and spacious with it – urgency feels like a serrated knife right now.

i’m practicing emergent strategy and resting and stretching and taking my vitamins and hydrating and shifting my diet and adding turquoise and ceremony and easing my schedule and all the other unglamorous things which make it possible for me to give what i can right now, and give more as my cup fills back up.

it already feels better.

my smile is tired (burn out chronicles)

seven months to the day:

i forget how to puddle
how to surrender to sleep instead of putting myself down
forget the path that leads to my house
and what’s left in the icebox
forget i don’t have wings of my own
that i couldn’t really relax onto those clouds
i forget how to inhale into my belly
and everything feels too heavy
even the good stuff, even love

when people ask me how i am
i want to weep about the end of the species
how cancer is winning, how greed and emptiness are winning
how i wish some nights to be normal, no, to be ignorant, to see no futures in my dreams
no blood, no guilt, no drought
but then i can’t really swallow
i can’t really catch enough air for all that

i say: fine, a little tired,
exhausted but inspired
overjoyed, emphasis on the over
moving a bit too fast, you know how it is
flip the focus away from me
barreling towards the end of my questions
you can say almost anything with a smile
even if it’s all a blur these days
i’ve been getting by
smiling a light beam cloak over everything

but my smile is tired
all the requests are fair but there’s too many
yesterday i found a circle of women on the verge of tears
we were all the eldest sisters of our houses
and we whispered to each other
‘i know how to stand up and pull
i know how to push and handle it
i know how to care and attend to
but i never really learned to rest’

i’m slipping back and away in myself
gonna study something i wasn’t taught
to trust in my body
to choose the longest path,
to go so slow you can’t see me moving
to focus on the intimate and avoid the crowd
to expand my black time*, to be a real person,
to learn what i can before i die
to fill my smile back up from the inside

* thank you to Prentis and Mark-Anthony for this concept
* thank you to lots of beloveds for catching the ashes and breathing them back towards flame

admitting we don’t know

as things fall apart, do we have the capacity to sustain humility?

cause we really don’t know the way out of this.

we don’t know whether we’re in a slowly heating pot of water, the frying pan, the fire, the last gasp of a humanoid dinosaur age, the beginning of our liberation, the flashbacks of every apocalyptic movie ever filmed, the birth year of the four horses of the apocalypse, Octavia’s mind, the end of human civilization, a new kind of collective madness, a beautiful awakening, the early stages of the great turning.

certainty may give us comfort, but right now it’s a false solution, an illusion that we put energy into which will not get us where we need to be.

right now, asserting any certainty could actually make us less attentive, and thus less able to connect the emerging patterns of change into right action.

we have used the internet to weave us into the full spectrum of each other’s lives and deaths. now we can see death on facebook. some days it’s all we see, fast deaths of violence or slow deaths of current and future vulnerable populations – the former get us apoplectic, the latter are heavier with our complicity (though we still love to gasp and point all of our fingers at the monsters doing this to us, to us, the vast majority of the country, of the world).

to offer up life, love, pleasure, connection, joy, care and abundance thinking in the face of that dramatic and sensual death/crisis/ruin porn can feel like throwing flowers into a volcano’s hot mouth.

i am not certain we can turn the tide. i am not certain that focusing on vision, pleasure, even emergence, is the right move. it feels right for me, it makes me want to go on and feel excited about my and our existence – some days that is such a balm that it satisfies my deep fear and restlessness.

i would rather spend my miraculous life moving towards life, putting my attention on yes, investing in any and all experiments that make our species more compatible with this planet i love so much.

i offer this here, today, because i see some of y’all flagging in the onslaught of impossible news that has become our reality. not just these last few months, but over the last thirty years of increasing access to each other. we know the cost, now, of any ease we are privileged to access. we know more about who is responsible for our suffering. many of us know this has to change. some of us have visions of what that change can look like, feel like – how to change.

but we don’t know all of the how, not at scale.

humility can let our shoulders drop, can make us more adaptive and flexible, open us to the ideas of our comrades, make us rigorous in radical processes and more accepting of the truth that the outcome is not only a mystery, but so so so much bigger than our work. our work matters at scale, so let’s do our best – with each other, in our communities, with our loved ones and our tax dollars and our hours, do our best.

and also relax in our smallness, our insignificance.

we can only be a force together, we can only be together with trust, we can only trust if we are authentic with each other – and we can only be authentic if we can admit we don’t know our way out of this. let this be a verbal toast to more questions, more collaborative ideation, more doubt, more experimentation, more releasing that which isn’t working, more listening to unlikely voices of leadership, more caring and connecting with each other in ways that will prepare us for whatever is coming.

y’all are the best people to not know with. i’m so grateful for that.