I am suffering from burnout. Until the other day, I hadn’t noticed it as a specific complaint.
- A sense that nothing means anything any more.
- Every climb of the ant up the anthill will be followed by a fall of the tumbling ant.
- I’ll die soon and my funeral will be the Flop of the Social Season. No one will come. The rabbi will have to call it off.
- I feel faint, climbing stairs no higher than the ones I go up and down daily in our three-story home.
- Should I call our medical complex, see the paramedic today for a referral – to the emergency room, for example?
On the other hand, some tempering reflections come to mind:
(1) I have three book projects running concurrently,
(2) I also write this weekly column,
(3) one of my books-in-progress has just run up against steep hurdles,
(4) a friend I care about has seemed to me to warrant much concern and
(5) it’s been a long time since I’ve taken even a short vacation.
Finally, after a day or two, it did occur to me to itemize all the above. At which point, I noticed that I was getting badly overdrawn on my energy accounts. Could it be that I was mistaking physical depletion for metaphysical despair?
I wonder how often people do that. We think we’ve got a heavy case of alienation, existential angst, deconstruction-of-identity, bodily deterioration in every organ and cell – and all we’ve really got is over-tiredness.
The other day, in my Saturday morning Torah Study group at my temple, we were reflecting on the topic of the sabbath in Leviticus 23:3. On the sabbath, one is supposed to rest, not work.
“What is rest?” Janet asked.
“What is rest for you?” asked Rabbi Delcau, answering her with another question.
“Museums, “ she said.
As for me, I couldn’t have said. Rest is hard for me.
“The commandment to keep the Sabbath,” Ken, another member of the group, said, “seems to have been observed by God solo, before it was given to anyone else. This makes it unlike the other commandments.” Ken referenced Genesis 2:2-3, where we are told that God rested on the seventh day, after He completed the work of creation but before He had commanded anybody to do anything.
When we keep the day of rest, are we honoring the fact that God rested? Does God need rest? If so, is that why we too need it, because we are created in God’s image? Who can say? These are questions.
There is a rhythm in life, diurnal, systolic and diastolic, of inhalation and exhalation. We are not immune from the rhythms of creation and neither, perhaps, is the Creator who is near to us.