There is an electric kettle in the office breakroom. I don’t use it every day. (Luckily, I can still work from home once in a while.) But I always make sure it’s got at least a liter of water in it. (Yes, I’m American. Yes, I know what a liter is. Deal.)
There’s a reason. I want the other people in the office to do the same, so I model the behavior.
I want other people in the office to leave water in the kettle so that I don’t have to fill it on the days when I’m feeling dragged out and just want my tea to start steeping.
I also know that if I get my tea steeping, I will have time to fill the kettle to the 1 L mark and put it back on the base well before the tea is ready to drink. But I will have accomplished the step of “making the tea” that required there to be water in the kettle.
Let’s follow this into the realm of creativity. My kettle has been dry for a few months now. Writing has been hard and keeping up with a blog was not going to happen.
Because I took a job that required all of my emotion, worry, and care to maintain. I was in that job for three months and it was already stressing me out, using up my mental health resources. I realized that I was heading head-first into burnout.
Because I hadn’t been hired to do actual counseling, and suicide interventions, and triage. I’d been hired to check in on people once a month and make sure that they were taking their meds and making progress on their goals.
But that isn’t what I ended up doing. I ended up being a life-line for people who needed real therapy, but couldn’t afford the plans with the real therapists. I didn’t mind the conversations with the CEOs and creatives who needed someone to help with hacks. I didn’t mind the stoner who needed to talk about limits and making a new start with her relationships. But the woman who wanted to die and needed me to make a safety plan with her? That was not what I wanted.
Keep in mind. I have a MA in Psychology. I am a trained, but not licensed counselor. I have the skills to do the job and I’m ACE at it.
It just kills me.
It drained my kettle to the point where I was barely able to scrape up enough creative energy to start a craft kit that came with everything I needed. (We don’t talk about WiPs or UFOs.)
It’s taken a few months away from that job and the application of just, doing nothing productive, and reading a damned book once in a while to start to refill that jug.
Just the other night I got a new story idea. That hasn’t happened in ages. I’ve been picking and prodding at old projects in hope, but a new story idea. That’s hope. Even if it never goes anywhere.
My kettle is filling up again. And maybe it will actually hit the minimum fill line and I’ll be able to get back to work at the things I love.
Pour the water.
Fill the kettle.
Drink the tea.