Burnout is like turtles moving through peanut butter, except the peanut butter is stale so they can’t even enjoy snacking on it while taking their time.
Sometimes you just get overwhelmed, and the best course of action seems to shut down. I’ve done it; you’ve done it; my cat water feature has done it.
It was a sad day when it sputtered and died. My husband and I were on a town trip, and came back to the water feature having been roughly cat-handled, the top askew and the plugged-in cord twisted around the base. Apparently Socks and Elsa had gotten mad that their stream of water had stopped flowing.
Now I had a dilemma: I could put out a bowl of water, but the whole reason for the water feature purchase in the first place was because of Elsa’s obsession with knocking over said bowls and getting everything wet. This is the kitty who demands water from our dripping fingers whenever we shower. She wants her water moving and that’s all there was to it: this is the way.
The motor had shown some signs of slowing down over the past two years, gurgling and making loud grinding noises. My husband said it was because of all the fungus trapped in the gears. So when I went to clean it I did the best I could to scrape out the inside through the side slats, and these attempts kept the motor going half-heartedly until the day it died.
Or so I thought.
“It worked for 6 years; I guess it’s time to buy a new one.”
My husband gazed upon the dead water feature. I could see his mind going to all the dog supplies we just bought, and the large television he had been eyeing at the store. To him, this was another purchase that would cost money that could have contributed to other, more important things. “Let me see what I can do.”
So while I brought in groceries and dog stuff he operated on the motor with a cake decoration, skillfully picking away with the pointed end like a surgeon. By the time I had put everything away he had the motor resuscitated.
“What was wrong with it?”
“Your hair. It was wrapped around and choking on your hair. Girl’s hair can cause so much drama.” He grinned.
He filled up the water feature, plugged it back in, and up gurgled the water, stronger than ever. Elsa immediately came over and began lapping. And you know what? It’s been staying strong since then.
When I recently got overwhelmed with work, I felt like shutting down (because it was my Christmas break), but instead I decided to chunk everything and made a digital to-do list of what needed to be done. Then I broke it down by month, week, and day. I had a deadline to make, so I laid out everything that needed to get done in such a way that I didn’t feel like I was running myself into the ground every single day. The problem I had been having was putting everything into one big list, then getting overwhelmed by the list, then feeling insecure and anxious that the end result wasn’t going to be worth it/get done/fail. My big list approach just wasn’t working like it normally did.
So I broke it down, or chunked it, into mini lists, and just concentrated on the list for each day. And that helped a lot. It made the overall project seem more manageable, and if I didn’t get everything done, then I just tweaked the next day’s list. Nothing was set in stone.
And you know what? I got everything done a week ahead of schedule during my winter break. Just in time for me to get sick before the semester started back up.
This organized list approach untangled the insecure and anxious hairs that were winding through my mind. Usually I have a pretty good handle on situations, but there are times things just get to you. My chunked spreadsheet has kept me organized and on task for this semester. I still don’t have time I’d like to dedicate to my business, but alas teaching pays the bills. Perhaps in the future there will be more balance.
For now the cat water feature and I are up and running. I still try to work breaks into my daily schedule, while the water feature works tirelessly day and night, making sure the kitties stay hydrated. It is the true hero of this story.