Conversations in Grief Blog: Take This Job
During a recent Zoom conversation, my friend said he was jealous of colleagues who were already retired. “I thought they would have to haul me out of my job at 70 because I have always loved what I do so much.” But now, working under the weight of COVID-19 challenges, he is ready to retire well ahead of schedule.
Another friend, a nurse in a care facility, affirmed what our teacher friend had just expressed. She described the mental exhaustion of thinking through every task and what would be required in terms of PPE (personal protective equipment). She explained the mental fatigue of trying to read facial expressions of others behind their mask. Physically, even her eyes suffer the fatigue of a 12-hour day under a face shield. Upon arrival home, her mind is “mush.”
I felt relief as I listened to my friends share their job frustrations. I wasn’t the only one who was falling out of love with my job. Never have I looked so forward to the weekend. Instead of being connected to people and co-workers in actual rooms and hallways and cubicles, communication is accomplished on a phone or through a computer screen. Long meetings used to be softened with comfort food and opportunities to check in with one another. Now those long meetings feel even longer via conference call. No shared raising of the eyebrows or whispered conversations.
Work is harder and we feel more isolated doing it. In other words, more work and less reward.
Like I said, I felt relief to hear others admit their struggle with work and I feel relief owning my own struggle. If you are tired and weary of your work, I offer you two things.
Grieve. If your work is no longer joyful due to the pandemic, say so. While this is not fixable, it is good to say out loud what is true for you. No need to carry it like a shameful secret. We encourage those who are grieving to attend a grief support group, a space where a griever is understood and accepted, and difficult topics can be explored openly. In the same way, as we talk about our work struggles, we can feel understood and we can explore our feelings openly. We discover that we are not alone. In that discovery of solidarity, there is comfort.
Rest. Step away. Disconnect. Know your own limits. Many are holding off on taking vacation days until a “real” vacation can be enjoyed, a cruise, or an overseas tropical beach. While we find hope in the knowledge of stockpiled days off and the anticipation of truly getting away, physically and emotionally, I caution you as well as I caution myself not to save up all of those days. Take some time now. We all have simple things that “fill our tanks.” How are you re-fueled? No. I really want you to stop and reflect on that question. What fills your tank? How can you add to it today or this week?
Many of us define ourselves based on what we do. This weariness with our work is unexpected and unwelcome. But could we tell ourselves a different story? Could we hear our weariness and respond by learning how to be? Because we are more than what we do. Much more.