“It may be that when we no longer know what to do,
we have come to our real work
and when we no longer know which way to go,
we have begun our real journey.
The impeded stream is the one that sings.”
The above vignette has haunted me all week, through distractions, tasks, and small pleasures. It underlies my days and each time it bubbles to the surface, my throat tightens, my eyes well up and my voice falters once again.
To healthcare workers, caregivers, helpers who empathize for extended periods of time week after month after year, this imbalance/blurring of boundaries/loss of footing is a red flag. Call it compassion fatigue or burn out, the signs and symptoms are real and the cost to one’s well being can be devastating and in some cases, permanent.
If you’ve been experiencing some difficulties yourself, you may consider taking your own inventory. You can take a self test here.
How do I cope? I cling to the moments of grace and humour that, surprisingly, considering the sadness of my job, are ever present in my work week. These are the melodies that emerge from the cracks in the dam (to paraphrase Leonard Cohen’s famous quote), and from Wendell Berry’s impeded stream. These moments validate, energize, and carry me when I get stuck.
But only so far.
The truth is, what I’d really like to do right now is float for a while. No turbulent waters, no pain and suffering to ease. A little rest stop before continuing my work.
Isn’t that the normal thing to do on a journey when you’re tired from traveling?