The art of the burnout

The Art of Burning Out (the Soul Pivot).

by Mandi Lynn

This is a 12 minute story of the gritty reality of starting a Girl Power trust from the ground up.  I'm not going to hold back here so be ready it gets a bit bumpy and real as you keep reading.

Two weeks ago we won a big freaking award.  Like huge. Completely unexpected but awesome.

We managed to pull off winning the Health And Wellbeing award for the Wellington Airport Community Service Awards  for our  Arts based work with Mothers and Tweens and Teens in the area of Body Compassion.  Highly coveted.  Like the mini Oscars of the NGO world in our region.  We won the local leg before our trust was even one year old.  Completely gobsmacked, I went up to receive the award. Craig and I both were tearing up because we both knew how hard we had worked for it and how much passion and love we had for the trust's vision.  We didn't expect this level of acknowledgment period...we were working on ideas that dont usually get much attention and we didn't expect it to be embraced so completely.    I went up and accepted the award on behalf of the tweens, teens, mothers, and women who had been so incredibly authentic, brave and inspiring in helping us to shape and develop the trust into its current form as a champion of Girl Power, Grit and Body Gratitude.

This was amazing.    A shift away from self harm and into treating ourselves as our own best friends.

So the win was huge.  It made me rethink everything I was doing.

The above picture was what we put up online.  It made it look like everything was smooth sailing for us...Mmmmm the truth is there was a heck of a lot of fast paced pedaling under water for that smooth glide to look effortless.

The Tension Between Dreams

That was two weeks ago.  Three days ago I was driving in my car, with tears streaming down my face, my brain in a complete fog.  I knew where I was heading... that was about it.

I realized I had hit a wall.

Not literally in the car.

But emotionally, mentally and physically.  The irony of having just won a Health and Wellbeing award was not lost on me. 

I am used to functioning at a pretty high level of clarity and energy...this was the opposite.   I normally operate on about 7 hours of sleep.  I had been sleeping for 10 hours a night for many days. 

That morning in a meeting with Craig, I needed to leave the conversation mid-sentence and go touch something green. I had been deep in computer work for days and days and days. I had had enough.  I got in the car and drove off. In fact, it reached a point where I started yelling to myself in the car "I don't know what to do! I don't know what to do! I don't know what to do!"  I didn't.  Not even remotely know where to start and that was a foreign position for me.  I usually have plans A - G boiling somewhere.  Not formally mapped out but I know I can improvise if A and B fall flat. 

But this was something completely different.

I couldn't even wrap my brain around my A.  I felt confused, befuddled, and scared.  I felt like my mental faculties were simply off line.   But it wasn't like a clear seeing meditation where you drop the monkey mind. was like being in a peasoup fog.

I'm not keen on people seeing me not pulled together and with vision.  I'm the person people turn to in an emergency.  I am not often the emergency myself.   This was new territory and I didn't like it.  But I humbled myself and asked for help. 

I called Stephanie.  My dear friend and mentor.  I told her what was happening.  She smiled through the phone and said she expected this sooner or later because she knew how hard I had been working to make the trust, do my art, and run the studio with Craig.  She blew lots of love down the phone at me and then ordered me to do nothing of value go get a massage if I could and drink lots of water, go for walks and then watch mindless TV for a bit. Do bugger all for days if needed until the fog lifted and it would if I honored the fog.

I got out of the car and started walking and found myself at Rivendale.  The scene from Lord of the rings where Frodo goes when he has been mortally wounded and needed healing.  The irony was not lost on me. I hugged some big beautiful trees in the forest. Watched the swollen river for a while and breathed deep...

I followed Steph's advice and got a massage.  It hurt alot...signs that my body was locked up too.  Then I went to the chiropractor to fix the trigger spots I discovered in the massage.  

Went home and slept.  And slept. And slept.

Craig fed me and kept the studio going well in my absence.

I had never experienced anything like it before.  Now on the otherside of it I think I know what it was.  

I had reached a turning point.

It was a download of the next segment of the story.

The fog was like a reboot.  I had to be litterally knocked offline to clear the decks. 

It was a death of sorts.  I felt what it would be like to be without the functionality of my mind.  It was a loss. But then a gift when it came back online. And when it did I knew that I needed to shed whatever I could and focus on the trust 100%.  To simplify. To consolidate.  To be kind and honour my body and my energy.  (to walk my own talk really).

I think it is important to share this non instashiny moment.

I used to get really jealous.  When I would see other's successes it would piss me off. 

What I would experience was a deafening litany of that critical voice in my head comparing my "failures" to their successes.  My need for hard slog to their swan like grace.   Girls and women often do it when they look at Instagram and see others "perfect life" or "perfect hair/butt/boyfriend"

But here is the deal.

Looking back now, I realize that every brilliant transition to the next level was preceeded by a bit of a burn out.  They were like fires burning off the crap I no longer needed in my own jealosy for one.

It was like my body hyjacked me and said.  Wake up have important stuff on this planet to do and this aint exactly it.  Stop being afraid and next level.

About 6 years ago one of those mini burn outs pushed me down  an inner world tour.  I made a commitment to be my bodies best friend and that started with turning down the dial on my inner critical voice who was anything but a friend to my body.  That journey is what has fed the vision of the trust.

I am here to say that it is possible to turn down the volume of the green eyed monster.   The one that compares.  I am also here to shout from the roof that this is the equivelent of my life cellulite.    Culture teaches us to hide parts of our body that are considered "unsightly" (which is BS) Culture does the same with our life.  Well darlin this is me wearing a mental bikini and saying...yep I have some brain muffin top going on...and it is just as okay as my "unsightly" thighs.

And back to the jealousy.  When you start to give yourself a break.  When you start to really back your own dreams.  You start to only get excited for others when they are winning.  Jealousy for me is an emotional key that you are not backing your own dreams and you haven't yet truely committed to the path of self compassion...because if you are kind to yourself it is much easier to be kind to others.  It is much easier to see their developing personal power as a win and a force for good in the world.

So back to the breakdown.

I was ugly crying in my car.  This is what isn't seen on instagram.  I remember looking at Craig when I got back and telling him.  You know that cup of energy I am always talking about.  Right now mine is empty disconnected and dusty.  I have zero to give to anyone right now. Not even myself so I am going to lie down and do sweet FA. 


That is exactly what I did.  It was miserable weather and I laid down on my porch couch and just watched it.  Then I slept some more.  Then I watched it.   I felt unplugged.  I existed in the white space.  I realized that most of the problem was that I had had no white space.  No gaps in the schedule.  No mandatory touching of the earth.  I was ungrounded and floating in a cyber world to duties.  It was toxic without the grounding componet and literally fried my circuts.  I wasn't sure if I was going to recover.   That was scary.

I think burnout is the body and the soul doing an intervetion for the racing mind.

The soul knows when it is time to pivot but the mind grasps and clings and convinces you otherwise.  In todays cyber saturated world this can get seriously out of control.

The Soul Pivot

My personal belief is that we have a mission to master and bring our unique gifts to the planet.  These gifts need to be developed to properly exist and that isn't always a straight forward path.   More like a sailing ship tacking towards a distant shore.  This way in the wind, then that way in the wind.  Burnouts are when you have tacked too long in one direction and haven't adjusted course to get back inline with your souls purpose.   So burn outs, and mini versions of them are sign posts that you are off soul track.   That something is blocking your mastery of your gifts and you need to figure out what that is.   You need white space to do this.   The modern world makes this very difficult. 

To the outside person, it probably looks like my sailing ship has been piloted by a drunk.   In my 46 years on this planet I have been the following in chronilogical order. 

  • A baby sitter/dog walker. (as a tween)
  • A professional clown. (as a teen) - Stuff minimum wage...I was getting $100 a birthday party and no one knew I was 14 as "Tootsie".
  • A professional cellist. (as a teen to 21)
  • An Electronics Technician in the U.S. Navy. (early 20s)
  • A Naval Nurse Corps Officer. (my twenties)
  • A Womens Health Nurse Consultant (late 20's to mid 30's)
  • A Lactation Consultant  (late 20's to mid 30's)
  • An Organic Blueberry Farmer  (My early 30's)
  • A Professional Photographer (36- now)
  • A Filmmaker (last year)
  • A Philanthropist (the last year)

My critical voice was deafening about these tranitions but my soul was happy.  Each one brought a wealth of experience to the next adventure. Most of them were preceeded by a hyjacking of my mind like the one I felt a couple of days ago.   The white space needed to be created to allow the whisper of the souls voice to be clearly heard.

So here is what I think my soul is trying to tell me

It looks like it is time for me to take another risk.   This time it feels even bigger. In its current form the Every Body is a Treasure Trust is not sustainable.  It is 100% volunteer run. Our photography studio has been underwriting it and I have been writing grants early in the morning before the clients arrive then again after dinner to the wee hours.  It has no finacial support other than the social enterprise aspect of the photography.   But then when I am shooting to raise money I am taken away from the work of the trust.   It was becoming a cycle that I didn't yet have the depth of fundraising knowledge to crack... but other trusts have done it.  So I know we can too...make the transition from purely volunteer to sustainably funded.  There will be an answer... There will be a way. 

My body made it very clear that I had to choose.   My choice is to shift the focus to the trust. So what you will see is over the next few months I will be dreaming up and manifesting ways for the trust to be financially sustainable. (If you have any ideas...please feel free to share!...girl power is all of our gig right!)

So self-compassion it begins here.  Slowly gently, For me that means rest and contemplation about the most correct way to make this this (white) space.


Action Point:

  • If you are feeling a bit brain foggy...may I suggest taking your shoes off.  Taking a walk in some grass and taking a bit of a green bath?  Get some white space about you.   Tune in to the soul's language.   See what it has to say.
  • Feel free to fire me an email if you have any ideas on how we can make the trust more sustainable as we navigate this pivot.

Image Credit: Karolina Stus