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burnout and space

June 26, 2010

“Space is the breath of art.” -Frank Lloyd Wright

I know a lot of artists of various kinds who have gotten so into their art form and the development of their skills that they forget the imperative utility of coming up for air.  I am inclined to be this way as well.  We have an inner drive to develop ourselves, which is wonderful, but that needs to be balanced out with compassion for the self, to realize that we are living beings not machines and that our growth actually needs air to continue on.  If you don’t let yourself take small rests once you start, no matter what you are doing, you will inevitably need to stop for longer, and you may even just quit.  So space must be incorporated into the process.  This can be challenging because we often don’t trust ourselves to continue on after a small break and also because our egos tells us we can’t quit, that we must keep getting better and better, but the irony is that you need to stop sometimes to continue getting better. Continuous positive development is only possible when you give yourself space throughout the process.

How does this apply to losing weight and loving your body?
I have begun to see how the artistic process applies to pretty much everything, and I am starting to believe that anything done with intention is an art form.  It certainly takes intention and an immersion in the learning process to lose a lot of weight or to get (and keep) your body at its healthiest state.  And so, I believe, this process also requires you to give yourself some space.

Space is not to be confused with excuses or laziness! Space is intentional and mindful, and it can only occur in conjunction with the urge to continue pushing.  Space is the choice you make to rest despite this urge to push.  It feels healing and restful, not wasteful like laziness.  The differences are subtle, but they are vastly significant.  And you are the only one who can know if you are truly taking space or just being a little lazy ;-P

I think this week for me has been a bit of both.  Sometimes laziness is the sign of burnout, the backlash of not taking the space you needed at the time you needed to take it.  I think I have been guilty of that lately, both in my poetry process and my body healing process.  I’ve been heading towards burnout and not listening to my needs.

Luckily this hasn’t gone too far, and it is nothing I can’t recover from.  The only trouble now that I have realized I need space is actually making myself take it! And that is a troublesome thing.  As soon as I think about taking a few days off of whatever I am focused on doing, I immediately freak out!  This is what freaking out in this way looks like for me:

About space from poetry I think: oh no!  If I take space from reading and writing poetry I will forget all the things I am in the middle of learning, and I will get out of practice and stop writing and I won’t get in to MFA programs and all of my work will be wasted!

Similarly, when I think about taking a break from pushing my body to change I think: oh no!  If I take a few days or, heaven forbid, a week off, I will never get to my goal weight and I will gain weight back and I will look bad and no one will know how hard I’ve worked and I will disappoint myself…

…and on and on and on.  These are all, of course, not true… and the more you build trust and a sense of integrity within yourself by following through and making positive changes and listening to your own needs, the more these freak-out voices sound foreign and false.

By the way, I should clarify something: by taking space from pushing your body to change, I don’t mean eating horrible-for-you food and sitting around all day doing nothing with your body.  Still, by all means, do what feels right!  I believe that the changes I am in the process of making are the permanent kind, and sustainability is crucial to this process.  When you are in the middle of a learning process and you need to take a break, you are simply realizing your need for allowing yourself to be wherever you are in the process right now. After a certain point in the process, it is OK to glide along for a short while on what you have already learned.  That’s what space really is, in a sense.  I think those of us who tend to forget about space really want to rush so much because we are not satisfied with where we are in the process, but it is important to remember you are doing great things and you are allowed to be where you are, even though you aren’t done. It is such a delicate balance.

As fate would have it, I’m going on vacation in a few days!  I will be on the east coast for a week and it will throw off all of my routines and make me a little nuts unless I take my own advice and view it as an opportunity to take some space from all of this pushing.  Maybe, for a moment, I can just BE.

❤ Diana Banana

image courtesy of

2 Comments leave one →
  1. June 26, 2010 5:02 pm

    Diana, this is so wise! I love what you said about space being INTENTIONAL. It’s so true. And necessary. I am wishing for you a fun and restful and whatever-you-want-it-to-be vacation.

  2. Jody Savage permalink
    June 27, 2010 9:08 pm

    Hasta la pasta, bebe! Remember you deserve all the good things life has to offer.

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