How many ends does that candle have??

“It’s better to burn out than it is to rust.”

These words, attributed to Neil Young, embody my usual philosophy. There isn’t much time– fill as many minutes as you can with usefulness. I’ve driven several family members mad with my need to be constantly “doing.” Personally, I don’t see this as a flaw. It’s why I’m a lawyer, a parent, a quilter, a writer, a musician, an artist….The list goes on. Several of those titles are full-time occupations in and of themselves, but I cheerfully try to shove them all into 24-hour periods with sleep–sometimes–as a bonus.

Which brings us to the issue of burn-out.

Every few years, I have to confront the feeling that I just can’t stand X any more, X being varied subjects, depending on the day. Over the last seven years, it’s often been trying to learn about and deal with the needs of our special kids. We have no family within five states, so we’re it. Fortunately, we’re a couple that pull together when dealing with this issue instead of falling apart like so many others do. I may finally have a handle on them, though, thanks to an excellent BSC (yes, you, Heather!) who showed us how working with our instincts was REALLY the right way.

Now the emphasis of frustration has changed to the work. The more time I spend writing, which gives me a wonderful creative boost and rush, the more I realize I’ve lost that same quality in my law practice. Most days I dread even stepping in the office door or answering the phone.

Many of my colleagues would point out family law is a difficult specialty, one steeped in personal involvement with people living in hell. They aren’t at their best–who could expect them to be? They are demanding and afraid and needy, very needy. My stationery reads ‘Counselor at Law,’ instead of attorney, mostly because I often do double duty. The big successes are far between. It’s not like real estate law, where someone wants to sell their house, someone wants to buy it and everyone leaves the transaction happy. In family law, more often, everyone loses and occasionally there are some trimmings left for the kids.

After 21 years of it…it’s starting to get old. I wonder how much more I have to give, at least in this form.

I’m certainly not alone. Burnout is a way of life in America, all of us pressured to do more and more, faster and faster, with less satisfaction than ever before. Stress is a national disease, as shown by the rising sales of prescription medication and self-medication. Can you afford to let either catch up with you?

Try this test for burnout:

If you see you could use some help, here’s a site with some suggestions to help catch burn-out before it hurts you:

There are many more. Check them out. Take care of yourself. You deserve it.


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