Writing this blog post about compassion fatigue was draining in itself. It was also undeniably worth it, especially as someone who is prone to burnout and hopelessness, because it gave me an awareness of when I might be pushing myself too far and what I can do to alleviate those things that may lead to burnout down the line.
But let’s go back to complaining for a moment. Learning about the symptoms of compassion fatigue, as well as reading the stories of those who suffer from it, was heartbreaking. I hope that no one ever has to go through the exhaustion, numbness, or feelings of inadequacy that come with compassion fatigue. I also hope that by writing about it, I may prevent even just one person from experiencing it.
Now, I feel the need to talk about two things that have brought me delight while I researched and wrote that post, in part to counterbalance the heaviness of its topic and in part to simply share my joy with all of you on this platform. Choosing positivity is not about ignoring or avoiding the negative, but focusing on those things that bring happiness and purpose in spite of negativity.
One pattern that I noticed over and over again for the past month or so are stories–both fictional and in real-life–about friendships that are so incredibly, inseparably close. I watched Booksmart, a wonderful movie about two friends who decide to go wild just before their high school graduation. I also restarted listening to Dax Shepard’s and Monica Padman’s podcast, Armchair Expert, in which Dax frequently talks about his continuing relationship with his childhood best friend. Additionally, Dax’s and Monica’s friendship is incredibly close and vulnerable, which is highly apparent in many of the episodes of the podcast. The book that I’m currently reading, The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell, spends many of its pages detailing the intensely close and vulnerable friendships that are formed between many of the characters–friendships that eventually lead to the ultimate adventure of exploring a new planet (which isn’t a spoiler, by the way, due to the book’s fantastic achronological order of events). Finally, I read this article from The Guardian about the friendship between comedians Mel Brooks and Carl Reiner that has spanned 7 decades.
Reflecting on all these examples of friendships, I was able to think back about the friendships that have delighted me over the years. I remember sitting next to my best friend in high school on buses on the way to band competitions and how we would share one pair of earbuds to listen to music off her iPod. I remember playing around with the pre-programmed settings on the keyboard that lived in my family’s basement whenever a friend from elementary school would come over. I remember staying in during college to drink and play card games with my ex-boyfriend and many of our friends.
I don’t think I’ve done enough in the years since I graduated college to maintain close friendships or to foster new ones. I say this not with sadness, but with hopefulness. “What steps can I take to better maintain the friendships that I have and to broaden my friendship circle?” I’ve asked myself. And now I can take those steps.
Another source of delight lately has been the improved weather. Whenever possible, I like to go out and walk the trails that are scattered through my city, but it’s been so cold and snowy for the past several months that I could always find an excuse not to do it. However, the frequency of snow has dramatically decreased within the last few weeks, and the temperature has risen by tens of degrees. (That’s in Fahrenheit, of course. From what I understand, a 20 degree increase in temperature in Celsius within just a few weeks would be alarming, not delightful.) With this dramatically better weather, I’ve been going on hour long walks on a daily basis, and I’ve noticed dramatic differences in my mental clarity and just overall excitement to be alive.
My life within the past few weeks has not been a cakewalk. I’ve experienced heartache, anxiety, and disappointment, but I’ve made a choice to take the time to write about the things that bring me delight, and, honestly, that has made such a big difference.
Writing for this blog (pouring out my emotions in poetry, expressing my joys in personal blog posts, and doing fulfilling research on a topic that I care about) has already dramatically impacted my life in the short just-over-a-month time span that I’ve been doing it. Thank you to anyone who has been along for the ride.