Fall Down Seven Times, Stand Up Eight

How many times can a person start over? A thought I have been fixated on for days now, maybe weeks. 

There is a Buddhist saying: fall down seven times, stand up eight. That was my mantra throughout many rough times in the past and it springs often to my mind. I have always found it comforting. a source of calm knowing that I can always get back up and keep going, no matter what. Lately, though, a question whispers to me from my mind: “what happens when you fall down the eighth time?”. How many times can you rise? 

Speaking with a friend last night about my concerns for my possible reaction to a newly starting high stress job and I mentioned that I’m not sure that I can survive another burnout. I expressed for the first time to someone else that I’m not sure that I can stand up again after another fall. 

In the last three years I have twice found myself in a situation of extreme burnout from combinations of horrible work environments coupled with personal relationships that ended at the same time. Literally…2019 saw a long term relationship end at the same time that a work flameout was happening. Identical situation this past summer. 2019 saw me in a full on mental breakdown that took months to crawl out of and impacted me significantly. This past year has been a constant struggle of finances, work uncertainty and topped off with losing a job and a relationship within a 2 day period. Serious case of deja vu to say the least.

So I sit here on the precipice of starting a new job next week. One that, while it offers a great salary and a challenging work environment, it also has a clearly outlined workload that will be heavy with very long days and a norm of 60 hours plus per week. In an industry that I have no experience in. I have a great deal of concern about whether I will be able to handle it. Not because I doubt my ability to do the work or the hours – I have had jobs like this before (my last two jobs) and I know that, one the one hand, I love it. I also know that both of those jobs ended with my self destroyed mentally and emotionally. I hear people say to set boundaries and stick to them; great suggestions. The reality is though that we are deep in a society that has birthed the term “quiet quitting” when it comes to basic work boundaries and doing your job. We all know that a salaried employee does not say no to a 12 hour day when their boss is staying late  if they want to keep their job. 

I am tired. Tired of starting over. Tired of standing up again and dusting myself off and gathering the strength to pull myself back together and forge ahead. What scares me more than being this tired is the honesty that sits within my soul that asks the questions “how many more times can you do this?”. I don’t have an answer for myself and that scares me more than the question.

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