Dear Annie: I pride myself on being an empathetic person. I'm known in my friend group and family as a person who "has it together" and is a comforting shoulder to lean on. I am also someone people can turn to at work to get things done and remain positive and professional. However, increasingly, I find myself wanting to curl up at the end of the day and just watch TV or zone out. I don't want to reply to messages from friends who want to meet up, and I'm also avoiding chores and other responsibilities. Just taking out the garbage feels like a herculean task.
When I do gather the energy to go out at night or on weekends, it's always a blast. But then it seems to take twice as long as usual to get back to a normal amount of energy. For being so attuned to others, I'm rather blind when it comes to my own life. Is this what being burned out feels like? How do I snap out of it? — Sizzled in Sioux Falls
Dear Sizzled: You sound like a loving and caring person, and yes, you are at risk of burning out. My homework for you is to try being as empathetic to yourself as you are to others. The best gift you can give yourself is time to engage in activities that give you joy and pleasure.
There is an old Zen story called "The Overflowing Teacup," which you might find helpful. You sound like a much kinder person than the gentleman in this story, but the message is the same: In order to help others, you must not let your own teacup get overloaded with other people's burdens.
"Once, a long time ago, there was a wise Zen master. People from far and near would seek his counsel and ask for his wisdom. Many would come and ask him to teach them, enlighten them in the way of Zen. He seldom turned any away. One day, an important man, a man used to command and obedience, came to visit the master. 'I have come today to ask you to teach me about Zen. Open my mind to enlightenment.' The tone of the important man's voice was one used to getting his own way.
"The Zen master smiled and said that they should discuss the matter over a cup of tea. When the tea was served, the master poured his visitor a cup. He poured and he poured, and the tea rose to the rim and began to spill over the table and finally onto the robes of the wealthy man. Finally, the visitor shouted, 'Enough! You are spilling the tea all over. Can't you see the cup is full?'
"The master stopped pouring and smiled at his guest. 'You are like this teacup, so full that nothing more can be added. Come back to me when the cup is empty. Come back to me with an empty mind.'"
Dear Annie: Quick question: Do you cut crispy bacon with a knife and eat it with a fork? Or do you pick it up with your fingers and eat it? — Fork or Hands
Dear Hands: That's my quick answer. Assuming the bacon is served crispy, whole and dry, it should be considered finger food. On the other hand, if it is really thick, you could cut it into pieces and use a knife and fork.
"Ask Me Anything: A Year of Advice From Dear Annie" is out now! Annie Lane's debut book — featuring favorite columns on love, friendship, family and etiquette — is available as a paperback and e-book. Visit http://www.creatorspublishing.com for more information. Send your questions for Annie Lane to [email protected]