Negativity- the Sinking Sandpit Towards Despair…and Burnout

Well, it’s been a hot minute since I’ve written. Three months without a word, and now I’m going full blast on negativity…

Yeah, because I’m feeling it really bad right now.

I’m going to share some things going on in my life that I do recognize sounds like “first world problems” but it is serious and contributing to a problem I am seeing form in my life.

I moved to Hawaii (I know, boo-hoo, woe is me). Yes, Hawaii is considered paradise to many, but I always considered the Pacific Northwest to be my paradise. Most specifically, a different collection of islands– Whidbey Island and the San Juan Islands. They are like heaven to me. But I moved to Hawaii… to work with elephants (I can see you all rolling your eyes at me– working with dream animals in a dream location, the HORROR!). Only, I wasn’t particularly excited to work with elephants again.

What’s not to love about these silly nillies?

I know, something must be wrong with me… but I was hoping to work with new species– primates, hoof stock, the Keiki (children’s) zoo. It’s not that I don’t like elephants, or that I’m ungrateful for the opportunity to work at the zoo. In fact, I’m incredibly grateful to be given a chance after being out of the field for as long as I have. Perhaps I thought that getting this fresh start would give me a fresh new experience. New animals. New place. All that.

So I fear I may have started out in my new position a little jaded. I didn’t want to be. I was excited to move to a location that had access to snorkel, swimming, and scuba diving opportunities just minutes away. I am excited to bring ZooFit to a zoo not just as a consultant, but as ONE OF THEM. Walk the walk and all that. The elephants are pretty amazing, too. May not have been what I would have chosen for me, but I like to believe in the universe and purpose, so I’m letting the universe take the wheel for a moment. And as I kept telling everyone, even if it doesn’t work out, I can now definitively say that I lived in HAWAII. Plus, my husband has an incredible opportunity to make an impact with his art here. We’re already getting him set up to sell his art at the weekly Art on the Zoo Fence.

But now that we are here, both of us are feeling more negativity set in. And starting to see obstacles and annoyances rather than opportunities. Is it the heat? Is the sun frying my brain and heating up my emotions? Or is it the city? Honolulu is a smaller city than Seattle, with about half the population of the Pacific Northwest metropolis. But it FEELS like a huge city. It’s hardened, the people are often rude (there have been some amazingly nice people, but a lot of rude ones), and there’s a lot of crime.

My first week at my new job, a homeless person was found deceased nearby. There was also a big news story about the zoo parking lot scamming visitors (it was a insert to pay parking meter, which some scammers set up a reader to steal credit card information). When we got our bikes shipped in, we were excited to explore the island without the car. But we quickly learned that even with bike locks, our nice bikes would be targeted for stealing. Cut the locks, take the tires or whatever they could dismantle, and leave us with a bare skeleton. Even my bike, which is ten years old, is considered too nice to leave unattended for ten minutes.

At work, I am struggling with a huge culture change. I wasn’t issued keys, I have to check them out each morning when I come to work. How we ask for days off is different than any other place I’ve worked at. There are just some things I’ve taken for granted simply because I’ve never experienced anything differently at the four facilities I’ve worked at in my career. It’s not bad per se, but very different. I also process and behave a little differently than my co-workers. I like to think I’m thoughtful, but it’s seen as brooding and distant.

And to top things off, I’m feeling a bit of pain– in my back, my hips, a little in my knees when I’m not careful lifting things. I’m seeing a chiropractor, practicing many of my exercises therapists have provided for me, stretching and doing mobility before work, and trying to lose weight (which is a WHOLE OTHER blog post of frustration). I’m in physical pain, which causes emotional and psychological pain and feeds that negativity cycle.

When you mix everything I mentioned along with the heat (that I do not tolerate well at all), the big city, and challenges at work on top of what I’m feeling or thinking, I’m afraid I’m creating a negativity super storm that is just zapping my energy, my motivation, and my positivity.

It came to a head today when I got upset about, of all things, the way my workplace handles federal holidays. Folks, I don’t care, nor have I ever cared, if I have to work holidays or not. Why am I getting all bent out of shape about working them, or not being able to take the day off?

It’s the negativity taking over.

And I’m struggling now to see the ocean for the coral reefs, the gorgeous rainforests, the amazing animals (both inside and outside of the zoo) and how they replenish me. It’s amazing how quickly negativity can take over something wonderful. I always like to look at challenges and obstacles as opportunities (lesson from an oyster), and be persistent and never give up (lesson from a tiger). Hummingbirds are my special power animal, reminding me to just do what I can. And I moved out here with the lessons of the frog (let your voice be heard) and the raven (working together makes everything better) reverberating in my mind.

But I struggle to hold onto these lessons, these reminders.

Because negativity is strong. It is a sandpit that tears us down, creating gaping holes in our resolve and resilience.

I used to think not taking care of oneself was the quickest way to burnout and compassion fatigue. But now I’m pretty sure it’s negativity. And maybe perhaps self-care is a component to combatting the negativity in our lives, too, but when we let negativity build and compound on itself, it really takes its toll.

I really wrote this blog post to be a sort of journal. As I’m typing, I’m getting upset. I hate the idea of giving up, especially when I JUST STARTED. But wow, the negativity I’m experiencing in the city, in the workplace, and in my own mind is wearing me thin, and wearing me down.

The beauty I miss because I’m dwelling in the negative

How do we combat negativity and the effects? I’m not sure, but I’m going to try to find out. I’m trying to eat a little better (I finally got back into the groove of making my own lunches rather than buying pre-packaged/prepared meals), move a little more (riding my bike to work, mobility exercises with hubby in the morning, PT in the evening), practice my affirmations and meditations, read, and do small things for my mental health. Because when I feel better, I can do better.

I miss home. But I feel if I can get through this, I can make a huge difference and be an amazing resource for the zoo and zookeepers- not just here but everywhere. I want to help others. It starts with helping myself get through the negativity sandpit. Walking the walk while I talk the talk.

Even resiliency coaches struggle with negativity. It’s life. But how one responds and go forward is what separates the heroes from the other characters.

What’s YOUR go-to activity when you feel negativity piling on? Let me know in the comments. And I promise my next post will be less broody and moody, and more ZooFit. Doing what I can- today, tomorrow, and forever.

4 Responses

  1. “And I moved out here with the lessons of the frog (let your voice be heard) and the raven (working together makes everything better) reverberating in my mind.”
    Negativity happens. Only witnessing positivity also only sees half of life. I deal with negativity, but upon reflection, I realized many times it was justified, just temporarily seeing the other side. But that exercising patience and that realization has been tough. Working together, not work working but working through life, is easier (not necessarily easy, but easier). One of my favorite light-hearted sci-fi authors wrote something like, “Shared pain is lessened. Shared joy is amplified.” Share. Thanks for sharing. Good luck.

    1. Aww, Tom, thank you so much for that. Yes, the “working together” wasn’t in reference to work colleagues, but life colleagues, and I’ll need to look up that sci-fi author. Some true words of wisdom.
      Hope things are going well on my paradise island!

  2. Patti……What you just wrote IS me! It could have been written by me, except that I moved from WA state to South Carolina last year and I am without a partner. When you find an answer please let me know. Down here everyone’s answer is god. But I am not a believer…….

    1. Jean- I know the south can feel like a whole different world sometimes, I grew up in South Carolina and couldn’t get out fast enough when I went to college. But I know there are good people, and people who feel the same as you.
      A friend told me yesterday as I expressed some of what I wrote that one way to dissolve negativity is to find my people…not co-workers, not my husband– but a group of other folks– writers or SCUBA diving enthusiasts– and DO stuff to get connected.
      What part of SC are you living? Next time I’m visiting family, I’ll come out and say hi!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.