Ever feel like your life has lost its spark? Like you’re just going through the motions and not really feeling anything?
That’s what happens to the hero and heroine of my contemporary romance novella, Snowbound with a Stranger. Dannie’s a nurse and Lee is an oncology social worker—two jobs that would knock the stuffing out of anyone.
Nurses, social workers, teachers, doctors, child care providers, police officers, firefighters—the people whose dedicated service keeps our community running—they amaze me. Their work is grueling both physically and emotionally, and yet somehow they manage to do their jobs gracefully while still maintaining relationships with other human beings and not collapsing.
How do they do it?
When I was much younger, I worked for community-based nonprofits. There I met people whose commitment completely floored me. Somehow they managed to survive the work we did—which was often unspeakably difficult—with their sense of humor and compassion intact. The same was true when I became a teacher—long hours (before, during and after school) plus the emotional impact of caring for so many sensitive souls, equaled an essentially zombie-like state at the end of the day. Yet many people teach successfully for decades.
Not everyone. In service fields, there are plenty of people who hate their work. Who resent it. Whose personal lives suffer because of it. Who do their jobs woodenly or spitefully or barely at all.
But those people who hold on to the energy and spirit of their work, who show love, compassion and kindness every day to those they serve—how do they pull it off? For twenty, thirty, forty years? How do they manage to not burn out?
This is a question that comes up for Dannie and Lee in Snowbound with a Stranger. Trapped in a cabin during a massive blizzard, with no one to take care of but themselves, they begin to see how caretaking has taken its toll on them. And then they help each other make it right.
They also have sex a lot. (Because they’re stuck in a cabin. And it’s medically necessary. Or something.)
In the coming weeks I’ll be hosting a guest series on my blog in which I ask six service providers—a firefighter, a union organizer, a social worker, an ER nurse, a teacher and a doula—to talk plainly about what burnout feels like and how to survive it. Come check out the discussion every Monday from June 4th to July 9th.
Today, I’d love to hear your stories. Have you ever burned out on a job that required taking care of other people? If so, what did you do to work through it? Did you read a metric ton of romance novels? (That’s what I did.)
A free copy of Snowbound with a Stranger goes to one random commenter, so join in the chat!
Thanks for reading, and remember: you’re important too.
Rebecca Rogers Maher lives in Brooklyn, New York with her husband and children. She is the author of the Recovery Trilogy—I’ll Become the Sea, Snowbound with a Stranger and the forthcoming Fault Lines (September 2012)—from Carina Press. You can learn more about her at her website and follow her on Facebook and Twitter.