The Day I Stopped Telling Myself No
Updated: Jul 29
At first I blamed my fatigue on the time change. Like everyone else, I’m admittedly more tired than usual. Coffee seems to be a total fail, as does getting more sleep, and the mere thought of adding exercise to my day has me crawling under the soft blankie on my couch with droopy eyelids.
But it wasn’t just the exhaustion that was getting to me. It was everything. I no longer enjoyed anything. I couldn’t listen to any music genre—which is totally weird for me—picking up a pen or a case of watercolors downright irritated me, and the clutter in my house just sort of…got out of hand.
It wasn’t until about four days into this zombie nonsense that I realized I wasn’t dealing with a random bout of “walking depression.” I was dealing with burnout.
Burnout can happen to anyone, but I was still kicking myself. How could I let this happen? How did I not notice how much I had been overworking myself without a break? I’d been reading nothing but business and marketing books and ignoring Good Omens, had been listening to nothing but business-related podcasts and watching art documentaries. And while the art documentaries were fun to watch—Sky Ladder, anyone?—and I enjoy working on my website, I was absolutely miserable. And when that Curious Lina, the one who enjoys learning new things and experimenting and “playing,” would come forward and sheepishly ask Business Lina: “can we try something new?” Business Lina would grumble and growl and mention something about branding.
And that, my friends, is why I got burned out. Because I kept telling myself no.
No. I couldn’t paint with oils because the cat would get into them and make a mess.
No. I couldn’t paint with acrylics because plastic is bad for the environment and isn’t that what acrylic paint essentially dries as?
No. I couldn’t paint anything but my latest “Yin” series because I had committed and told everyone online and now I was held to it.
No. I couldn’t experiment with watercolors because I was out of paper.
No. I couldn’t try something on my art bucket list, like sculpting or weaving or candle-making, because I was supposed to be “working” and candle-making wasn’t going to pay the bills.
No. I couldn’t take a walk. Because time is money.
So what did I do instead? I dug myself deeper and deeper, into the rocky soil of marketing and advertising and forgot all about my “why.” And I got burned out. And I thought about quitting my job.
Until the day I finally said yes.
I grabbed a canvas I’d painted black a month or so ago—painted over a failed painting—and reveled in how it was black because it matched my current mood. I made my next choice and plucked dioxazine purple from my oil drawer. I could barely see the violet on the black, but as soon as I smelled the linseed oil I could feel the burnout fading. Seriously, you guys, it was that quick.
Despite my sudden thrill, I was still annoyed, irritated, depressed, anxious, frustrated, and everything in-between. So I would occasionally scribble with the brush, press hard, smear paint in a not so fat-over-lean kind of way. I basically took it all out on the canvas. As I worked, I reminded myself to focus only on the colors, the brush, the palette knife, the moment. The emotions. I took deep breaths to as if to say it’s okay to enjoy this. And painting became less of a what and more of a why.
I returned to the painting the next day, now able to block in my colors and decide that it was, in fact, a garden. The seeds were my anger and frustration—rooted in their dark place—the blooms were my growth. I decided to call it “Moon Garden” as I brushed on lighter rose hues to represent moonlight touching petals. I imagined a magical place, where even though it’s dark, flowers glow and frogs thrum and water trickles nearby. It’s like the Yin part of a Yin-Yang, with that tiny white circle being the fireflies landing on leaves.
I’m not sure what the future holds for this painting, which I have called "Moon Garden." I may one day finish it, or it may sit on my painting shelf as a reminder that I broke through the burnout and just let myself be.
Until next time, may you outwit your resistance and tell yourself yes.