Life can be overwhelming. Sometimes, it throws too much good at you. Or bad.
Life is complicated. And frustrating. And we don’t make it easier, either.
I have gone through enough times in my life when I am angry about this or sullen and resentful about that to know that my response is often to vacillate. To do nothing. To rebel.
I’ve gone through enough of them to know how to snap out of it, too. And when I can get up the gumption to kick myself in the butt and force myself to take that first step out of the hole I’ve been hiding in… well, it’s awesome.
What is that first step?
Let’s take an example: a messy, messy room. We’ve all had them. And we’ve all had to clean them up, too. (‘Cause, hi mom!)
How do you handle a room that is so overwhelmingly messy that, really, the only thing you want to do is shut the door and walk away?
There is simply too much to do. Your brain is exploding. Your heart is racing. You cannot imagine everything you’re going to have to do to get this room clean.
How do you fix that situation?
Start small. Baby steps. pick up one thing and put it where it belongs. Then another. And another. Don’t look too far ahead or you’ll freak out again. Just focus on the one task at hand, and when that is done, move on to the next.
It really so simple, and yet we psyche ourselves out all the time about it. Living in the present. Focusing on the NOW.
Sometimes, when my office is a mess–it usually is at the end of every single week (WHAT PIG WORKS IN MY OFFICE?!)–I dump everything into a box and pull one thing out at a time and put it in its place.
Sometimes, when I have used up all of the laundry baskets to store my clean and unfolded laundry for three weeks… (yes… ask my husband) I take them downstairs, one by one, and I Fold. Each. Piece. One. At. A. Time.
Eventually, my office is clean and the clothes are put away. Until next week.
The dishes are another matter…
Things in life can be sorted like this, too.
Right now, I am overwhelmed (and blessed) with the amount of work I have on my plate. I’m finishing up my special on Pope Francis’ pilgrimage to the Holy Land. I’m working on The Faithful Traveler in Portugal. I’m editing and writing a variety of videos about Catholic Philadelphia for the World Meeting of Families. I have a job that requires some attention, and a husband who requires some, too. Oh, and then there’s my dog, who insists on playing ball, being fed, and being taken outside (ugh! the nerve!) I’m trying to keep working out. I need to eat and sleep.
There are things I must do, and sometimes my days just don’t seem long enough. Sometimes, I lie in bed, my mind racing, and I pray, “Dear GOD! What am I doing?! I can’t do all of this!”
And then I pray, “Jesus, I trust in you.” over and over and over and over again until I fall asleep and start the next overwhelming day.
But sometimes, things happen that prevent you from doing that one thing that you set out to do. And what then?
The answer then is also simple: BE FLEXIBLE. AND KEEP DOING SOMETHING.
This Tuesday, I decided I would spend that day working on my website. The setting was perfect: my husband was out of town, so the only time I had to spend with him was when he called (LOL. I love my husband, I do! But sometimes being overwhelmed makes me go into BEAST mode and he gets neglected.). It had recently snowed, so I didn’t have to take the dog out (he’s potty trained). I had cancelled my personal training appointment that day because of the snow storm that never came.
Basically, I had ALL DAY to do what I wanted to do.
I never got it done.
First, my website was being slow. I thought it was the wifi, so I moved downstairs with my laptop and connected directly to the modem. GREAT. I had super fast speeds then.
But whenever I tried refreshing my page, it was still super slow.
I called my host, and they kindly walked me through a bunch of things. I emptied my cache. They sent some test emails.
Eventually, the answer was that my media files–the file that holds all of the photos and videos clips and everything else on my website–is huge. In fact, the guy on the phone told me it was one of the biggest he’s ever seen. Nice.
He also said that my photos were out of someone’s bucket list, which was a nice compliment!
The good thing is, the solution was easy. All I had to do was back up my website, delete my old blog posts, now that my blog has moved over to Patheos, and back to work! Simple. The CS guy pointed me to some plug ins, and away I started downloading right away.
It is now Friday. That plug in I downloaded is still backing up my website. FOUR. DAYS. LATER.
I still haven’t done what I wanted to do on my website. But in the meantime, I went through all of my external hard drives and identified what was on them and how much space they had and labelled them all. I wrote a press release. I wrote a business plan. I wrote a script. I edited some legal books. Made some calls. Sent some emails.
Do you know what I wanted to do when this whole thing started? I wanted to freak out, throw my computer out the window and throw a big ol’ tantrum.
But what good would it have done? Instead, I just moved on and did something else.
You may think I’m bragging. I’d have to say that I am. I’m proud of how I responded to this frustrating situation because, for the first time in a long time I actually responded to a situation in a way that I wished I would respond. I’m not normally like this. Normally, I do freak out and throw tantrums. Even if they are just on the inside.
Recently, I came across a book called The Obstacle is the Way. It’s a really good book essentially about stoicism. I enjoyed it so much I’ve listened to the audiobook twice. I may listen another time. And maybe another. I want the concepts to stick in my head.
I saw so much of the saints and how we are called to be Christians, trusting in God and being grateful in this behavior, I think if he knew it, the author would have been frightened.
One concept he mentioned was the art of loving everything that happens to you. Recognizing that everything that happens to us can be a lesson, can help us grow, if only we see it that way.
It reminds me of something my mom says: no hay mal que por bien no venga. Translation: There is no bad from whence good does not come.
The Table of Contents for this book is a lesson plan.
The first part is the first thing what we must do: PERCEPTION.
I perceive the room to be so messy that it is uncleanable.
I perceive that room to be cleanable if I take it one step at a time.
I simply have too much to do. I cannot do it.
I can do it.
Let’s throw the Catholic version in there: I can do all things in Him who strengthens me.
Change how you think. Awesome.
Part TWO: Action.
First step: DO SOMETHING.
If something goes wrong, be persistent.
Is an obstacle in your way? Let the obstacle become the way.
From a Catholic perspective… on Tuesday, I tried to do something on my website. I couldn’t. Perhaps God wanted me to do something else. Maybe it wasn’t the right time to tackle that job. Whatever the case may be, I will do whatever else I can to make my day productive.
Part THREE: Will.
Are you disciplined?
Are you humble?
Are you humble enough to love everything that happens to you, good or bad?
Do you trust in your God as much as you say you do? Do you trust in Him in all things?
It’s a remarkable book. I highly recommend it.
For now, as my website continues to be backed up, I’m going to move on to another task, and them maybe another. Eventually, I’ll get that website done. But at least, in the meantime, I won’t have allowed whatever obstacles rolled in my way to keep me from getting things done.
*All images were created using Bitstrips. Which is an awesome app.