I am blessed. I live an extraordinary life filled with amazing people, a loving (if crazy) family, meaningful work, and abundance on every side. This life is overflowing with blessing and love, and yet, I find myself collapsed in a heap, overwhelmed, and overloaded.
As it is with most things, I didn’t just wake up at the screaming edge, I got here gradually. It’s been a good year, we bought our dream house on a beautiful piece of land, we remodeled the kitchen, we celebrated our 25th wedding anniversary with a huge backyard party, we’ve had promotions, and milestone celebrations for family far and wide. We’ve also had some difficult losses and transitions this year, my father in law passed away last July, our oldest daughter moved away, we got a puppy, we’ve had family issues that knocked me to my knees for months at a time. Like you, we’ve had a year of life. Good, bad, boring, and spectacular, this is the stuff of life.
And then came June…
A business trip to Denver, the loss of an important partner at work, a major renovation project in the building, and a series of incidents and events that demanded all that I have. On top of that, my family from Oregon came to visit. I love my family, and look forward every year to their time with us. It is usually a great time to catch up with my mom and dad and my niece. This year, their visit coincided with complete chaos at work which demanded early days and late nights. It left me feeling like a failure both at home and at work. When they headed back home, I felt depleted and defeated… and then came last Thursday.
I take responsibility seriously. It is one of the things that makes me a good administrator and leader. If I’m going to lead you to it, I’m going to do everything I can to support you in it. I learned that from my Heavenly Father. Unfortunately, I don’t have the same power He does…
Questions, events, people, demands, responsibilities, and pace just felt like they are crushing me. Don’t ask me how I am, because when you are nice to me, I cry. I just keep going because… what are my options? Go home and leave my staff to deal with the issues at hand with out help? Stay and work to hold myself together enough to keep going? Sit in the corner and cry?
I stayed, and I cried when people were nice to me. I helped my staff deal with the issues at hand… and then I crashed.
What I found on the other side of the screaming edge…
– No matter how hard I try to organize my life so that I never get here… occasionally, I still do. I want to live a life with plenty of balance and margin, and sometimes I do. And sometimes I don’t. Looking back, there were some red flags, I should have seen on my calendar, but the truth is, most of this is situational. Not the planned things, but the unexpected that knocked me down.
– It is enough. No one expects me to be able to manage everything, perfectly, every time. My managers don’t, my coworkers don’t… only I do. Much of what caused distress in my heart was my own criticism and doubt/fear. I felt like I should… fill in the blank. Even when all of the things I felt responsible for were completely outside of my control.
– I am surrounded by amazing people. My husband sat with me, prayed with me, and made me laugh through this difficult time. My friends called, texted, and reassured me that I matter to them. Coworkers came alongside and helped hold the process (and me together). I found notes, chocolate, flowers, and practical help.
So now what? How do you come back from the screaming edge? This week I’ve been working my way through that questions.
Some things I have learned along the way…
Slow down and rest. So much of my distress is caused by simply missing out on much needed down time. Turn off the phone, the TV, and the computer and engage life.
Engage my senses. Listen to the birds, smell the fresh cut grass and the summer rain, stop and really look at the view outside your window. Better yet, get outside and experience nature. Stress and speed stop us from opening up to the beauty of the world around us. Take a walk, a run, or a bike ride… or simply sit and listen to the sound of the trees, feel
the wind on your face, and rest in the glory of the created world.
Return to routine. There is something soothing about the routines of my life. The smell of the coffee when I walk down stairs in the morning, regular bedtimes, laundry day, the mundane glory of every day life.
Listening people. I process my life out loud. On paper and in person. When I am overwhelmed, I need to spend time with good listeners. Friends who will enter in to the mess and sit with me there. People who are not afraid of my big emotions because they have felt their own.
Spiritual disciplines. Back to my journal, to quiet morning prayer, to regular attention to the scriptures … to the river where I fill my cup.
All of these things are restoring my soul and returning vitality and energy to my life, but I’ve noticed that life doesn’t really slow down around me. I want life to just take a bit of a time out. STOP, I want to get off! Instead life moves on, challenges loom ahead, illness, conflict, and pain press in. There is no place to hide from life… and maybe that is the point. Life just keeps moving on, and I need to lean into grace, into community, into my Father’s love to find refuge and strength to keep on.