Life gets overwhelming sometimes.
For me it is usually when my days get busy with a myriad of tasks, all unrelated and “chore-like” in nature. Or a string of days where I’m compelled to be social in a situation not necessarily of my choosing.
Nothing life-threatening, nothing even very severe compared to what others go through. Anne Lamott puts it brilliantly in the Prologue to her book Small Victories; Spotting Improbably Moments of Grace when she says:
“The worst possible thing you can do when you’re down in the dumps, tweaking, vaporous with victimized self-righteousness, or bored, is to take a walk with dying friends.
First of all, friends like this may not even think of themselves as dying, although they clearly are, according to recent scans and gentle doctors’ reports. But no, they see themselves as fully alive. They are living and doing as much as they can, as well as they can, for as long as they can.
They ruin your multi-tasking high, the bath of agitation, rumination, and judgement you wallow in, without the decency to come out and just say anything. They bust you by being grateful for the day, while you are obsessed with how thin your lashes have become and how wide your bottom.”
Thankfully I have no dying friends to remind me to savor life and not get overwhelmed and caught up in the minutiae of daily tasks, or to stop me feeling annoyed at hours spent in activities not of my choosing.
But everyone needs something to remind them to breathe, relax, and be grateful. For me there are two things that do the trick. One is long walks with my camera. Even in the most crowded city subway or street, a walk where my focus is on seeing the world around me in photos calms me, quiets my mind and restores a sense of balance. The other thing is much simpler, but (go figure) not the one I turn to most. Call it a living meditation; which consists of simply doing basic things with purpose and intent.
Today, for instance, I not only took a long walk with my camera, but I straightened the living room and kitchen. (It has been a hectic week – I needed all the calming activities I could get.) Of course, I straighten the living room and kitchen almost every day in one form or another, but often I do it ‘by the way’ and in something of a rush. Today I slowed down, reminded myself to breathe and mindfully put everything in its place. It’s amazing the difference it makes. Does it sound silly? Yes, I think it does too, kind of. But it works. At least for me.
The trick is to do this every day – to make every task a mindful one, so that the overwhelming-ness of many tasks all needing to be done goes away, and every chore becomes an opportunity for living meditation.
Sounds good, right? I’ll let you know when I master it – I have a long way to go.