Monday, July 25, 2011


Since I can remember (or at least since I've been old enough to have deadlines) there has existed for me a threshold of busy-ness beyond which I am unable to continue to function. Past that level I become virtually paralyzed by an overwhelming fear that nothing on my list can possibly be accomplished on time. And I do nothing. I am aware that this response is entirely self-defeating and ultimately self-fulfilling. Nothing will get done if I am not moving forward. The only reasonable course of action in these situations is to get to work. But it is crushingly difficult for me to do that when the list is too long. Some readers will not understand this at all. Others will totally get it. Brains are wired differently, and I believe this issue may be a symptom more on the anxiety-depression/functional acceptance spectrum rather than the hard-working/laziness spectrum.

Recently, I have become aware that this tendency of mine spills into other areas of my life beyond the "to do" lists. In fact, this post, which has been brewing and evolving in my brain for weeks now, was originally going to be about this sort of paralysis in relation to my body-image issues. Exciting, I know. To my credit, however, I did have a clever title and lots of little self-deprecating one-liners all ready to go. It may have been entertaining after all ...

I digress. As I pre-composed this post in my mind, I realized that at the moment my lack of inner peace involves SO much more than the number on the scale. I see areas everywhere where I am lacking, and where I'm really not headed in any sort of direction to improve, and I find it depressing. I am a Wife, a Mother, a Caregiver-Daughter, a Young Women President, a Dog Owner, a Gardener, an Amateur Artist/Musician/Seamstress, a Visiting Teacher, a Friend, a Blogger, a Reader, a Homemaker, a Chicken-Keeper, a Daughter of God, a Person with a Body. Without getting in the boring minutia of my pitiful life, I will simply say that the only role that I am not performing at a sub-par level is Reader. I am 6 books, or 11%, ahead of schedule to complete my goal of reading 52 books this year. Yay for me. Everywhere else my performance leaves much to be desired.

The list is too big. I am overwhelmed. And paralyzed.

In regards to my weight, I've been toying with the idea of how to *gasp* learn to be happy with the weight I am. I seriously don't know where to begin with that, but I feel like something has to give, and this is the only thing I see that can. Really though, it's a similar problem with the "everything else" part of my list. Is there a way for me to be at peace with who I am without giving up? I believe that we constantly need to be growing ... striving to be better. But for me, this comes with a super-sized side order of guilt and stress.

I am more than vaguely aware that the answer to this question has it's roots in prayer, in spiritual study, in service. Yet that awareness is easier for me to come by than to follow through on at this stage. The list is too big. I am overwhelmed. And paralyzed.

Ironically, it's the to-do-list type of activities which often overwhelm me that are keeping me from crawling under a rock at the moment. None of them takes emotional energy to perform. Drive to driver's ed? Check. Do the laundry? Check. Organize another YW activity? Check. And of course: Read? Check, check, check.

As I imagine comments to this post, I am tempted to turn them off. But instead of doing that (which frequently seems a little dramatic to me) I will just say that I'm not really looking for pity, or for solutions (unless they involve books and/or chocolate). If there's anything I need at the moment, it's camaraderie. Just so I know I'm not crazy. Or if I am crazy, to know that I'll have a lot of friends with me in the asylum.

7 fishy comments:

Lara said...

Mina, I could have written this at any given time in my life. I am rarely not feeling overwhelmed by the need to be something more than I am, to do more than I'm doing.

I think what you said about your weight--that something has to give, that maybe you need to be at peace with where you are now--is the secret. To be okay with where we are now in our journey to whatever. Being skinny, being a better wife and mother, improving our talents, being perfect. It's something I've been working on. Remembering that it is a journey and that I'm progressing even though it frustrates and overwhelms me every time I realize how much further I need to go.

2busy said...

Oh my heck, girl! I am wired the same way. The messier my house gets the harder it is for me to get started. I'd rather just grab that book. Or my to do list, yeah, how about blogging instead. It isn't laziness, but a sense of being overwhelmed.

I can see how this can affect weight. "I have to lose 15 pounds to be just right?" Kind of overwhelming to look at my whole number. Can you please pass the chocolate bar instead?

CaJoh said...

I think that many of us understand the paralysis that occurs when we feel overwhelmed. I admit that when I was supposed to have all the time in the world (when unemployed), I never felt that I could accomplish anything. I saw everything that I did "not up to par". And so many of those things that I wished I had more time in order to do I never did because I did not have the joy to do it.

I admire all the many tasks that you take on. Don't feel that you have to be perfect in everything that you do. Just being able to accomplish a given task should give one joy. There is beauty in your humbleness, and I am glad that you reached out. Be comforted in the fact that you are not alone and there are many who are here to help you along.

Heatherlyn said...

I haven't looked at my blogroll list for a while and when I did today yours was at the top of the list. As usual, it was a very good read. You are an intelligent, interesting person. I understand what you are saying, except that I don't think I get paralyzed by being overwhelmed. I think I am just lazy!!!! And that is another problem entirely.

For the record, I think you are beautiful. And I'm not just being nice. So if you did manage to be happy with yourself without engaging in a dramatic exercize/eating overhault at least you could know that you still look sexy and beautiful and very attractive even without being the size you consider ideal. And that's a very lucky thing. Just ask Larry, he'll back me up on how good you look. :)

I think this has to be one of the busiest times of life though, where your kids' lives are so busy, and you have many other obligations, it really does have a stressful overwhelming feeling even when there are a lot of good things going on.

I'll also say that it is definitely hard to put yourself first. And I think sometimes to tackle big problems such as overhauling a diet and exercize regimine that you have to put yourself first as the priority. Doing that is counterintuitive to the giving mother, giving wife, giving church member, giving caretaker etc. It seems almost selfish to put yourself first. It's easier to do nothing and be overwhelmed but at least you taking care of everyone else and that seems to be instinctively what is the "right" thing to do. I wonder if that isn't also largely a huge part of the problem? Or maybe that's just me. :)

Jenn said...

Oh, yeah. I understand this one, 100%.

Renn said...

I can SO relate! I always have a list that is too long for the time-frame in which I want it to get done. Always.

Every day I wake up and think about all the things I want get done, accomplish, check off my list. And every night I am disappointed that I didn't get enough done. I know not everyone lives this way. But so many of us do. So yes, I relate!

For me, my busyness (and subsequent paralysis) has its roots in perfectionism. If I can't do "it" right I put off doing it at all. I know this, yet still I repeat it.

Your post reminds me that I'm not the only one! Tks!

ClarkCanoodles said...

I'm getting so old that I forget what's on the list! AND with the increase in my age, there's an uncomfortable increase in my weight. You hit it right on with where I am spiritually. I have to keep reminding myself that as long as I'm trying, that counts. I would love to get your top 5 reads out of the 52...... :) Miss you