An old friend asks in his blog post "Overwhelmed" if anyone else out there is feeling like he is after sharing honestly about how busy he is and how it is affecting him. And to answer him, I've decided to respond in blog form.
Yes, I know how it is. I've had to work too hard, get little sleep and have to clean and maintain my house as well as fulfill some well thought out and carefully chosen responsibilities at church, as well as invest in personal relationships. I've described it as juggling myself to death--either I drop a few balls or they drive me into an emotional or physical breakdown. It's been a long time, though, since I let that happen.
I would operate in a "go, go, go and stop, stop, stop" pattern which would involve constant activity until I got too exhausted or sick to function. When I began to see this after a few years of living this way, it was the real wake up call that I was significantly depressed.
I remember that moment really well--I was making a lasagne roll up dish for a church missions potluck, fighting a crushing feeling welling up in me. I got through halfway through the recipe and quit. I was trying to make the noodles stay rolled, and they kept unrolling themselves. They wouldn't look like the picture in my Betty Crocker Cookbook. I was ready to chuck those babies across my perfectly clean kitchen.
Instead, I called my friend, Tricia. We were both newlyweds at the time and loved our church's zeal for missions. Tricia and her husband were on the missions committee as well. She listened to my story and just said that she would pray for me and that I should take a break and stay home. And she asked if my problem wasn't about a stupid recipe, that maybe I was over-reacting.
I sat in my kitchen and looked at the factors that lead up to the feeling of being overwhelmed. It wasn't just I packed one more item into my schedule, plus a casserole. I wanted the casserole to be perfect, or I'd let everyone down. And ultimately, I was afraid to say "no" to my husband, because a perfect Christian wife would not do that. And I didn't want to fight with him. I was not in the habit of taking responsibility for my own welfare. I was not accostumed to giving myself a break.
So I prayed. When Dennis came home from work, I was still sitting in the kitchen with my unrolled roll ups talking to Jesus. He asked me when we were going to be ready to go to the potluck, and I calmly said not tonight, that we were staying home and I needed to rest. I was "peopled out". He told me he didn't mind staying home, either. I got some toothpicks, finished my recipe and we had roll ups for dinner.
A few years later, I found a good counselor. She asked what I wanted out of therapy. I told her I wanted a steady life, no crash and burns all the time. And for a few years, I worked on what was driving me. I learned that the inward pressure I sometimes felt was a warning sign that I was pushing myself too hard. I learned to ask for and get help. I learned to let go of perfectionism. I learned how to take care of myself. I took personal responsibility over what I could control, and gave up control over what wasn't my responsibility. And that Betty Crocker lied to me with that recipe.
Right now, as I am writing this, I have a laundry basket next to me full of laundry that has needed to be folded for a week. It's okay. Dennis and Youngbae are cooking steak for dinner right now. It's fine with me. I see an inch of dust in our living room, even though we've had dozens of people there since the last time I dusted. I can live with that. I need to call a carpet cleaner, but I'm waiting for the money to be saved to get the whole house done so it's taking a while longer. I'll wait, even though we have people in and out seeing the rug's condition. I haven't read all my mail, either. And I really don't care.
But I'm slowly dealing with my fridge that needs to be cleaned--chucking out the expired items and leftovers. I think about how to organize the linen closet (again) when I have a few moments. I am planning to do a thorough cleaning of our bathroom on Tuesday. I have a few phone calls to make to check on some friends and family. I find time to read "The Economist" while I'm on the can. It works for me.
But ultimately, I've chosen to draw near to the One who gave me this life. And only He can empower me to live it in a way that brings Him the glory.