Tuesday, August 9, 2011

on overwhelm

Grasses in shadow, San Diego, July 2011

Why is it, on some days, I feel like I can tackle anything? Bring it on is my mantra for the day. I can dash from one task to another, checking things off my list, even managing dashes of creativity in the midst of busyness.

And then other days, I feel like I am slogging through life, like just finding the energy to put the socks away is difficult. I look around the chaos of my house and am unable to find the verve I need to try to put it in order. On these days, the words that come to my mind are impossible, insurmountable, and the mother of all sloggy, energy-less-day words: overwhelm.

On days when I feel overwhelmed, I try to take a step back, look around and decide on the tasks which are most important, either in the world (a commitment I've made that must be done), to my family (the basics of taking care of the children) or to my mental health (get some exercise, go outdoors). Then I usually try to take care of a few of the integral things, forget the rest, drink a beer, take a shower, and call it a day.

But I must admit that lately, I've had more days when my normal strategies just don't help much. Today is one. Yesterday was one, too. I look around and despair at the state of my house - the toys on the floor, the bookshelves overflowing, the kitchen counters crowded, the stairs cluttered. It doesn't help that construction on our deck has stalled and our tiny yard is filled with disorderly stacks of plastic boxes covered with a thick layer of sawdust-mud. On a nice day, our little outdoor space is a good respite for me when it feels that the walls of my small, full house are closing in on me. But not today.

So then there are choices. I can sit down and cry, recognizing that the internal overwhelm is being influenced by the external world (like news of the passing of the beloved founder of the company where Mikhail now works, a man who I never met but Mikhail so greatly looked up to that I almost feel I did). In fact, I wish I could sit down and cry, but sometimes tears just won't come when I wish they would.

Or I can pick one thing, and do that. I can go tackle the boxes and the sawdust and the cobwebs crowding my outdoor space, and hope that clearing a little external space will give me a little internal room as well - a clearing of the internal crowding that creates overwhelm.

And if I do that while drinking a beer and listening to loud music, and then take a shower, maybe it'll just all work.

Boards from our ripped-up deck, Berkeley, August 2011

And then, after I wrote this post, it went like this: I did not find the things I was looking for in the sawdust-covered boxes, I fell through the plastic cover on one, got even more overwhelmed when my husband arrived on the scene to witness the strewn-about boxes and stressed-out, maxed-out wife, husband took children over, I had that cry in the shower, put the kids to bed, then drunk the beer.

I think I'm done.


  1. Oh lady, thanks for another good one!! I haven't checked in with you in some time so I decided to look at your blog at 5am. So nice to know I am not alone. I have an abundance of energy (especially creative/social)and I am on fire at home, however it ends up burning me out so I hunker down for a few days to recharge (shut down)let the mess add up and then it overwhelms me. The worse part is I feel all alone and the only one who 'can't do it.' My overwhelmed factor intensifies if there are too many things broken at one time in my house and its messy--ebb and flow. Don't worry it's normal--for a few of us. You will have your house clean enough in no time. Who cares if you are not a domestic goddess anyway. You are a goddess of many other things.

  2. Thank you Becca. I never feel alone on my motherhood journey when I read your posts.