Overwhelm, let’s face it, it happens to all of us. You get to that point where you feel that if just one more thing goes wrong, just one, you are going to snap.
I reached that point this weekend. For the last couple of months, I had juggled work, household chores, farm chores, my daughter’s volleyball schedule, regular 4-H meetings, 4-H project meetings, a fundraising event I agreed to take on, starting a blog, balancing a budget, holidays and family events. It has been a precarious balancing act at best. But I was making it work and I knew that several of my tasks would be wrapping up soon. I knew I could juggle everything just a little longer. And then my old faithful, my trusty hardworking vehicle who has never let me down, broke down.
You might think that was what sent me over the edge of overwhelm, but, honestly, I was pretty calm about the whole thing. I arranged to get it to a shop for repairs and I took over my husband’s truck for the week. He drives a service truck during the week so it wasn’t a major issue and I arranged for a loaner vehicle for the weekend. So, no toppling into overwhelm, I took that one in stride and moved on.
The toppling began a couple of days later, on a Saturday.
We had a full day planned, volleyball and team pictures in the morning, picking up a flatbed trailer we needed to decorate and then hauling the trailer to one of our local small towns for the Christmas parade. And without my vehicle. No problem, I have this. I packed up my daughter for volleyball and team pictures and headed out first thing in the morning. Her game was about an hour away and we were picking up the trailer on the way back. Easy enough.
We arrived early and things were going well…until the moment of my Epic Mom Fail. You can read more on that here. But the short version is that I had taken my daughter to the wrong practices and games since she started. And my fail meant she did not get to take her team pictures. Her first ever team pictures. Lord, I hope she can laugh about this when she gets older.
That moment caused a major disruption in my balancing act.
After the epic mom fail, I really wasn’t feeling too excited about any of the rest of the day’s activities. I had screwed up and I really didn’t see the rest of the day shaping up much better. But I had made promises and I wasn’t going to default on those. So, I sucked it up and the kid and I loaded up and went after the trailer. What should have been a quick ten-minute grab and dash became an hour-long brain twisting puzzle; involving dead batteries, dismantling a fence and unloading two trees and roughly 25 lbs of gravel. All, capped off by a 360-point trailer backing turn and a nosy neighbor. I used my child as a human bumper. I took the fact that we didn’t destroy anything in the process of getting the trailer out as a sign that the day was going to get better.
Probably shouldn’t have been quite so optimistic.
Once we were finally in route home and I was contemplating a leisurely beverage while I decorated the float/trailer, hubs called. He wanted to know if I had gotten a birthday present for a friend’s son’s birthday. It was that day at two pm. We needed to go. It was not on the calendar.
Let me repeat, it was not on the calendar. No problem, we just won’t go. But we had to; because they are good friends and because the birthday was last-minute and we might be some of the few people there. Which we were, so I’m glad we went. But the leisurely beverage got traded for a mad dash through pre-Christmas Wal-Mart with 4000 other crazy people. And then a race home to wrap the present and unhitch the trailer to go to the birthday for an hour only to race home and hook back up to the trailer. Still undecorated. To make a mad dash to the ‘not as nearby as I thought’ town, to careen into our spot in line and fling some garland, lights and signs at the trailer/float for a 1 hour Christmas parade.
Whew, done. Deep breath. Still no moment of overwhelm. Are you impressed? Stay with me, it’s coming.
We survived the terrible no good very bad day. And we were going to splurge by ordering to-go burgers from one of our favorite local restaurants and vegging on the couch. Woo-hoo!
We stopped on the way home, dragging our trailer/float, garlands trailing behind, at our favorite burger joint; only to find that they did not have our order. No hot delicious cheesy burgers were waiting for us.
Because I had called the wrong restaurant.
At that point, I was done. So, done. I was exhausted, my brain was begging for a break, I had multiple mom-fails, one epic, and spent the day racing all over town and I was just done. To top it all off, hubs called and proceeded to fuss about the fact that we were not home yet and that we had been gone all day.
Totally done. Complete overwhelm.
Overwhelm hit me even though I had made it through the day. When there was nothing left to do but eat a burger. Calling the wrong restaurant was the straw that broke this camel’s back. I could have cried at that moment. I wanted to. As I looked at my daughter and informed her that ‘No, we were not driving the extra 20 minutes to pick up the burgers, we were going home before anything else could screw up’; I wanted to quit. All of it. No more extra-curricular anything, no more animals waiting at home for dinner, no more projects, no nothing. We were going to become hermits and spend our life in study, quiet, calm study. I felt like a complete failure as a mom, as a volunteer, as a mature woman capable of handling the demands of my life. All I could think, was ‘Why do I even try?’
Sometimes it isn’t the big things, like a car breaking down, that pushes us to our limits. Sometimes it’s the culmination of a multitude of little things that make us feel like we just can’t handle anymore.
Anyone else ever feel like that?
As we walked out of the restaurant and got in the car, my child, who normally can talk the ears off a donkey, very quietly buckled herself in and sat saying nothing. And I realized she was making herself small and quiet so as not to set me off. She didn’t know what to say or do and so she was saying nothing.
I prayed at that moment. I asked for calm, for patience and strength. I asked to be a good mom.
And as I sat there with my head on the steering wheel watching my quiet child I realized that for her this had been a good day. She had played volleyball with her friends, had a trailer adventure, gone to a birthday, and ridden in a Christmas parade. She had gotten to spend the day with her mom; and, at least now, that is still a pretty, cool thing. And yes, she could tell I was stressed and frazzled and completely at the end of my rope, but she didn’t understand why. She had an entirely different perspective on my no good, horrible, very bad day. To her, all those glitches; that were such a major problem for me, that I had let ruin my whole day; were minor and totally worth it to have had such a fun and busy day.
As I watched my daughter, all I could think was, ‘how awesome it would be to see it from her perspective’. To be a child and not recognize all the hassle and headache.
But my daughter is smart and she is mature and she is not blind. It isn’t that she doesn’t recognize the hassle and headache. She just chooses not to dwell on it. She was well aware of how crazy the day had been and all the many things that had not gone according to plan but she had enjoyed it in spite of that.
And I realized that the only thing preventing me from seeing the day from her perspective; was me.
I was the problem. My negative mind-set had colored my whole day.
So, we took the 20-minute detour to get our hot, delicious, cheesy, burgers and we sang Christmas carols and looked at Christmas lights and laughed about all the screw-ups of the day. And she was right, it was worth every minute of that day.
Often, as parents and adults we get so hung up on doing things ‘right’, on having everything happen in just such a way or on a specific time-table that sometimes we forget to just be in the moment. We forget to look for the reason for our crazy schedule and crazier life. And we forget to how blessed we are to have those moments.
I wish I could tell you that I have some magic formula for overwhelm, some book or planner that will stop it from happening. But the reality is that no matter how well planned our day, there is always the risk of the unexpected. A broken-down vehicle, a misunderstood schedule, a difficult trailer, an unforeseen birthday or cheeseburgers from the wrong restaurant. The difference is how we handle them; whether we choose grace and laughter or frustration and anger. My best advice, as someone who has been there, is that when overwhelm finally hits, take a minute or ten, take a deep breath, say a prayer and look for the positive.
Choose to see the day with grace and laughter.