Shifting Out of Overwhelm: Letting Go
When I lived in Portland, Oregon, I would take regular walks around my neighborhood and admire the homes, the trees, and the gardens. It was an older neighborhood, so the styles and ages of the homes varied greatly, from craftsman to Tudor to ranch. But there was one house I passed most days that was always a little curious to me. Since the sidewalk came within just a few feet of the front door, I could see that on the windowsills and on the tables just inside were hundreds of little figurines, doo-dads, collectibles and the like. I wondered what stories each of those objects held, where they had come from, why the owner displayed them like she did. I'm sure those things held meaning and memories for her, invitations to reminisce and remember. But I also suspect they held dust and cobwebs, or if not, required no small effort each week to keep them clean. For me as an onlooker, the sight of all of them crowded together was so visually overwhelming that I quickly turned my gaze elsewhere and kept walking by. I never truly saw and appreciated even one of them, because there were too many.
Now, I want to be clear that I'm not against trinkets or collectibles or objects that hold significance and memories for us. And I also highly respect my neighbor's choices for her own home decor, whether or not I would choose the same. But what I did learn about myself and about life from that experience and many others is that more is not always (or even often) better.
That might sound rather obvious, but it's also deeply counter-cultural. It seems the message I hear, see, and feel so often is that more really is always better. Consumerism tells us that we'll be better off with more stuff, more money, more activities, more in our schedules; we're worth more when we accomplish more, produce more, know more. We keep consuming and producing and are told to just keep expanding our capacity when things start feeling tight. Get a bigger garage, a storage unit, a bigger house, or a bigger closet to store the expanding amounts of stuff. Sleep less and less and rely on caffeine to give you more hours in the day for more work, more productivity. It's a prevalent and seductive message, but it's based on deep insecurity and leads straight to overwhelm and burnout.
The truth is that we are, in fact, finite. We're human. We don't have unending capacity, in our garages, in our bodies, or in our minds. We need rest, we need empty space, we need freedom to focus on just one thing at a time, and sometimes to focus on nothing at all. Truly, this is good - it's how we're made. Perhaps we could work with that rather than against it? Trying to keep all the things in our minds and focus on everything that somebody somewhere said is important usually means our attention is so scattered that we miss everything. The tiny flower pattern on that beautiful, hand-blown glass piece from Venice is completely lost to our eyes and our hearts when 20 other glass figurines sit within a few inches, vying for our attention. And when we pile the stuff so thick in our garages, both literal and proverbial, we can't find anything when we need it.
You're invited to let some things go today, in your heart and mind and, possibly also, in your garage. Take a few moments to pause and be still. Sift through all the voices competing for your attention to find your own heart, mind, body, and spirit. In order to focus on the one next right thing, you have to set down, at least for a moment, all the other things, both good and distracting. Give yourself permission to do that, to say no, to prioritize - to shift out of overwhelm by letting go.
Once you've turned your attention to your own voice, if the thing you're drawn to focus on happens to be developing a habit of taking good care of yourself, I invite you to join me on Patreon. We focus on just one type of self-care tool each month, and you can choose how much or how little of your focus and energy you want to devote. There's an option for just one short video per month, all the way up to the full gamut - a longer live monthly practice, a monthly workbook, and two short videos per week. If this is the right step for you, I'd love to see you there. Whatever your next right thing is, I encourage you keep refining your focus, letting some things go, and aligning your schedule, your to-do list, and your garage with what your body, mind and spirit are leading you towards.