overwhelm and compassion

i came home from work last wednesday and completely broke down and cried. i had a tremendously jam packed day at work, following several weeks of preparation for a big day (two words: annual report). lots of work-related angst built up in me over the course of preparing for this thing, given that my research funding comes from the organization that installed the dam that made the upper river basin inaccessible to the wild populations of fish my research is supposedly aimed at understanding. my not quite four year old could tell you there is a problem with making the entire upper basin inaccessible to most of the wild fish who require that habitat to spawn. i feel, shall we say, conflicted, accepting their money. in another arena, i am facing some really difficult inner work on how to handle dealings with my coparent. which opens up several other drawers because it affects how i structure my life – career, living situation, child care, the whole works. these drawers had already been cracked open by the work angst mentioned above, but now picture them all flung open and their contents spilled all over the floor. me, on wednesday.

and then the transition from work to home- it has to happen instantaneously. zero down time, zero room to be five minutes late, much less grab a quick beer and unwind before i go back to being 100% of everything for quinn. add to that, i’m carrying out much of the parenting (feeding, clothing, etc.) that is going on while i’m not even with him, during the 40 hours i’m working, because there is some slack to pick up. i’m not the only one who is overwhelmed- and i don’t share this from a blaming frame of mind, but just to illustrate that i feel i carry a lot of weight on my shoulders as the main caretaker of our child and sole bread winner when i’m not even partners with this person any longer.


the evening before, i had been in tears as well. but that was overwhelm of a different kind- gratitude. some serious generosity has been shown me and i’m told i’m not allowed to pay for this giant load of firewood, which we were (my ego hates for me to admit this) desperately needing. our pile had seriously dwindled, in spite of careful rationing, and our house is both horribly insulated and unequipped with alternate heater- it’s heated solely by wood, without an insulated floor- a wind tunnel with and open floor plan and lofted ceilings.

that gift of wood, so freely given, juxtaposed with this: i am in the middle of rigorously upholding my boundaries in order to not give overly generously to quinn’s dad. it’s not my nature to hold back- when i see someone who is hungry, it pulls at me. and this is quinn’s family. and yet, the dynamics are such that i can be sucked dry by this person- there’s no end to what he will ask of me- if i don’t stay vigilant about saying no, and furthermore, with an attitude. i’ve had to work very hard to develop what might be called a healthy sense of entitlement- the bill of rights applies to me too, and though these truths are self evident, it took me a long time to apply them to my self! i have a right to pursue being warm and toasty, well fed, happy, free. (it doesn’t mean i automatically get handed these things- that’s not what i mean by entitlement- but i have every right to pursue them!) i’ve also had to work hard to give myself permission to let my tone match my intent- so that my soft-spoken words are not misinterpreted to mean i actually don’t feel i am entitled to pursue my own well being.

the firewood feels like it arrived because i am so focused on the universe’s ability to provide exactly what i need, exactly when i need it- i’ve experienced so many to-the-penny synchronicities in the past decade that have clearly demonstrated this providence in my life. i know it works. this faith is strong in me. it’s even happened before in the context of firewood- last winter i obtained and split all (yes, all) of our firewood with my own two hands, but not without several miracles wherein i pulled into a state park parking lot just after the maintenance crew had sawed up a downed tree into rounds. several! i’m not exaggerating. and my dad gave me a chainsaw for christmas 2009- top of my list of all time most empowering presents. along with the lessons he gave me as a teenager in handling a saw, that is. thank you, dad.

yet, i know that i have always had a pretty large helping of “fear of scarcity” and focusing on the abundance coming my way has definitely been a conscious effort- it’s not a coincidence that abundance is one of the most-used tags on my blog- any time i post anything that can be seen as the universe providing abundance, i tag it as such. consciously. it’s really at the forefront of my mind, given that i can see this parallel drive in someone else, to grasp for every drop of energy from people around him. i strive not to take it all personally, even when there are unflattering remarks made about my character. i am having to work very hard though, not to give in and believe these lies about me- that i am happy to be profiting off of someone else’s sacrifice. i know full well i have a generous spirit, and i am not only on the receiving end of generosity. indeed, i have been doing what i can to give to this man without cutting into our well being (quinn’s and mine).

anyway… wednesday night, i felt overwhelmed. and when i can name that, when i can sit down and let the tears come, and say, “i feel overwhelmed,” i open a door to having compassion for myself. if i focus on each of the things that is contributing in concrete terms to the intangible feeling of overwhelm, i can spin my wheels and spiral downwards emotionally. i can spend lots of energy despairing over not being able to figure out the way out of the too-many-intertwined-issues box. if i notice the overwhelmed feeling though, i can move on to “anyone would be” and “of course you are” and “you need some caring for.”

a good cry. a burrito reheated, some water to drink. some motherwort tincture (my midwife told me postpartum “take it when you feel overwhelmed” and i have been so grateful for that advice! and haven’t yet done any research on this marvelous plant, but always intend to…) and some skullcap tea. a little yoga next to the (now) toasty warm woodstove (thank you, l family). sleeeeeep.

i felt so much better when the sun came up. not really any less overwhelmed in the physical sense (all those same realities were there, unchanged by sleep) but so much less overwhelmed emotionally. the many issues are now tucked into their individual drawers in my mental filing system (it’s made of wood and the drawers have pretty handles- seashells and pretty stones and such- i recommend this visualization as a de-whelming tool!). because overwhelmed is not fun. one step at a time, i will tackle the contents of each of these drawers, doing my best each step of the way.

can't get enough of this little bird.

5 comments to overwhelm and compassion

  • lb

    babe i had the same kind of week πŸ™ i am not ashamed to say i called my mom and bawled- admitting that i too was way overwhelmed. i've learned some tough lessons in this life and the biggest was learning that its ok to accept help when you need it. remember my little friend Katrina? i was determined to come out on top all by myself but found out pretty quickly that was just not going to be possible. It was hard to graciously accept all the packages and monetary gifts from everyone but it helped me realize how lucky i was to have so many friends and family members who cared about me (including a certain package from Boo and a card from Ma and Pa Rew πŸ™‚ ) What got me the most were the cards and drawings from perfect strangers who were hoping that me and my animals were ok. It was a tough lesson to learn but i took everyone's help (and money) and vowed that even though i couldn't pay anyone back anytime soon, i would help someone in the future when they needed it most. You're the toughest babe i know and i look up to you in all sorts of ways for all that you've accomplished. Embrace your bad days- they make the good ones that much better πŸ™‚

  • Yes, I've been there too … I can go for awhile feeling great … but when it comes, it really comes, the tears, the sadness, the anxiety. I agree with you … decompression is huge … acceptance too … self-confidence and a sense of genuine self-worth. I've been feeling this way some lately because of the moving and job situation … which are okay, but still overwhelming. I just have to remind myself to go with the flow and to be spontaneous about the whole thing … not always easy though.

    The universe will provide when we are open to it, YES! So true, and I've seen this in my own life.

    You sound like a strong woman, a thinker too. You'll get there. Have faith in yourself and all will follow.

    Much love.


    p.s. where do you live?
    Juliana recently posted..living with the ex- among other unusual things

  • motherwort… i read that and it just jumped out at me. Hm… motherwort.

    Being motherwort to one another, wouldn't that be lovely?

    I am so glad you got wood. I can see how you're right in it, the giving, the receiving, the flow.


    Stacy (Mama-Om) recently posted..Giving Myself a Minute

  • mb

    wow! yes it would be lovely to be that for one another. such an awesome way of looking at it. i think as mamas we often are that kind of a balm for each other, actually. πŸ™‚
    mb recently posted..this moment β€œi’m riding a horse!!!”

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