About a 2 years ago, I began sensing an ever increasing feeling of overwhelm. It started small and inconsequential. But it continued to build. It would come in the middle of the day, enjoying a conversation, a social media post, teaching a voice lesson, really anywhere. And it felt like an assault. It was the sharp sting of awareness of how far away I felt from what I wanted.
Everything felt uphill.
Achieving professional success the way I wanted it. climb up
Finding peace and organization in my home. climb up
Training my kids in righteousness. climb up
Connecting to the creativity in me. climb up
Engaging with Jesus in a much deeper way. climb up so so far
The mountain I felt forced to scale was massive, insurmountable. And yet I didn’t see any other way. I began to speak this feeling out loud saying things like “I think I’m barely surviving life, not thriving.” Or “I’m just barely treading water.” And the most depressing “I can feel myself shutting down.”
These are not fun feelings. Nor are they easy to share with the world. But I started getting nervous so I started talking. I talked to my husband, my friends, my parents, my boss, and to my counselor. I dove deep into Heartsync counseling and I felt like I had finally found a trajectory to freedom. (and I have, but that’s honestly a whole other blog)
Here’s what surfaced…
Overwhelm comes from being too crowded. We use that term to describe when things in life just feel like too much. We don’t use that word to describe boredom. Anything can be too much, even if it’s too much of nothing at all.
But I was feeling crowded. After becoming a mom to two wonderful children, I, like many moms, began to let the urgent displace the important. Because poopy diapers don’t change themselves you guys. I love meeting the needs of my family. I’m a textbook 2 (the Helper) on the enneagram so duh. And many of the parts of my life looked really good on paper. But I was suffocating under the pressure of it all. I had zero capacity to move forward in my life. The thought of my deepest dreams coming to the surface made me want to run away or go to bed for a long time because I was just. too. tired.
I hated the exhortations to hustle more, dig deep, or be more disciplined. Those words felt like punishment, failure, and frustration. The answer wasn’t to do more. Nor was it exactly to do less. (you can’t quit your family, and no one should be making that a choice in the matter)
I had no margin. No capacity. I was always tapped out, no room for more.
The answer was to make space. To do that I had to start in my spirit. On the outside, every hour of my day felt already accounted for. Someone else already seemed to have lay claim of my time, whether that be soccer practice, or teaching, or making dinner for all the living creatures of my home. I think this is where many of us pump the brakes, throw up our proverbial hands in frustration and say “I DON’T HAVE TIME!”
And we don’t. It’s true. No one really has tons of spare time. Even when I was single, childless, and in college, I somehow managed to go full speed, constantly busy, all the time. Now my husband I and I look back on marriage before kids like “Seriously, what did we even do all those years?”
But I digress.
The point is, we can’t start on the outside. Lest we all despair and quit life. The starting point is internal. I even discovered I can’t start in my soul. Pastor Bill Johnson said in a message I was listening to recently, “who ever goes deep introspective, looking at your life and comes out encouraged?” HA. When we go deep into emo territory, we often come out heavy and despondent, even when life IS good. Feelings are just weighty. It can be difficult to make space here because moving feelings around feels like trying to push water out of the way with your hands. No matter how hard you push, that water just rushes right back into the voided space you made.
So what then? We have to go to the OG of our makeup…our spirit. The crazy thing is, the most real part of ourselves often feels like the most mystical and least tangible. How do you make space in the unseen? How do you build capacity without a tangible container to measure?
This may seem off topic but hang with me here.
Tony Robbins says…
“Change happens when the pain of staying the same is greater than the pain of change.”
This has become a reality in my life the last 3 months. The trajectory of my life wasn’t looking too promising if it meant hanging on to all of this overwhelm. I had to get off the crazy cycle. To be clear, this was terrifying. I didn’t particularly want to get off the crazy cycle because even though it was killing me, at least I knew what to expect. What happens when I get off? What happens when I suddenly have, well, too much space?
I started in the area I felt I could control the most. My body. I started waking up at the crack of dawn and working out 6 days a week. Which listen, if you know me at all, you realize this is quite miraculous. I didn’t really need to shed pounds of fat, but I needed to shed pounds of disqualification. But, good news, I can do hard things. And now I have fancy lines on my quads to prove it to you.
This opened some much needed strength of my mind to lean into the real chaos I felt within. But wait, I thought we needed to start on the inside not the outside?
To paraphrase Pastor Bill Johnson again…
Sometimes you have to experience things in the natural that convinces you of what God is like, so that when you start seeing the REAL application in spiritual things, and those things get opposed, you have confidence because you’ve seen His nature displayed in the natural.
This is why Jesus spoke in parables, often using tangible illustrations like money or resources, to teach principles of the Kingdom of Heaven. It’s literally the power of a good analogy. Anyone who has ever taken a voice lesson with me knows my deep love of analogies. They help us to unlock our spirits.
For me, working out was just one area I knew needed attention. But I didn’t realize that seeing the transformation of my body was my natural proof of how God can transform my soul, and make space in my spirit for the capacity to live free, not in overwhelm.
How kind of God to be willing to meet me in my shallow natural state to draw me into his deep endless Spirit. He wasn’t waiting there in the deep untouchable spirit realm stubbornly waiting for me to just “get it.” He moved toward me.
There is still so much in process for me right now. So many pieces I’m fumbling over, searching for how to connect one point of revelation to another point of confusion. But as I see him use my pinnacle of frustration to point to who he is and his nature, I realize that while I can’t connect all the dots, it doesn’t even matter, because I feel his friendship. And I begin to understand the verse that says…
“And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” -Phil 4:7 (italics mine)
Peace that actually comes without answers. Without clarity. Without capacity. But it comes. And when it settles on me, I can let some of these things go from my death grip of control and risk stepping off the crazy cycle to just see what happens.
My capacity is growing. I can feel it. There’s more to this story. I’ll keep coming back here to sort through it…