All you Half The Clothes regulars (and all my friends) know that I’ve been doing too much for too long (like, my entire life, but especially recently). This year I’ve been more than 41 places in less than 41 weeks. And that’s just straight-up cray cray. I’ve lived a whole lot of life without processing any of it.
Too much routine can be maddening, but so can too little. Living a life in which every single thing I do requires a conscious decision is exhausting. What time do I need to get up in the morning? Why? (In the morning…) Why is my alarm going off? Where am I? What am I doing today? Oh yeah. Hmmm… I wonder where the coffee maker is here. Can I drink the tap water? Maybe I would get more done if I worked from a cafe today. Is there a cafe near here? What time does the bus go? Or… would a cafe have parking? Should I pack a lunch? Am I here long enough to buy groceries, or should I just get enough for a meal? Could I make tacos? Does this apartment rental/friend’s house/etc. have a cheese grater? Oh shit – did I email that woman about that work thing? What do I need to take if I go to the cafe? Wait… is there a cafe? Is today Wednesday? Oh, then I can’t go to the cafe because I won’t be back in time for my standing call. Ahhhh! Did I pay my credit card bill?! Have I made a reservation in that village I’m going to on Sunday? Uh-oh, what if I have to get train tickets in advance? Wait… do trains even run on Sunday here?
I’m well aware that many of my contemporary humans have a jumble of thoughts rushing through their heads having to do with all the plates spinning in their lives. But when so many of those thoughts are about one’s basic needs – food, shelter, hygiene – followed by how to accomplish life’s basics – work, paying bills, communication, moving around the world… it doesn’t leave space for much else. Similar to the way in which children take a majority of a parent’s attention, constantly-being-in-new-surroundings takes a majority of anyone’s attention. Essentially, I’ve had no time to decide what I think about what I’m doing, only the time to do it. And that is a very numbing, identity-dissolving experience. (I can see a lot of parents and people working 50+ hour work-weeks nodding their heads.)
The tricky thing about mental overwhelm: the larger it grows, the harder it is to enact its solution… rest! For most people who hit overwhelm, life has slowly (or sometimes quickly) grown to more tasks than a person can reasonably handle. Those tasks fill the time one might otherwise spend becoming aware of their need for rest and making it happen.
To placate ourselves once in a state of almost inescapable overwhelm, we promise ourselves, “things will be better when.” We often don’t recognize when this belief is actually a tool to shift responsibility for our circumstances to external sources. When we fail to acknowledge the role we play in our own overwhelm and the power we (usually) have to do something about it, we are doomed to repeat the same behaviors and get the same results. Things are almost never “better when…” Things are most often “better” when we change our perspective or stop making the kind of decisions and choices that got us to where we are now.
I don’t know if things will be better when I finally stop bouncing from place to place or when my Grandma and the care she is requiring stabilizes in the aftermath of her stroke. But I do know I need to figure out why I so eagerly set myself up for overwhelm (in my case, too much travel) and why I keep doing it.
Wish me luck? And stay tuned. If you want.