My to-do list is ridiculous right now. It isn’t even realistic. Between the things that I need to do, want to do, should do, and would love to do, I am the person those articles about narrowing your priorities is written for. I often have to remind myself that I am one person, because if I don’t, I start to be very critical to myself about why I am not getting it all done. Please tell me I’m not alone?
And this is on a good day- throw in some real life major issues that come up and life suddenly seems to busy and big for me. That real life stuff? How on earth do we manage that and still keep groceries in the house, laundry rotating and the bills paid?
So, when life gets big for me, I try to remember to focus small.
In gratefulness and noticing
A cup of coffee, a hot meal, a warm shower, a conversation with a friend, sunshine on my face. I try to notice the details- what I see, feel, smell and taste and I purpose to have thankfulness for these small things. Noticing the small things has a way of grounding me and bringing me into the present moment. I don’t want to be the person who drove down the road to a destination, but has no recollection of how they got there. Getting present, with gratefulness, has a way of calming my heart and helping me make choices about what really is important.
When I spent time with my dad before he passed, I noticed his hands. They were bruised and scarred from IV’s and injections; to me they looked like the hands of someone who was fighting. They were battle scars. In that same moment though, I saw those hands as the ones that gently held my hand crossing the street, hands that protected me, played with me and walked me down the aisle. So, on that particular day, I focused on those hands with gratefulness. I could easily have been overwhelmed by the whole situation, but by focusing on the small, with gratefulness, I was able to take a breath.
In my next steps and tending small
When I am overwhelmed, I often get paralyzed in my actions. Everything is so big, so much, so right now, that I can’t even think about next steps. This is my crazy-brain forgetting to focus. It’s like a runaway train with no brakes. To focus small, I have to get really small. Set out the coffee cup for tomorrow morning, put a water bottle on the counter, write down one thing on my to do list for the next day. Tiny steps, but they move forward and lay the foundation for the next day. They stop the runaway train (or at least slow it down).
Sometimes I’ll choose to tend to something, like cooking something that requires chopping, simmering, and stirring. It may seem like there isn’t time (I’m often sure there isn’t time), but there is magic in the tending of this that allows my mind to relax while my hands are busy. Problems, perspectives and clarity can often come when we are “busy”, but the busy thing allows our mind to rest. If cooking isn’t your thing, try folding laundry, sewing, knitting, gardening, or walking.
So, this week as I look at my to-do list, when I feel like that runaway train may be coming, I’ll look around, and find something small. Try it, it might work for you too.