One of my favorite voices on the internet (@thelazygenius) is constantly reminding us to start small. Don’t fret about the big change or the big leap, but start instead with the tiniest most doable step toward better. Whatever form that better might take.
I need this reminder again and again and again because everything within me screams to do it all and all at once. Change it all. Start all over. Shoot for the end goal straight out the gate.
Overwhelm is no different for me. It arrives at my doorstep and I immediately try to fix it all and all at once.
I’m not sure if you’ve noticed, but the world seems to be burning in about a million ways. Too many to even name. That sounds extreme and maybe it is, but it sure does feel that way in my anxiety-ridden heart and mind. I mean, right?! We keep trying to live these days like we always have but the news keeps coming in and I don’t know about you, but it is all too much. I don’t want to tune out. I desperately want to be informed and stay in it and be a helper in it all. And also my head and heart cannot possibly hold all that is being offered day after day after day. It is just too much to take in. Too much to hold.
And so overwhelm starts creeping toward my chest, filling all my available space. My breaths become harder fought. My mind swirls with all the “what ifs” and “what do I do’s”.
And there I sit. Paralyzed.
I can’t solve it all. I absolutely cannot. There is no use arguing that.
But I can do something productive. I can start small.
I can call one representative and ask for their help on an issue that matters to me. I can send a text to someone having a hard time. I can pause for a minute of deep breaths when I feel I am losing control. I can delete a social media app off my phone for a day (or an hour) to give myself a small respite from it all. I can offer up a smile or hug or word of encouragement to someone I encounter today, stranger or not.
I can. Perhaps not all of those things at once, but I can do one. I can do something.
I am finding myself asking this question again and again when I can’t see through the sad and hard and too much: “what’s one thing that might help?” Just one.
My favorite one thing right now is ridiculous. Absolutely absurd and also absolutely bringing life. It works best when my kids and I are driving around town doing whatever boring errand we have for the day. I turn on an upbeat song (this one works great) and we all sing into these silly dollar store echo microphones we keep in the car. We sing like absolutely no one can see us even though we all know they can (and do). It takes my mind wholly away from my worries and all the way into ridiculous joy, even for just a couple minutes. I always always feel lighter afterward. And I’m hopeful that I bring at least a giggle to anyone who sees me driving and singing and acting a total (if not wholly free) fool.
We need to sit with the hard, y’all. Looking away is not the answer. It can’t be. The world needs us to pay attention and respond accordingly in the ways that are available to us.
And also, we can hold space for protection of our mind and heart and insides. It is possible to hold space for our joy and respite and deep breaths to remain even in seasons of resounding hard. We must. And starting small seems to make a way for just that. One tiny act at a time.
What small start can you choose today that might bring lift and good to your days (and likely others around you)?*
*That question may serve you better if you first acknowledge and even name the hard that is affecting you in deep down ways.