Tuesday, September 12, 2023


 I am a global girl. Details exhaust me. I’m okay with a few at a time, or breaking down one project into its component parts but, when details come flying at me, I run for cover, taking refuge in inaction and procrastination. 

The first few weeks of school consist not only of myriad details, but also a lot of switching back and forth between those details and global planning (syllabi and overview of the semester, for example). When the details are manageable (my prioritized to-do list, for example), it's easy to take care of them and move on but, when they come at me simultaneously from all sides, they remind me of a poster I used to have in my college dorm.


I think my poster featured Garfield rather than the one-eyed dude above, but the sentiment was the same. Back then, however, there was no email, no Internet, no texting, and little responsibility for anyone but myself, so I had no idea how many directions things could come from in a single day. When I considered this alongside the change in routine that a new semester brings, I suddenly understood  the tired, overwhelmed feeling that is my constant companion during the first month of school.

Last weekend (the end of my third week of classes), I read this tidbit in my mindfulness book:
Say you are holding a heavy parcel with both hands and someone gives you another parcel to hold -- you would have to put down the parcel you're holding in order to accept the second parcel.  

It is exactly the same principle with thoughts. You can only hold one at a time.

I am far enough into the book that I accepted the second paragraph as truth, although holding one thought at a time is definitely something I'm still working on. 

But it's actually the first paragraph that tripped me up. It never occurred to me to put down the first package. In my mind's eye, I lowered the first parcel to allow someone to set the second parcel on top of it.

And therein lies the problem. I keep letting people stack parcels on top of parcels, and it's not just my arms that are exhausted. 

Furthermore, other people are only part of the problem. If I don't open my arms to yield space for more parcels, they can't place them there.

Clearly, I need to work on narrowing the list of things I sign for. Either that, or I need to recognize that, just as my front porch can only hold so many deliveries, making it necessary for me to bring some inside and do something about them before I accept any more, so too will my days hold space for only so many details. Some will need to be delivered to another day.

And that is okay.

And that is okay.

Yes, I know I typed that twice. Arriving at the explanation was a tad challenging but still, that was the easy part. The bigger challenge lies in accepting the inevitability of the concept of "full" and being okay with it, even when others might not be. I'm not suggesting we all skip work and lounge around all day on a tropical island (or mountain resort, if you prefer). Although that sounds wonderful, a more workable long-term solution is identifying our limits and adhering to them as often as possible.

I don't know about you, but I love packages. Getting myself out of habit of reaching for them when they are held out to me will be a slow process. 

But more and more, I believe that my sanity depends on learning to do just that.

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