My birthday was on Ash Wednesday this year. Quite a way to remind myself that “from ashes I have come and to ashes I will return,” don’t you think?
It was also an invitation to be overwhelmed for a while. I’m prone to letting myself get wrapped up in all there is in life… though not in the best or most productive ways. We all have those sides of our personalities that are less than becoming: mine happens to be the tendency to see all the glorious possibilities in life and feel overwhelmed by them.
As my birthday fell on a particularly auspicious day this year, I was invited into a more acute than usual bout of feeling overwhelmed. New job, springtime, identity crises, buying groceries and doing the dishes… you name it. It got to me. And it wasn’t just that my birthday happened to coincide with the coming of Lent, per se. It was more that while my birthday was the start of that season of the Church that calls the most for reflection… and I was not in the mood to reflect.
This season is a time when many Christians give up something dear to them as a means of recognizing how dependent they are on something that matters so little. Caffeine, chocolate, alcohol, and soda are typical lenten sacrifices. But others also give up shopping dependencies, electricity and gasoline consumption, or they take on otherwise onerous actions: giving heavily to charities, volunteering free time with those in need, or practicing a daily devotional.
And what did I give up? Nada.
That’s right. I made a conscious effort not to take on the burden of Lent, even though it may have been very much needed. Instead, I chose to remain feeling overwhelmed by the many things I had. Options, opportunities, ways to spend my free time, ways to spend my money… all the possibilities were absolutely overwhelming me. And I did nothing to stop it.
To be sure, this feeling of being overwhelmed has been a large part of why I’ve been so absent from the virtual means of communication I employ: this blog, Twitter, Facebook… even emails were too much for me to think of. But instead of doing something useful, I wallowed. I let the little finches outside my window mock me instead of inspire me.
So now as we are a few short weeks away from Easter, I stop and think about all the ways that this creeping sense of being overwhelmed has hurt me. Less creativity, to be sure. Not so much cooking at home as I would like. Less conversations with folks who matter. Fewer good books on my coffee table. Less time with my coffee table, too!
I admit it: I’ve become a distracted, boring mess of a person. But now that Spring can’t be ignored any more… now that I’ve planted my potted garden and have started to care about it flourishing… perhaps now I can move past feeling overwhelmed and start feeling more grateful that the world is so vast and wonderful.