“There’s always tomorrow to get things done.”
My friend claims, dismissing my angst about ‘so much to do’ for superficial conversation.
“Yeah, I know.”
I respond, knowing full well she has no idea what I mean.
I wish it were that easy for me to allow life to pull forward while leaving the upkeep behind. I’ve never been one to handle things when everything in my world seems to run rampant. I need order and some semblance of organization, or things start to get fuzzy and I become agitated, unnerved, thrown off. I have learned that just letting things go for a few days will catapult me into a tailspin of epic proportions. It takes me to a place of paralysis, when I’m not on top of the day to day things most people easily take for granted, that I so desperately wish I could too.
I often choose this neglect, because in my mind I know that there are times when going and doing and being there for others is worth the cost. I choose this because schedules rise with momentum and I refuse to miss out on those moments that matter, despite the ongoing neglect of those things that keep me together. I often wish I could stop the flow of life to gauge the impact of what will come. I feel it seeping into those dark places I try to keep from opening, because I know myself well enough to understand those sure signs of anxiety will erupt if I don’t tend to things that help dismantle its power. If I don’t pace myself… I will fall- hard.
The next day it hits…
I pass the overflowing laundry baskets in the hallway, clothes from the week just waiting to be washed and dried and folded and put away. I keep adding more to this already overbearing heap. I stare at it, stuck in a hypnotic gaze- paralyzed. I know I need to get to this enormous task as soon as possible, but my thoughts go blurry and I can’t quite focus in on the accuracy of my intentions or the ability to move forward at all.
I brush my teeth, while looking at the mirror that has splashes of dried drops and smeared toothpaste fogging my view. I dare to take a full room assessment of the destruction that needs to be redeemed. I’m sick about this mess. The toilet alone disgusts me. I walk away with a twisted knot once again appearing in my throat, and my mind goes numb with no clarity on where to even begin. I am frozen with the dread of the deed and I feel the shame rising with each corner of my life unattended, neglected, becoming a wasteland if I don’t address it now.
I open the fridge and stare at all its contents. It’s utter wreckage, full of mismatched stacks of containers from last week’s meals and rotting produce left to wither and die before use. It’s so grossly packed in, I can barely see what is stored behind the first layer of trash. I know I need to clean it all out, but I can’t. Not now. I’m simply too overwhelmed at the thought of doing such a task. So I freeze. Things get blurry, and I feel it coming on- the panic, the dread, the anxiety that grabs my mind and holds it captive. I let too much go for too long, and now I must manage the monster.
I glance over at the pile of books I need to read. I spot the book we are reading for my women’s group that I need to get to before Monday. Alongside are the books I started and didn’t finish. There’s the pile of books I need to read for reviews and the books I promised myself I would read months, maybe years ago. I stare at them, not knowing which one to begin or finish, once again feeling overwhelmed at the thought of what seems like an impossible feat. I want so desperately to read them all, now. I chastise myself for not finding the time to do such a thing, and the shame pours over me, paralyzing me once again. Now isn’t the time to tackle this, I just can’t concentrate well enough to read.
I sit down and stare at the computer, the inbox stacked with unread emails needing to be opened and read and responded to, the blogs I need to be reading and the work I need to be doing seems like a challenge I will never accomplish. I need to create, submit, reach out, engage, and connect with the writing world. I’m paralyzed once again, knowing full well that when days go by in the blogging world without my attention, I become overwhelmed trying to catch up on the frequent pace I have lost. I don’t know where to begin, do I write or reach? I think about so many bloggers I need to support, and my mind races through all the ‘to do’s’ that I haven’t been able to do. I can’t find a place to begin, I can’t clear my head enough to have a plan. I walk away, thinking if I could get my home in order- perhaps my head will follow.
I realize I haven’t gotten back to friends, carpool connections, ministry group chats, or calling my dad who I miss and have been thinking about more than usual these days. I decide these things must be addressed first- before the cleaning, the putting back together everything else, as I hope this liberates my state of paralysis. I look at my phone, cautiously- knowing full well, that this too could take me down. I start going through my texts, beginning to inch toward doing something, anything productive. Just this alone, begins to cut one string of chains. I return texts, set up reading assignments and schedules for rides. I begin to write my list of calls to make, doctor appointments, grocery lists, and I plan to call dad later, when I am more stable. I can’t call anyone right now, because I can barely put words together in my head- let alone in my voice. It pains me to think through it all, because the effort it takes is appallingly alarming. This fierce force that grips me, can suck all my strength and extinguish my spirit, leaving nothing but exhaustion.
I’m stuck in the thick mess of my mind. I try taking another step- not knowing what footing to follow because there’s so much- too much to grasp in the blurry haze of my madness. I want to surrender and go back to bed. I want to give up, but I know that the buzzing of my body will not relent. The surges will electrify my nerves over and over again, so I must take these steps toward this blaze and try to slowly put it out.
That’s always how this goes. Every corner I turn to spot another massive thing to do, another pile, another overflowing something that needs to be tended to, and I am struck with this relentless attack of anxiety. All these things I see become larger than me, and my radar for every single area I must address becomes more apparent as my mind spins out of control. My breath twists into gasps and every muscles tightens, leaving me bound in both breathlessness and fierce tension. This can all barricade me in my own rubble for days, suffocating me in, feeling blocked from moving forward to chisel at the seemingly endless wall that confines me. I know it is ridiculous, and this catapults me even deeper into disgust and disgrace.
Why am I such a mess? How can things so easily create my downfall?
I attempt to minimize my plight, dismissing it as trivial and surely nothing worth voicing. My tiny little world is full of good things and these heaps of overbearing weight should not be holding me down. These pressures I put on myself are punitive and punishing, and not deserved. None of this is the end of the world, nor is it even worthy of falling apart. Why do I allow it to attack me so hard?
I have yet to figure out a quick fix for this grip of anxiety, yet I know one thing and this truth is what I cling to in the throes of my captivity:
I will get through this and come out on the other side.
I squeeze this reality in the palm of my sweaty hand, and bow my head to relieve those twisted strands of muscle in my neck. I pull my arms up over my head, to open my airways as I gasp for freshly forced air to fill my lungs, fuel my spirit, and awaken in me that one part that seems to defy the enemy within. And I whisper a quiet prayer for help.
Although I can’t feel it, I know that it’s there…
It’s buried beneath all the mess, but its tiny warm vapors will continue to rise and radiate into my frozen dismantled world, and soften the hard boundaries that keep me captive, slowly melting each chain away…
Until inevitably, I can move again.