Tag Archives: observations

Feeling Overwhelmed? Yeah, It Happens

So you may have wondered–or maybe not–why haven’t  I written a blog post in over a month?

I was wondering the same thing.

First, I ruled out causes and excuses. I haven’t been any busier during the past several weeks than usual. In fact if anything, now that business at the marina has slowed down to a mere trickle, I’ve actually had more free time than I had during the summer months.

I briefly considered attributing my creative inertia to writer’s block, but that just sounded so lame,  and in fact was not true. I have thought about lots of things I could write about, as life certainly provides a never-ending stream of raw material. Nope, I haven’t felt blocked at all.

And it’s not like I don’t crack open my notebook or laptop at least several times a day. I certainly found time to scroll through Facebook, read my email, play Words with Friends, look up articles and blog posts on all sorts of topics, print off Betty Crocker and Pillsbury recipes, troll YouTube and frequent Netflix–anything to avoid going to Google docs, the tool I now use for my writing. I just couldn’t get my brain to get my fingers to go there.

I haven’t been ill either. In fact, I’ve been feeling pretty good. A little tired sometimes, but I chalk that up to the change of seasons and the shrinking hours of daylight. Certainly I had enough energy to put in at least a few minutes a day at the keyboard. I just didn’t.

Then I started tuning into that nonstop chatter in my head. You know, that mental cacophony I wrote about a couple of months ago that so many of us live with. And here’s what’s been going on there…

Need to balance my checkbook haven’t cleaned the upstairs bathroom in weeks really should be exercising every day my house is a mess why don’t I make time to meditate in the morning I really should get rid of those clothes I never wear but what if I lose 30 pounds and can wear them again the property taxes are due this month gotta stop putting off filling out my healthcare proxy and living will speaking of wills I don’t have one yet I’m tired of all the clutter in my house but don’t know where to start getting low on toilet paper have to get up earlier for a work meeting tomorrow really need to clean out the refrigerator make sure I get my bills paid on time my house is a mess and I need to balance my checkbook man the upstairs bathroom really needs cleaning…

In other words, I had succumbed to a full-blown, paralytic state of overwhelm. Small wonder all I wanted to do was play, watch music videos, read, and sleep. Writing a blog post just seemed like one more thing to add to my overflowing, never-ending to do list.

Once I realized what the problem was,  I suddenly felt so much better. I hadn’t morphed into a lazy slug after all, or had begun to “feel my age”; I’d simply been like a deer in the headlights, trapped and mesmerized by the sheer magnitude of things clamoring for my attention and demanding action, most of which I found completely uninspiring.

Oh, I could do things I absolutely had to do. Laundry. Getting myself to work each day and actually getting work done once I got there. Putting gas in the car. Grocery shopping. But the house remained messy, I didn’t exercise or meditate, my checkbook remained unbalanced…and I didn’t write one single, solitary word for my blog.

Overwhelm had literally sucked the life out of me.

And really, who doesn’t get overwhelmed at least once in awhile these days? We are continuously bombarded with incoming data that floods our senses, and it comes at us from all directions. From television to social media, from billboards to email, from phone calls to text and instant messages, we are besieged by messaging in ways and at a frequency no other generation before us has had to deal with. And most of us don’t know when or how to turn that barrage off. We bring our work home and our home lives to work.

Plus, we’ve held onto many of the traditions and obligations we inherited from previous generations. Remembering birthdays and observing holidays. Celebrating some of the milestones in each other’s lives, and mourning others. Spring cleaning and fall raking.

Not to mention trying to carve out time for family and friends, setting up doctor and dentist visits, getting the car inspected (by the way, it’s due for an oil change) and maybe, just maybe, grabbing some sleep every night.

So sure, a lot of us surrender to it all sometimes. We just don’t have enough energy left to raise the white flag.

As with so many things, simply recognizing the source of my lethargy turned out to be the first step in treating it. Not that the same treatment works every time, though. You just have to pick something and go with it.

I decided to pick something simple and mindless to disperse this most recent bout of inertia. I began to dust the furniture in my dining room…then in my living room…then I mopped the kitchen floor…

I sorted through a pile of mail like a postal worker on steroids. I shelved books like a hopped up librarian, bagged up some old clothes for the Rescue Mission, and cleared what my mother used to call Irish lace from a few ceiling corners.

And then–totally invigorated–I sat down at my keyboard and began to write.

It’s physics, pure and simple. A body in motion stays in motion.

Have I gotten to everything on my overwhelm list? Good heavens, no. First of all, that list never ends anyway. It’s like plucking gray hairs–get one task accomplished and five more spring up in its place

But my house looks a little cleaner, I feel a tad more accomplished, and I’m writing again. So yay.

My point here, now that I’m actually blogging again, is that we need to cut ourselves some slack during those times when our energy levels run low. The onslaught of things we could, should, want and have to do can understandably overpower even the most hardy of souls. When we can’t get to all of them or don’t know where to start, it’s not that we’re weak. Or lazy. Or making excuses.

We’re human. And even when we think we’re not, we’re actually doing the best we can.

I have other remedies for the sluggishness that accompanies having too much to do, think about and remember, besides picking up a Swiffer and going to town on end tables and TV screens. But most of those prescriptions do involve some sort of physical activity. I’d be open to other anti-overwhelm suggestions if you have any you’d like to share.

In the meantime, I plan to keep the duster handy.

Writer, serial blogger and small business marketing consultant Mary Anne Hahn believes that there’s a reason old dreams don’t want to die. They want you to pursue them…make them real. They are what you are here to do. Mary Anne resides in Syracuse, New York and maintains websites at http://writesuccess.com , http://thewordgenie.com andhttp://boomerswhomeanbusiness.com .

Beware the Silent ‘P’

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Have you ever noticed how many wonderful words begin with the letter ‘p’?

There’s passion, purpose, playfulness, plentiful, potential, poetry, prayer,  partnership, positive, peace. So many wonderful words.

Then there are the not so wonderful ‘p’ words. Psychosis, pneumonia, pseudo, ptosis, psoriasis, psittacism (yeah, I didn’t know what it meant, either). Notice what those have in common?

The ‘p’ is silent.

So I began to wonder—could we relate to the difference between the pronounced ‘p’ and the silent ‘p’? Could it be that, as years go by, through conditioning or neglect, so many of us lose touch with the things we feel passionate about is that we’ve learned over the years to silence them?

During my teens I wrote poetry.  The ones I remember most vividly spoke about hope, love and possibilities (ah, another wonderful ‘p’ word!).  

Then, as life began to present me with its inevitable challenges, disappointments and setbacks, my poems began to take on darker tones. I wrote of loss, frustration, heartbreak, disconnection. Eventually, I stopped writing them altogether.

Around that same time, I also began to lose sight of my dream to make a living as a freelance writer.  Months would sometimes go by between one writing project and the next; attempts to submit my work or query ideas grew even more staggered. I left a trail of half-written stories in my wake, along with a few that I even finished, but that never saw the light of day.

After college I snapped up the first stable nine to five job I could latch onto and, relieved to receive a steady paycheck and benefits, I hardly even noticed as the dream faded.  I had college loans to pay back, an apartment to furnish, a car to maintain and insure.  I was living the dream, right?  Never mind that it was not my own.  My life seemed fine.  My chosen path seemed safe. Most writers never make a living wage anyway…

My ‘p’ grew silent.

In Walden, Henry Thoreau famously wrote that most men “lead lives of quiet desperation.” A dismal worldview? Maybe…but look how it plays out in the “Thank God it’s Friday” existence that so many of us lead, lives where relaxation, adventure and fun are all packed into one or two weeks a year, or where we live vicariously through the success and joy of those who dared to do or be what we did not. These results stem from letting our ‘p’s’ go silent or, worse, by intentionally silencing them in order to gain the acceptance and approval of others, or through fear that we if we took a riskier path, we might fail.

I’m trying to decide how to bring this post to an optimistic close. The fact is, I continue to cling to the safe and familiar, and still need the approval of others more than I care to admit. So it’s not like I am a shining example of self-actualization.

But I guess simply being aware of that is a start. That’s the optimistic closing I was looking for and would like to share here because, as I am beginning to learn through the reading and exercises I’ve been doing lately, awareness changes everything. The first step in solving a dilemma is admitting that the dilemma exists.

Time to take the next step. Care to join me?


The Power of Right Here, Right Now

download (1) While casting about for an idea for this week’s post, I remembered that I keep a folder of quotations  in my Gmail account, so I dipped into there and pulled out this little gem:

“Do something today that your future self will thank you for.” ~ Unknown

As I begin this post, it’s a rainy, dreary-looking morning, by all appearances totally uninspiring. Up until I sat down to write, I followed the same-old, same-old routine I perform most workday mornings, in the exact same order, beginning with hitting the snooze button.

Rediscovering this quote totally changed the tenor of my morning. In fact, I believe it will reconfigure my thoughts, moods and actions for the entire day.

It’s so easy to slip into the comfortable but unproductive habits of regurgitating past conversations and events that upset or aggravated us, or worrying about conversations and events that haven’t happened yet. In his groundbreaking book, The Power of Now, Eckhart Tolle gently but persistently pulls us into the only moment in time where we have any influence at all: this one. Only what we think and do right now has any power to affect or shape the next hour, day, or rest of our lives.

This is one of the most empowering concepts you can ever embrace. And, if you’re anything like me, one of the most difficult.

Whether due to a physical condition like ADHD, or simply a lack of mental conditioning, my waking thoughts ebb and flow and twist and twirl like autumn leaves in a windstorm, unless I am working on something specific, like this blog post, or a project at work.

Or, if those thoughts do settle down into something specific, they take the form of the last song I heard on the radio before turning my car off, playing over and over in my head in an endless loop, or repeatedly rehashing an unsuccessful conversation or a poor decision from the day before.

Pulling oneself from that cesspool of thoughts into the present moment has some powerfully positive impacts:

  1. It awakens the senses. Yesterday morning, my great-nephew Justin posted on Facebook, along with a photo he took: “Birds chirping in the trees this morning! I just love walking outside every morning to the wonderful/peaceful sound of birds chirping!” What a marvelous present moment experience—and one he would have totally missed if he was busy worrying about how he did on a math test or reliving a disagreement he had with a friend. How much more pleasurable life is when we truly savor the foods we’re eating, inhale the aroma of baking bread or the luscious scent from a lilac bush, relish the comfort of a good pair of shoes or marvel at the glory of a breathtaking sunset. Or, like Justin, listen to birdsong.
  2. It allows us to experience gratitude. Sometimes, as I walk the short distance from my car to my office building, I am struck with a lightning bolt of gratitude for being able to walk, or for being able to see the rich blueness of the sky, or for having a jacket that’s warm enough to protect me from the elements. Feeling and expressing gratitude for what we have in our lives—our families and friends, our homes with all of their amenities, our opportunities and even our challenges—not only opens us up to fully appreciate the present moment, but clears the way for even more good things to come into our lives.
  3. It helps us to focus. This actually brings me back to the quote at the beginning of this post. How could we possibly do something today that our future selves will thank us for if we are replaying scenes from yesterday, concocting stories about tomorrow, or simply letting our thoughts run amok? Awareness of the present moment, of what is going on right here and now, gives us a chance to make this moment count: with little gestures, like letting a car cut into traffic in front of us or relinquishing our seat on the bus to someone who needs to sit more than we do; to big, perhaps even life-altering actions, like coming up with a new solution to an age-old problem at work, or coming to the aid of a friend at his or her darkest hour—opportunities we would have otherwise missed, or maybe regretfully realized later.

That’s the power of living life in the present moment.

As I said earlier, I struggle with doing this myself. More often than not I’m either rethinking and maybe even regretting something I said or did yesterday, anxious about a situation that may never occur, creating endless to do lists in my head or not paying much attention to my thoughts at all.

But when I remember to do so, I pull my attention to what is in front of and around me. It’s at these moments, when attention and intention intersect, that I can choose to make the rest of my day matter. I want to experience more of those. Every day.

I invite you to do the same. It will not only change the tenor of your day—it may change your life.


Money, Money, Money, Money–Money!

Author’s Note: My website was down for a week, which delayed this post. Welcome back, blog take six! 🙂 


The recent record-breaking Powerball lottery—along with all of the discussions both online and off regarding what someone would do for or with a billion dollars—brought to my mind several thoughts and observations.

You can look at the event from the downside, in that the brisk ticket sales and media frenzy portrayed millions of Americans, and some neighboring Canadians, as collectively dissatisfied with their lives and somehow believing that an obscene amount of money would provide a cure for that.

Or perhaps, in a more positive light, it meant that people saw that influx of cash as a way to help their families, their communities, and their favorite causes in a big way.

It definitely captured a sort of endearing sense of optimism in that, despite the tremendous odds against winning, ticket buyers who might otherwise hold cynical outlooks on life still believed in possibilities—that their dollar had as much chance as everyone else’s to claim the golden ticket.

Facebook, of course, became riddled with “what would you do if…” discussions. I was somewhat bemused by the number of people who said they’d buy their own island if they won. Personally, I think that living on a small island would be a pain in the ass. I mean, every time you need groceries or prescription refills, you’d have to take a boat to the mainland, right? How about getting your mail? OK, you can have them brought to you, but still…

What about internet access? A life with no movies, no downloadable books, no seeing your friends and relatives and adorable cat videos online? Unh-uh, not me.  I’ve grown terribly fond of having a world of information, news and entertainment at my fingertips.

Besides, I’m much too social a bring to seclude myself on an otherwise unpopulated chunk of land.

Then there were the inane surveys: what body part would you give up for big bucks, or what criminal, immoral or simply stupid act would you commit in order to become instantly, insanely rich? I found some of the responses, as well as the percentages of respondents who concurred, somewhat troubling to say the least. One local radio disc jockey who claimed he would give up a pinky finger made me think, though. I suppose I could live a full and complete (not to mention insanely rich) life without a baby toe. I’m only half kidding.

Yes, I admit I did purchase Powerball tickets myself, before one of the drawings, helping to push the jackpot over the billion dollar mark. I really don’t know why,  as I never play other lotteries, only occasionally buy scratch off  tickets, and don’t really like casinos all that much. Maybe I wanted to be a part of the news story, the historic jackpot. Maybe I liked toying with the idea of going to Ireland with my sister, buying that beach house for me and John, giving generously to small, struggling charities doing great things, and making sure that my siblings, nephews, nieces and close friends never had to worry about finances again.

But would I really want the weighty responsibility of managing that much money, had I won?  I can’t imagine the impact such an enormous windfall would have on my life, my relationships. I can’t imagine that all of the impacts would be good.

Which I guess is a good thing. No, strike that—I know it is. It means I’m not so dissatisfied with my life as it is right now after all. I like most of it just fine, as a matter of fact. And the parts I’d like to change don’t require a billion dollars.

What a wonderful realization.

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