Backing away from the edge

At this very moment I am in grave danger – and I know that I am not the only one in this precarious position.

No, my purse has not been stolen while I was abroad and you do not have to send me money to get home.

I am in the middle of attempting to meet more deadlines than is physically possible to do.  I’m swamped! I’m deep in “the overs”.

The overs are what I call being overwhelmed, over worked, over stimulated, over committed, overcome, over booked, in over my head, getting walked all over, just plain over it, or the like.

Whine, whine, whine,” I hear you say as you read this, because I know you’re in the very same place. Or if not right at this moment, for sure you go there on a regular basis. Most women I know live much of their lives in the land of the overs. We all do, so I know you know what I’m talking about.

Why am I in danger? What are the risks in the land of “the overs”?

I quit breathing and start panting. I spend way too much time on the little stuff at the expense of what’s really important. My mind keeps racing but I stop thinking. My perspective narrows and I get negative, grumpy, and jumpy. I lose my brilliance and my heart begins to hurt. I start skim reading my life. I make promise that I can’t keep – to myself and to others – and then my inner critic eats me alive. I may get lots done but I’m miserable in the process.

Risks of The Overs:

  • Bodily stress: shallow breathing, rapid heart rate, stomach upset, sleeplessness
  • Emotional stress: plenty of anxiety, fear, guilt, sorrow, anger, frustration; not nearly enough joy or satisfaction; upset occurs rapidly and without control
  • Mental confusion: inability to focus, stuck in small details while neglecting the critical, make poor choices, forget the big picture of my purpose and dreams
  • Inner critic rules: with the loss of emotional and mental stability, the inner critic sneaks in and takes over, convincing me if I were a better person I could do it all, perfectly, all the time, but since I can’t it’s further proof of my many short comings
  • Spiritual dis-ease: I become distrustful and disconnected from sources of love and strength, I have no time for daily practices that deeply support me
  • Deadly to relationships: My reactions to others are often negative, blaming, and hurtful. Besides, this is all someone else’s fault, right?

Yikes! I know this is not a good place to be.

So I’m backing away from the edge. I’m pulling myself up and out of the overs. I’m taking a breath and taking stock of where I am and where I would much prefer to be.

Since I’ve been here – overwhelmed, over committed, over extended – many times before, I’ve developed some trusty methods for backing away from the mind-numbing, joy-stealing, soul-clenching overs.

When I’m in the overs, I can’t think my way out. By the time I realize what’s happening, my thinking is distorted. I really do believe if I just worked harder or smarter I could get it all done. Not only is my reality warped, the loudest voice in my head is my critic’s.

No, I can’t think my way out. But I can feel my way out.

To me all of the overs are built on some kind of fear. I’m afraid I’ll lose my job or not get enough clients or we won’t have enough money. Or I’m scared I’ll look bad in a multitude of versions (not capable enough, not the right clothes, house not beautiful enough, I’m not contributing enough…). If I don’t do this no one else will, or no one else will do this as well as I can, and that will be disastrous. Or I’m terrified I won’t be the successful A+ student I always am.

I get to being over (fill in the blank) when I fear there’s not enough or I’m not enough (fill in the blank).

My first step out of fear is to remember love.

Oh yeah. Sappy, I know, but true. I love my family, my bevy of beautiful friends, my awesome clients, this exquisite planet, my work, my cozy home, endless learning and growing, walking in nature, yoga, reading, scrumptious food…

I am loved. No matter the success or failure of whatever I think is so critically important in this moment, I am well and truly loved. My beloveds have been and will be there for me, especially those with fur and four legs! Oh sure, those with two legs occasionally grumble at some of my choices, but the ones who really love me aren’t measuring me by the yardstick of my inner critic.

So I breathe, and I remember love. Then I slip into deep gratitude for all the richness of my life, for all of my many choices, for everything.

Stopping just a moment to breathe is always helpful.

My life is so blessedly full – full of friends, opportunities, books, things, classes, clients, creative endeavors, hobbies, food, love, family, music, clothes, information, gadgets, work, and so much more. And I know your lives are, too.

We are in the land of overs because we have so very much. We have so very much because of our blessings, dreams, choices, and sacrifices, as well as those of our ancestors. When I shift from frenzied busyness to bone deep appreciation for all of my many gifts, I feel the ground beneath me once again.

Gratitude is a state of being, not simply a couple of quick, well meant but empty words. Gratitude is a conscious breath of connection. It is an expression of practical awe and deep acknowledgment. It’s a savoring and a recognition of the beauty and abundance of our lives.

From this place of breath and love and thankfulness, I feel my way into trust. To get out of the overs I have to abandon some expectations, maybe even some deeply-held-for-a-long-time expectations of myself and of others. I have to accept some kind of imagined failure. Because the only way back from the overs is to give up, give in, let go, or let down something or someone.

Not working or striving harder or smarter or more passionately – these will not get me out of the overs. I have to prioritize in such a way that I let go of many of the to-dos on my list. I have to trust that I can let go of some of what I have been carrying and that I will be able to handle the results of this letting go.

Without conscious and brave choice, I will stay stuck in the dangerous land of the overs, leaving my body, mind, spirit, emotions, and relationships to flounder or fail.

I know, I know. This is really, really difficult to do: to let go and trust I’ll be able to handle not succeeding as I had planned to do, as I always want to do. I have to trust, too, that the others in my life will also be able to handle my choice to back away from the overs.

Failure is not an option” is a great rallying cry for short term, limited endeavors. It is not a sustainable way to live day after day. It is a sure way to fall into the overs. There is now so very much in our lives we cannot be/do/have everything as thoroughly and as perfectly as we would like. I have to trust myself to be able to handle what I may be calling a failure.

This is quite a radical concept, I know. Love, gratitude, trust aren’t your usual strategies for getting out of overwhelm. “Make conscious choices about where you want to fail, because you can’t do it all,” is not your usual encouragement. I just know that these work for me and for many of my brilliant clients. These aren’t the only ways. We play with more in my Creating Brilliant Boundaries teleclass and I know you all have found strategies that work for you, too.

The bottom line, though, is that the overs are simply part of the territory of our full and beautiful lives. We will be drawn repeatedly into the overs because of the gifts and complexity of our 21st century culture. Black holes are wimps compared to the force of attraction towards all of the opportunities in our maxed out lives.

Finding ourselves over the edge is a given. Staying in danger is not.

The overs are one of the challenges of abundance, the other side of a double-edged sword. I am over-the-moon thankful for the richness of my life, dangers and all. Now, back to trusting and letting go…

2 comments on “Backing away from the edge

  1. Thank you, Christine. Such a beautiful and wise message! I will take this to heart as I transition myself out of the overs and back into the life I am grateful to have. Much love to you, my dear friend.

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