Sometimes life is stressful. Have you ever been so busy plowing through your long list of tasks and obligations that you have no time to enjoy things? In times like this, lethargy, resentment, frustration, and even anger creep in.
Sometimes you just can’t do it all. You can die trying. You can beat yourself up for not being good enough or competent enough or hard working enough. It won’t help.
This morning, I sat in the living room with my coffee and saw dead tulips on the mantel, the flowers open wide and petals falling on the floor. On closer inspection, I noticed that the white mantel was covered with a thin coating of fine black tulip dust.
My pretty tulip arrangement died and I hadn’t even noticed. How did it come to this? It was a sign that I was not paying attention.
I sighed and sipped my caffeine. I had an editorial deadline, a freelance project to finish and student papers to grade. I needed to do laundry. The contents of my refrigerator were not sufficient to cover lunch, never mind dinner. The cats were clamoring for breakfast. I was exhausted, a deep down tired, the kind that settles into your bones and won’t let go.
I needed to put down the coffee and get busy. I would sit at my desk and work on the projects while doing loads of laundry. I could grab some groceries before lunch. I know how to be a working machine, and if I worked well into the wee hours of the morning, I might accomplish everything.
I was depressed just thinking about it. There was no joy, no happiness, no life.
A long time ago, I read somewhere that you should ask yourself one question every day. What is important about today? It helps you sort through the muddle of potential tasks and narrow in on the most important thing. We might not be able to do everything, but we can do always do the one most important thing.
So I asked myself, what is important about today? The answer was that I needed to feel better. I needed to feel good about the day and what I could accomplish, rather than approaching the day with dread. I need inspiration and energy to get through my long list of tasks.
Dead tulips do not inspire anything. I got up and took the tulips off the mantel. I dusted off the tulip dust. My yard is full of beautiful tulips. I grabbed my garden shears and headed out the door for fresh flowers. The sun was warmer than I expected.
I cut some fresh tulips, and as I headed back inside, I noticed the sun streaming through the door. We have had a lack of sunshine lately, and the light was most welcome. I left the outer door open to let the light stream into the kitchen. Then I opened the window. The breeze felt so good that I opened a few more windows and doors.
I put the tulips into my great -grandmother’s vase and put it on the mantel. Instantly, it sparked joy. I love flowers, even just a bud or two placed in a bottle. It feeds my soul, and today, I realized that I needed to take care of myself.
What is important about today?
Maybe it is clearing out dead tulips and letting the sun light back in. Maybe someone needs a phone call, or you want to send a birthday card. Perhaps it is a child that needs attention. Sometimes it is a work priority, an important meeting, a deadline.
If we don’t align our tasks with our priorities, it is easy to get led down a path to emptiness. There is work with no joy, tasks with no meaning and an emptiness where life purpose needs to live.
I grabbed my cup and headed to the porch, cats in close pursuit. We were going to sit and bask in the sun, and I was going to finish my coffee. The rest would have to wait a few more minutes.
The old me would have headed for the desk, and felt exhausted and miserable all day. Now I understand that taking a few minutes for myself will energize me in the long run. At first it feels selfish, indulgent even. Then I remember what is important. Today, I am important. I need to take a deep breath and stop and see the tulips.
How do you plan your day when you are stressed and busy? Do you just dive right in and barely come up for air? Do you prioritize? Do you stop everything and have a spa day? I’d love to hear how you manage when life feels overwhelming. Leave a note in the comments- I’m all ears!