Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Doing What I Can

Do what you can, with what you have, where you are.

- Teddy Roosevelt

I nearly had a meltdown yesterday. I don't know exactly why. Probably, it was just a case of exhaustion, and a little too much of everything. In the midst of a conversation, I lost my composure. My husband was with me at the time. I was trying to explain why I felt so much pressure to do way too much, and suddenly I felt dizzy. He turned off the lights and left the room to let me rest and calm down. That seemed like the best thing to do with me.

Honestly, I don't know what would have been best. But after a few minutes, I decided that if I could accomplish my original goals for the day, I could eliminate some of the pressure. So I went back to work. This was definitely a personal victory for me. Instead of sitting and crying about how hard my life has been lately, I focused on doing something positive and productive. Rather than concentrating on the things I could not change -- like my situation and my emotions, I put my energy toward the one thing I could do: the next urgent task.

Amazingly, it helped. I found I was able to do the next little job, then the next one, then the next one, and so on, until the necessary tasks were complete. After that, I felt much calmer. It wasn't a pretty way to climb out of a near-breakdown, but it was effective. Doing what I could was empowering and gave me a focus that kept me from coming apart.

At eight o'clock in the evening, after my work was done, I left the house. I drove a few minutes to a nearby grocery, which is unlike any other I have ever known.
The Fresh Market sits unassumingly on a busy road at the edge of town. When I stepped in the door, the classical music swirled around me, along with delightful smells of flowers by the door, fine coffee and tea, pungent spices, fresh peaches, and strawberries. I sampled the gourmet coffee in one of the little cups provided. I ground two scoops of Columbian and Kona beans and put them in brown and gold bags to carry home with me. I gazed upon and sniffed deeply of the fruits and vegetables. I picked up some things on sale -- snow peas, green leaf lettuce, green beans. I found a dark German bread made with whole grain rye and molasses. I collected some spices I had been missing lately which are packaged in little bags for $2 or less. I lingered over the freshly made cheeses, granola, and baked delights. I lost myself in the aisles full of whole grains and dried beans and teas. I really felt, for a few minutes, as though I had stepped into another world. I lost track of the clock. Suddenly, it was near closing time, and one of the cashiers kindly offered to check me out. Ah, yes. Time to go back. I drove back through the summer twilight with a apricot sky overhead.

The stress of the day had melted off. Does that mean I am shallow? I hope not. I'm banking on the idea that it means nothing was really wrong with me or with my life. The recent weeks have been very hard, and I am human -- with all of the wonder, all of the weaknesses and limitations, all of the strength and resilience that implies. I had a bad moment, but then I recovered. Like grass that has been trampled and flattened, but under the sun, and with a little time, springs back up for another day, I awoke this morning to the towhee singing about drinking tea and the oak leaves dancing in a cool breeze, and now I am writing for you again.


  1. No, not shallow. You just needed a break, and I'm glad you got one.

    Here's a prayer by Julian of Norwich which Ruth Green shared with me at a stressful time in my life which has helped many, many times.

    All shall be well
    And all shall be well
    And all manner of things shall be well.

  2. I love that prayer. I have read it somewhere before. Thanks for sharing it.


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