Dear Happy Traveler,
I have always been curious about words… their origin, their apparent meaning, and their embedded or double meaning. As many of you know, I also enjoy revising the meaning to words so they hold a more intentional impact.
A word that caught my fancy recently was one we hear far too often these days: overwhelmed. Everywhere I turned, I hear the word in conversation, experience it in everyone’s attitudes, and witness the result on people’s faces.
Honestly I, too, had a week that tempted me to concur, however, remembered the words of Mother Teresa,
“I know God will never give me more than I can handle, I just wish He didn’t trust me so much.”
Her cantankerous commitment to optimism reminded me to take a deep breath and look again from a different view-point.
With her whispering in my ear, I insisted on believing there has to be a better way than despair, and somehow had it in me to refuse to succumb to this overwhelmed perception that only leads to feeling worse.
These feelings caused me to ponder what exactly is the “whelm” we are “overed” by? Hmmmmm. What is whelm?
Pronunciation: \?hwelm, ?welm\
Etymology: Middle English
Date: 14th century
1 : transitive verb 1 : to turn (as a dish or vessel) upside down, usually to cover something : cover or engulf completely with, usually disastrous effect
2 : to overcome in thought or feeling : overwhelm <whelmed with a rush of joy — G. A. Wagner> intransitive verb
When we get attached to the way we think life “should” be, we resist what is, even miss it all together. Life then moves forward about as easy as a car with the parking brake on. Our creativity and compassion shut down, prohibiting us to see all the alternative possibilities for joy available to us, even amidst challenging circumstances. Life becomes a pain in the rear to endure rather than an adventure to be explored.
Although perhaps better than living life in “reverse”, stuck in the rut of ruminating about how we have been victimized by the circumstances of our past that we cannot change, grumbling about what is causes our energy to get depleted and misdirected. We find ourselves even further from joy, baffled by how we got lost.
With a world that moves as fast as ours, it is easy to get caught up in feeling like we “should” get everything on the TO DO list done.
Holding tight to this belief, we actually “should” all over ourselves with expectations and anxiety. When we take this detour, believing it is the main road, every time we find ourselves in the land of “whelm” that comes the in “over” proportions. Refusing to turn back and admit our error, we try to instead to manipulate the future into being what we think it “should” be. Failing to follow our inner global positioning device that knows the power of grace and ease, we forfeit being happy now and miss the joy that is present in each moment.
Now, what was it that Albert Einstein said?
“Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”
Feeling overwhelmed makes it seem like the universe is conspiring against us, and yet we keep assuming we can overcome overwhelm. We keep assuming that happiness is somewhere out there. When we chase happiness, it acts like a mirage. Relief comes when we have the ‘a-ha’ that there is no “there” there. When we set aside our insane tendencies, joy is right here, right now and the trick is to have fun in the process.
So, who would you be if you did not waste all your energy on worry? How would you show up differently in your personal and professional relationships if you learned to appreciate the subtleties of each moment? What if we leaned in the direction of what we want, but remained unattached to the form of the blessings and miracles, trusting that the Universe is a generous companion for the journey who conspires with us instead so wonderful things will happen?
We have a choice point. When tempted by the adrenaline of drama and too much to do, will you take the high road or the low road? Will you be a human ‘DOing’ or a human ‘BEing?’
Imagine. What if life truly were an adventure where the “win” came from savoring the journey regardless of the circumstances rather than getting everything done on the TO DO list? What if that were the challenge of a life well lived, to focus on the beauty and wonder that is sometimes hidden between the cracks of life. What if the point was to find joy and be intrigued by the process. How would you respond differently if life were a game to be played in an unfolding design full of interesting clues and opportunities destined to lead to joy? What if the game of life was to be played without the agenda to arrive at a specific destination in a specific way at a specific time, but rather a journey with the intention that in each moment joy is possible and love is the answer to every question.
Take a deep breath at each choice point. And, if you are overwhelmed with anything today, choose happiness.