Overwhelming being overwhelmed

Cindy ArpPowell

Recently I’ve been feeling overwhelmed. The summer storms have downed several trees on the farm, heavy rain has caused our creek to overflow, and the force of the creek water lifted our very sturdy bridge off its foundations and turned it slightly sideways.

The pipe diverting creek water into and out of the fishpond was relocated by the water and the pond level dropped, making life hard for our pond fish. After two weeks spent hauling brush, repairing flower beds and raking up debris, I was exhausted.

Chores are piling up

One morning, nursing a spectacular case of poison ivy, a sore back, aching shoulders and a bad attitude, I decided to settle on our screened-in porch for the day and recuperate. Besides the physical tiredness, my anxious brain needed a rest.

What’s a person to do? So much of life is out of our control. A friend of mine used to say that you have two choices, you can mow the grass, or you can lick the roots. Fair advice, but if you’ve mowed the grass for two weeks, only making a small dent in the problem, licking the roots isn’t an option. Thinking about all this, and feeling somewhat rested, I decided to take my daily walk.

Most days I walk a 2-mile circuit around the farm, often accompanied by our cat Stanley. The walk is a centering ritual for me. It is a time to recognize the world, a time for reflection and meditation, a time to see farm chores to be done and a time to see those chores as satisfying or dread-inducing.

My walk that morning passed several of our downed trees. As I paused to assess the damage, Stanley watched the trees for a moment and decided they were a playground. Here was an opportunity to do battle with the leaves, a place with new climbing expeditions, maybe even a place to find a yummy mid-morning snack. Stanley was having such fun in my chore. Through his eyes, it wasn’t a chore at all – it was a new adventure!

Watching an animal at play is always fun, and as I watched I realized that this blown-down area wasn’t a problem. It wasn’t something that must be attacked immediately. Dan had cleared away anything that would cause a problem. The only deadline for the storm damage was the deadline in my head. It could and can all be done; but it didn’t have to be done yesterday. There was and is a time for this chore, but there’s also a time for play.

Thanks to a public-school education and Sunday School classes, I have a head full of memorized poems and Bible verses. As I stood there, the perfect verse came to me. Ecclesiastes 3:1 “To everything there is a season; A time for every purpose under Heaven.”

With no deadline, no time constraints, the chores became manageable. I felt relieved. Now, about that poison ivy. …

Cindy Arp retired from Knox County Schools. She and husband Dan live in Heiskell. And she goes hiking once a week – even in a forest fire.

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