Some days it’s all a bit much, isn’t it?
The inbox is a treadmill set one notch too fast. The kids all want, no, neeeeeed, something right now. Before you can put the phone down, it rings with another request.
Information overload, work overload, you know the feeling, right?
Catch the Ball
When I think of overload, I think of the dog I had when I was growing up. An energetic cocker spaniel named Gus. He loved playing fetch and catching toys. For fun, I’d bounce a ball towards him, and Gus would catch it every time. He could catch a ball very well. To mix things up, I’d surprise him by bouncing two balls his way at the same time.
Can you guess what happened?
Gus would sit there excitedly, his eye darting between the two toys as they bounced past him.
He’d catch precisely zero of them.
A lot of days I feel like little Gus. I’m good at catching a ball, but if there are too many balls, they all bounce past leaving me with my tongue hanging out of my vacant mouth.
But there’s some magic to be found in moments like these.
Don’t be the hero
First, when we’re overwhelmed we often feel alone. But this is not actually the case. Sometimes the things that feel burdensome and overwhelming to us smell like opportunity to another person, if we’ll just let them help us.
You don’t need to be the hero, baby.
And sometimes simply telling another person (or even a rubber duck) about all the things on our plate helps the plate feel a little less full.
The one thing
The other magic happens once we realize that we’re overloaded. There are too many people who need you to ever hope to satisfy them all. No matter how hard you try, some of the balls are definitely going to hit the ground.
And we give up trying to do it all.
Knowing that completion is impossible, we have a choice: which ball would you like to catch? Or, to borrow another metaphor, by aiming at the whole flock you won’t hit a single bird, which one will you aim at?
This is the choice described well in Elle Luna’s insightful book of the same name as the crossroads between Should and Must. The “shoulds” pile up and can’t all be satisfied, what is the thing you “must” do?
This isn’t selfish, like, “I must go on a vacation” (though that might be in order as well). This is about choosing your best contribution.
Who do you want to help?
What do you want to make?
Who to you want to connect with?
What would you like to pay attention to?
Jesus framed this well when he turned to Martha and said, “You are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary.”
Maybe in this moment, only one thing is necessary, can you see it?
Don’t try to catch them all, pick the ball you want to catch.