Early this week, I stood in the creek in the rain. The water was running high and fast, turbulent and muddy, like my thoughts and feelings. The weekend’s spring snow storm was melting all at once in a torrent of rain. There was more water than the soil could absorb and the creek, usually just a trickle in this spot, was carrying the excess.
As the water rushed around my ankles, I lowered my cupped hands into the water. They filled to overflowing in a fraction of a second. I watched as the water poured into and out of my hands with equal force. I braced as the water pushed hard against my hands. My heart recognized this feeling of being full to overflowing. The pressure was too fast and too much — and too familiar.
I had been caught in the overflow of my overwhelm for days. For me, that feeling manifests as quiet withdrawal and tears that emerge at the most mundane times. I will suddenly find that my eyes are leaking while washing dishes, writing an email, laughing at a misunderstanding, or literally talking about the weather. When I fall into bed at the end of the day, a few deep, shaking sobs release whatever is left. There is relief in being able to release my emotions with tears. I can’t imagine trying to hold my overwhelm in; It feels possible I could explode. And so I run over, like the creek water pouring out of my hands as quickly as it pours in.
As my fingers began to tingle with cold, I pulled my hands out of the water. I felt instant relief with the release of pressure. Curious, I slowly put my hands back in. For a few minutes, I played in the current, noticing how the pressure on my palm increased at one angle and eased if I submerged at another. I found that if I held my hands underneath the water at just the right angle, I could feel the water pouring over them without being pushed or pulled. With open palms, I was simply blessed by the water’s rush. I did not need to try to catch or release. There was nothing to fill and nothing to overflow. This cleansing, nourishing water simply washed over and around my hands.
As I pulled my hands out of the water a final time, I brought them to my heart. Could my heart learn to play in the flow the way my hands had played in the creek? Is it possible to learn how to hold my tender heart open to the hurts of the world without being overwhelmed? Can I learn to hold myself at just the right angle for standing as steadily in the fast flow of spring melt as in the slow trickle of late summer?
Yes. I think so. Yes – to all of the above. And I trust that the creek will show me the way.
How are you holding or releasing the overwhelm these days?
Who or what is showing you the way?