I try to be honest with people about the reality that I'm not terribly busy these days. I typically have two or three firm commitments each week, ranging from the consistency of a weekly therapy appointment to the more sporadic lunch dates with friends. Sprinkle in some regular volunteer work, occasional doctor's appointments, maybe a job interview these days, and you've got my fairly flexible schedule. Most days, in other words, I have time--time to read, to pray, to read a few blogs, to do a load of laundry.
And yet, there are days when I still manage to feel as though I'm running from task to task, breathlessly squeezing things in, berating myself for letting an email slip through the cracks or for forgetting to finish that book before it was due at the library. The best way I can describe this state is frantic. I live my day in a frantic state, without pauses or deep breaths. Heck, I can even make checking social media feel frantic and stressful, if I'm really in the zone. There is no satisfaction in finishing a task, just the panicked feeling that I must get on it with things and move on to the next item.
What this tells me is that frantic can be an internal state, regardless of the objective details of one's circumstances. (Hmmm, this sounds familiar). Sure, frantic probably makes sense if you have too much onto your plate and feel like you're drowning as you try to keep up with it all. (It's also probably a clue that it's time to change some things). But I've been discovering that frantic can be an approach to life, a mindset that doesn't necessarily make sense in light of the space you have in your schedule. It's more of a reflection of your internal state of affairs than it is of your external commitments and agenda.
And by your, I mean my.
I know there are parts of me that are easily tricked into anxiety and worried rushing about, and that I will need to remain attentive and gentle with these parts of myself for the rest of my life in order to live well. Frantic will always be an easy trap for me to fall into. That said, when I feel the frantic bubbling up inside of me, I am learning what helps to ease the pressure and help me step back in the direction of peace.
Stop. Stop the email, stop the chore, stop trying to multitask by checking my phone while also doing whatever else I'm trying to do, stop cleaning, stop making the list, just stop. Take a breath. Look up, look around.
Do something, one small thing, just because I want to do it--not because I should or because it's on a list.
Get down on the floor and pet the cat.
Sit on my porch for five minutes.
Read a Psalm.
It's not a foolproof formula, but these things are helping me throw a wrench in my own franticness, to let the dust settle and catch my breath.