This world can overwhelm us from every direction. We get overwhelmed by responsibilities, our work load, and relationships. By human conflict as we see it first hand, on the news, or on social media. By family. By the needs of our friends. By money, or lack thereof. By unexpected change. By the frailty of life. By the number of choices on the menu at The Cheesecake Factory.
Life can be a lot to handle. Before we know it, we’re drowning in stress, confusion, panic, and fear. How can there possibly be decades left of this dysfunctional circus? Is there an end in sight? I remember once sitting on an airplane, thinking if I have 65 more years left to live, how in the world will I entertain my mind for that long? In that moment, I was overwhelmed by boredom (and the stench of my deodorant-averse seatmate). But there have been other times that I ask myself a different strain of that same question. How can I possibly handle 65 more years of making sure I have enough money? How can I put up with 65 more years of seeing people fight on the news? Of never knowing another soul as well as I know my own? Of missing my mom? Of struggling with the choice between fish tacos and filet mignon sliders? It honestly seems like a long, turbulent road.
Those buckets of negativity momentarily pour onto my head and overwhelm me, covering me from head to toe, but are quickly put to shame by the roaring ocean of something else. Something that completely immerses me. Something that takes the word “overwhelm” to a whole new level. As cheesy as it sounds, that something else is love.
Nothing hits me quite as hard as love. It reminds me of sitting on beach chair just out of reach of the waves. Most waves roll about five feet from your toes before retreating back into the sea. Close, but nothing to worry about. Every once in a while, a wave touches your toes, and you think Whoa, that was a big one! Maybe that’s money. Or death. Or betrayal. And then, with no warning, that one huge wave crashes ashore and absolutely puts the other waves to shame. It plows through your chair and knocks over your Bud Light Lime sitting in the sand. Your feet sink into
quicksand puddles and your towel sops up 15 pounds of water. Your butt gets wet through the flimsy, drooping fabric. Once that wave hits, all those other waves that touched your toes seem like puny little teasers.
Sometimes I think that the negatives of life are overwhelming, but those feelings are minuscule compared to the rush I feel when overwhelmed by love. Last weekend, I traveled to NYC to take part in a walk to raise money for bladder cancer research. As most of you know, my mother passed away from bladder cancer in 2012. A few hours before I boarded the bus to the Big Apple, I received an unexpected and perfect job offer that would allow me to move back to Virginia Beach, be close to family, and support myself in a little oasis of a one bedroom apartment right on the water. I was beyond excited. I was not excited, however, to tell my current employer. My boss has become something of a BFF/cool uncle/fun cousin in my life, so the excitement about the move started turning into dread of telling him that I’m leaving. Fear began washing to shore. A wave of uncertainty lapped at my feet. As the negativity threatened to reach my chair, I pulled up my email while the bus pulled out of Union Station. Lo and behold, up popped a new email from my boss. In it, he commended my coworker and me for how we handled a tough situation in the office that morning, and closed by wishing me the best during the walk in NYC, saying he “only wishes he had met my mother so he could tell her what a fine person she raised.” There it was. The tsunami of love knocked me flat on my back. And nothing hits my heart harder than when someone suggests that I am a reflection of how extraordinary my mom was.
The tsunami materialized through my tear ducts, so I turned my head towards the bus window and began the Dramatic Silent Cry. Thank God it was pitch black on the bus and I didn’t have a seatmate. That would’ve been real awkward. I wasn’t crying because I was sad to say goodbye to such an awesome boss (which I am), but because I realized how lucky I am that the mutual love for friends and coworkers makes it so hard to say goodbye.
Then, because of how emotions work, the love-tears expanded into more thoughts about cry-worthy love—about the dozens of people who donated money to our bladder cancer walking team in memory of my mother, about my friends and family awaiting me in New York for the walk, about my friends and family in Virginia Beach who are so excited to welcome me back, about the Starbucks barista that calls me by name every morning, and about the girl in the line at Target who let me go first because I only had one item. How could I possibly hold it together with all of that love swirling about?
I know, I know. I’m an emotional disaster. You must be new to Generation grannY if this comes as a surprise.
All of this is to say that the moments you feel overwhelmed by sadness, bitterness, boredom, fear, annoyance, or anger absolutely pale in comparison to what you’ll feel if you contemplate the amount of love in this world. We’re so easily distracted by the negatives in life, thanks to the news, articles on Facebook, and our natural inclination as humans to be slightly depressing. Just like waves rolling to the shore, however, those little negative ripples barely reaching your feet are never as impressive or worthy of your attention as that big wave. You can will the Big Kahuna to crash ashore by actively recognizing the love in your life, or sometimes—as was the case on my bus ride—it’ll hit you when you least expect it, overwhelming you with the most important thing in life. And boy is it refreshing.