I created each of the above color wheels with just three colors of paint, plus black and white. Interesting, isn’t it, what can come from just a few ingredients, using two different brands of paint?
Well, this is my life. And most probably, yours too.
We thought we chose (or were handed) three important things in life, say, family, work in the world, and things you love to do for fun or relaxation. Sounds easy enough to create a well-balanced life with those three elements. Wrong. Each of the three elements, or colors, in our lives have morphed into at least 24 colors, or elements, and could potentially morph into infinite elements, or colors, with just a little more of this, a little less of that — or, heaven forbid! — using a different brand of color, such as moving to a new town or new job.
We’re moving into a new school year, the perennial start of so many new things, and frankly, my dear friends, I’m deep into overwealmth! I want to know if you have any good ideas as to how to handle this, please! “Overwealmth” is a word that I made up from “overwhelm” and “wealth”, the condition of near-paralysis induced by having too many good things going on, or to choose from, or to pursue; and you don’t feel you can give up anything! It’s the sticky spot right in the middle of time management, prioritizing, clutter management, recognizing human limits of time, space and attention, discerning one’s calling(s) in life, desire to honor the gifts of the people and opportunities around one, and wanting to revolutionize the way our societies and hungry forces have shaped, limited, and killed off the creative urges of so many people throughout time, including our ancestors and often, ourselves.
Dr. Estes has sometimes referred to something similar as “raining tortillas”, a condition where, after famine or scarcity, so many opportunities, ideas, and resources come falling out of the sky, and we wear ourselves out trying to collect them all before they go bad.
Simply put, I have so many interests, so many email newsletters, so many art courses, and so many poetry groups that they could fill my nine lives as a “Cat”. The new school year is filled with new programs starting, new sales on old classes, and new in-person groups that I would love to attend. Not to mention what is already here in this life: beloved friends and family, that book I’m writing (I think I’m done with content editing; just a few more checks and then the writing of book proposals to publishers!), comfortable and productive routines, and all the maintenance tasks of cooking, laundry, cleaning (okay, so not that much cleaning). I could give more details, but each of us has our own mix, and I’m more interested right now in HOW to choose, HOW to prioritize, and HOW to go forward in a responsible, ethical, and hopefully delightful manner.
I think that for almost all of us, this is a relatively new problem — and I fully recognize the irony (blasphemy?) of calling too much of a good thing (opportunities, choices) a problem. Many of us have come from ancestors who had very few choices; they often had to move to “new” lands to escape starvation and work in oppressive conditions just to provide for their families, and those new lands were already filled with people. History has not been an uninterrupted narrative of justice and delight (oh, you noticed, did you?); we all have our stories, and many of them are nightmares. Just to have a safe enough home, health care, and enough food and sleep is something that most of our ancestors never had and many of us have had to worry about. (see http://www.thenapministry.com)
When I was younger, though there was always enough food, there weren’t nearly enough books, new ideas, creativity, art supplies. I felt “image-starved” with few art books, and no color-photocopiers. Yet now, for the price of a computer account and a mid-level color printer, I have binders and binders full of beautiful and inspiring images I’ve printed out for myself. Instead of being limited to my city’s community college offerings for art classes or poetry groups, I literally have a world full of talented others ready to sell me an art course on anything I can imagine, or membership in a group of like-minded creatives. Because of the scarcity of these extras in my growing up, I’ve developed the habit of collecting whatever resources I could find so that I’d have some resources in reserve when I had the time to enjoy them. My nervous system hasn’t adapted to the “too-much-ness” of the choices available now.
As our choices have multiplied at an exponential rate, however, the capabilities of our oh so human bodies haven’t changed. We each only have about four thousand weeks in a life (see https://www.amazon.com/Four-Thousand-Weeks-Management-Mortals/dp/0374159122), and I’m acutely aware that I’ve already used up 3, 380 of mine. Investigating these new options and figuring out how to choose among them (and writing about the overwealmth of it all) is using more of the time I have left to enjoy whatever it is that I end up choosing!
Oh, for the experience of “no-time” in ritual, the spaciousness of meditation, the flow of artistic expression! If I remember that these experiences come in the doing of the ritual, meditation, or artistic expression, and not in the gathering of the no longer scarce resources for when I might have the time to enjoy them, then things become clearer, faster. I have enough, and the time is now.
Each of us needs only three colors, plus black and white. How we mix those is our life, our contribution, and our legacy. It’s time to delete the email subscriptions, get off of instagram and amazon (fortunately, I early recognized the crack cocaine nature of Pinterest for someone like myself, and do not indulge). It’s time to just pick up the colors.
Much love and many blessings on this New Moon,