|They stared at each other across the restaurant table, over a tray of rusks. The late afternoon sun was warming almost-winter-chilled bones, hands comfy around mugs of hot tea, occasionally swatting at a dust particle that swirled and frolicked in the rainbow-tinted rays.
“Overwhelmed how?” Sally asked. “I mean, I know what overwhelmed is, but what is it to you?”
Maggie stared down into her tea, marshalling her thoughts, not liking being put on any kind of spot.
“I’m unsettled, and I don’t know why. It isn’t as if things are not going well. I have the same issues, I suppose, as pretty much everyone else so I ought not to complain, and don’t think that I am! But…happenings and events and things are just moving in amongst each other and all overlapping and I don’t know what else, and I constantly feel as if I am being thrown off track and I struggle to get back sometimes!”
“That’s quite an outburst,” Sally smiled. “You have a half-ton of natural abilities, you know that; why are you allowing all this self-doubt to creep in on you?”
“You think it sounds like self-doubt?”
Sally threw her hands up: “I don’t know what’s going on inside your own head, but it’s starting to sound familiar.”
“Right, Miss I’ve-got-it-all-under-control, what would you know about it?” Maggie teased.
“Look sweetie, it’s like this: yes, I know exactly what it feels like, what it’s all about, to feel out of touch with things. It seems as if everything is just on top of you and you can’t breathe…the more this happens, and the more I let it happen, the more that I start to doubt myself and my abilities. I know I can do it; I just feel…tired, I suppose, fatigued, if you know what I mean? Almost a mental tiredness, like I am out of control and…without sounding tooooo metaphysical, like I have somehow given my own power away to someone or something, or some circumstance…you know? I guess the end result is that we start doubting out abilities to cope, to make sense of things…”
“I do know…what do you do about it?” Maggie asked between rusk-crunching, wiping the fallen crumbs off the table and into her lap.
“I guess it depends,” Sally replied, “on how far down the hole you’ve fallen. Without sounding glib, keep it simple for now. The climb back up may take a little while so cut yourself a little slack and get back to some basics.”
“Like get more sleep and drink less coffee?” Maggie smiled.
“Come on, take this seriously,” Sally said. “For example, if you use an electronic diary, why not switch to a paper one? We spend too much time on our phones in any case, and I find that the mere act of writing down my tasks for the day has an almost cathartic effect. It slows me down, hon, it slows me down. It makes me focus on the proper tasks, and not the rubbish, the stuff that crowds out all of the important things.”
“So slowing down is your solution? Sounds easier said than done”
“No! No, it isn’t. Look around you,” she exclaimed, arms flailing. “Microwaves mean meals are cooked quicker. Computers mean that work is done quicker. You know, when computers became mainstream everyone thought that they’d have more time now. Work can be done quicker, so shouldn’t that mean more time throwing a ball in the garden or reading a book? No! People know you can work faster so they demand a quicker turnaround time and before you know it, all you’ve done with the extra time is to cram more work into it! No! If you’re a fast-food person, then stay away from drive-thru’s. Stop the car, get out, go inside to order, sit down. Don’t eat in your car. You think the world can spare the extra thirty minutes it takes you to do that? Yes, I promise you, it can. What energy can it take to create a small vegetable garden and tend it daily? When you stand in a queue somewhere, what do you do? Hop onto Facebook, see who’s on Whatsapp. Queues are inevitable; thinking is not. Try just looking around you and seeing things again, instead of staring into your screen.”
“You’re not going to tell me to quit Facebook, are you?
“I did,” Sally shrugged, “and it made a difference. There is no force on earth that can create a feeling of being overwhelmed quite as well as Facebook. There is simply too much information, scrolling past at the speed of…I don’t know…the kind that is fast.”
Sally smiled: “Look, all I am saying is that Facebook has become less about sharing your life with those around you in a meaningful way than it is about a bunch of people rushing to their keyboards to regurgitate the latest string of meaningless memes. Pet videos, pictures of food, junk quizzes, forcing you to somehow interact when you should be focussing on things that matter. We rush. Slow down. Stop constantly having to perform, to present, to keep up. You don’t need it and the world will excuse you if you read a book instead of watching YouTube videos. Go back to basics. You are capable. Go plant that garden, buy that diary. There is always time for tea with friends. Just, well…think about it. ”
And so we should.