I was having an emotional meltdown. And it was ugly.
In truth, I was surprised that this emotional hissy fit a.k.a. "Mount Everest of meltdowns", hadn't come earlier.
You see for several weeks leading up to my crying solo, I had been utterly consumed by tasks and lists and favours. I was overextended and I was STRESSED.
As the archetypical pleaser and 'YES' person, I had rapidly accumulated a monstrous 'to do' list which had ballooned to several pages of intricate and challenging tasks.
Every time I mentally lectured myself with the following words, "I will NOT, take on yet another task", one more chore would be presented to me by a friend or family member and I would yield, EVERYTIME.
When I tried to say no, I subsequently felt a guilt settle over me which would then morph into a compulsion to say "Yes, I'll do that for you". It was as if my mouth had gone rogue; it had turned against me and was sabotaging my precious time and sanity. It would say "YES", whilst my head was screaming "NO!!!!!!!!!!"
Before I knew it, I had multiple tasks, plans and responsibilities crammed into a very limited and dwindling time frame.
And that's when the tears began to flow…the flood gates opened and all my tension, worry and annoyance came pouring out of me.
Thankfully, my self-pity and my self-absorption did not last too long before I was blessed with some much needed perspective.
One of the tasks that had been thrust upon my 'to do' involved travelling to a local community centre to perform for a disability support program.
The task, I'm ashamed to say, was one that I was completely un-enthused to participate in. I didn't have time, I was too busy and I couldn't sing! Thus, I was not going to waste my precious time which could be better served somewhere else.
Yet despite my very persistent efforts to circumvent this task, the 'YES' person in me could not say a definitive NO. And so several hours after my emotional breakdown, there I was travelling to the community centre to sing Father Abraham to a room full of people that I had never met.
Once I arrived at the centre and stepped inside to meet the collection of people that gathered there every week, I felt at peace. My stress had evaporated and in its place a feeling of community and servant hood had replaced it. Actually it more than replaced it, it quashed it and made me realise how toxic stress and worry can really be.
I realised that through allowing stress and tasks to dominate and consume me, I had almost missed a wonderful experience to engage with people who genuinely craved friendship and love and support.
My anxiety over whether I would finish the ironing or a Sunday school lesson or my assignment before I left for an overseas trip could not compete with the experiences that I had that night.
And so, as I stood in that room on Thursday night I realized that sometimes we need to let go of the lists. We need to release all the tasks and responsibilities and focus on those people who need help or support or just good old fashioned friendship. We need to extract ourselves from our self-centered and self-serving tasks and just live in the moment.
We need to forgo ourselves sometimes to serve others; to spend time with people despite our busy lives.
In Philippians 2 verses 3-5 it says "Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others. Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus".
Alison Barkley lives in Newcastle and is a post graduate student at Deakin University.
Alison Barkley's archive of articles may be viewed at: www.pressserviceinternational.org/alison-barkley.html