Friday, September 19, 2008

Overwhelming Myself

I hate to brag, but overwhelming myself may be the thing I do better than anyone. I can overload on reading, on tv, on food, coffee, email--you get the idea. Even in this I am an overachiever.

This week I overwhelmed myself with my own book. I was trying to read it is smallish chunks, so I could absorb and digest what I was reading. But on Wednesday, with the pile of papers growing smaller, I couldn't resist plowing through to the end. And then I just felt paralyzed. Like what the fuck do I do now?

I wandered around like a zombie that afternoon. A saleswoman in Ten Thousand Villages said five cheerful things to me and received only grunts in response. I went to Penzey's Spices and sniffed my way through the store--tried to tell the difference between Turkish and Mexican oregano, tested to see if hot pepper flakes would burn my nose (answer no) and spent a good five minutes inhaling the comforting scent of vanilla extract. I don't think anything else smells as good. My fog started to lift when I went to see my Artist Way group, where I talked about my creative struggles to sympathetic ears, and got the excellent suggestion of taking the next day off to let what I had read wash over me and sink in a bit.

On that advice, I was extra nice to myself yesterday. I bought an almond croissant from the patisserie, and decided that it's impossible to be anything but happy while eating such a thing. I had lunch with my grandmom, and then ventured over to the Tyler Arboretum to see their tree house exhibit, comprised of seventeen or so tree houses. My favorite one consisted of hammocks strung all over with an invitation to lie in different ones to see various perspectives of the same group of trees. Rocking gently side to side I understood why Mexicans use hammocks to lull their children to sleep.

And then today, with great trepidation, I ventured back into the book, with what I thought was a small and gentle goal of simply reading the notes I took as I went through the novel. After reading the first half of notes, and making more notes on them, I knew I should stop. I had enough to chew on, to think over. But I kept going and am once again overloaded.

Why is it so hard to stop? To not only know when we've had enough, but actually walk away? I'm not sure. I think it feels like if I know what's there, I'll be able to control it somehow. The everlasting struggle for control. Or maybe it's the impulse to finish. If I read more, do more, then I'll finish faster. Which probably is the opposite of the truth. If I go slowly, at a sustainable pace, I work more quickly. If I overwhelm myself, it takes time to recover, regain some perspective and then get back to work. So for today, I'm done with the book. Writing about it helped, and my next step is a long walk. If you see me wandering with a glazed-over look, now you know why.


Dan A said...

This morning I was in a catered meeting and I saw an Almond croissant. Normally I would have been hesitant but thanks to Julie and her fabulous blog I grabbed my first ever almond croissant and thoroughly enjoyed it. Wow, the keyboard is mightier than the sword.
Keep up the good work. How much time and effort will be involved in your book before it is complete?

Julie Owsik Ackerman said...


It's your dad we should thank for the almond croissant, as he's the one who introduced it to me!