I used to think it was because I didn’t care enough – now I think it may be because I care too much.

Having a desire/need to make things better can be rewarding – I try to be helpful to people and animals I encounter on a daily basis. I know the world will never be dramatically changed due to my presence; but I’m happy to make lots of tiny impacts – a smile, kind word or pat on the head (the last usually reserved for quadrupeds). In my “Messiah Complex” driven mind (my daughter’s words, not mine – I think I’m just trying to do the right thing ;-), I sometimes become overwhelmed at the volume of what needs to be done. This is noticeable on both a “local” and global scale.

On the local front – it’s things like dog hair in the corner, the trim on the house needing paint, another weed in the garden, a recipe untried, a paper unfiled – (OK, let’s get real – boxes of papers unfiled…..) I will approach these cries for attention in two separate ways – the full-frontal-attack mode and the peck-peck-peck method. Both have their advantages and drawbacks. In full frontal attack mode – I throw all available resources (meaning me) at the problem, without distraction, until it’s complete or I just can’t stand the idea of spending another minute on it. Sadly, the latter happens at least as often as the former….

In the peck, peck, peck strategy (firmly espoused by Flylady) I’ll spend 15 to 20 minutes a day on the specified task. This often works better for me because I don’t burn out as much; however, I tend to get so overwhelmed by the sheer number of things at which I need to peck that I sabotage myself by laying out forty-seven 15 minutes segments to do every day….. and I’m right back where I started. By the way – for those of you unfamiliar with Flylady – check out her site – her wonderful program does work -it requires a bit of self-discipline and you must check your tendencies toward self-flagellation at the door – but she’s helped thousands overcome the clutter which encroaches on all of our lives.

Both of my approaches to improving my environment used to leave me feeling dissatisfied. I was certain that if I Really Cared, I’d have the dog hair swept up/trim painted/garden weeded/recipe perfectly cooked and presented. If I just cared a bit more…. truly I must be a lazy, slothful and unworthy person.

This “stinkin’ thinkin'” led to the blind eye defense. In order to be able to get through a day in which dog hair, weeds and tantalizing recipes were present, I simply didn’t notice them. I’d carry on with determination (grim or otherwise) while my world quietly decomposed around me. This defense costs dearly though, you miss so much by not being present – suddenly you look up and it’s a Tuesday – in May – in 2011! What the hell happened to July 2009?

So in my recent efforts to be present and aware, the blind-eye defense had to go – and I’ve had to learn to live with a little dog hair and some trim that could use a coat of paint. It’s there and I accept that. I also accept the fact that I’m not going to get to it right now, and that’s OK – really. This doesn’t mean that I’ve become a total sloth, lounging with the proverbial bon-bons while the dog hair threatens to take over the house. I still run the broom and vacuum, but I also accept the fact that with 5 dogs (one of them a Corgi seemingly on a perma-shed cycle), unless I spent all of my waking hours with vacuum in hand, dog hair will happen. I do what I can with my household cries for attention, sleep well knowing I’m doing my best and go on with the rest of my life.

On a more global scale – all of the recent disasters in the news bring about the same tendencies in me – quick – save everyone. I have wanted to go to Haiti to rebuild schools, head to Japan to hand out bottled water, drive to Alabama to help families rebuild their lives after the devastating tornado outbreak and now am wishing there was more I could do to help the flood victims in the South. I also realize that I can’t drive/fly/take a train to the nearest disaster site and throw myself completely into saving every victim.

I often want to turn a blind eye to the disasters – they’re so overwhelming, the scale of devastation so huge. No one person can do it all, but I can’t ignore the suffering and I realize that my small input coupled with that of millions of others can make a real difference in peoples’ lives. So I have a few favorite charities (Heifer.org, The Salvation Army and The ASPCA), I contribute what I can and know that I’m doing my best. I encourage others to do what they can and understand that only together can we truly help.

On September 11, 2001, my daughter and I were working at a blood bank (scheduled weeks before) sponsored by the local State Police Explorers. I was scheduled to work for an hour – but being so close to the tragedies unfolding in New York City (we were still living in CT and many of our neighbors worked in Manhattan), I headed over to the Community Center early to see what I could do to help. Literally hundreds of people had the same idea. The Red Cross had to send personnel back to their headquarters twice for supplies and we finally had to close the doors 3 hours after the scheduled ending time when we ran out of bags and needles. Not one of the hundreds of people who volunteered their time and blood that day could do much on their own – it took a group effort. But by everyone accepting that they could be a small piece of a big solution, we collected tremendous amounts of blood.

So the next time you’re confronted with too many demands on your time/energy/money or other resources – don’t get overwhelmed and don’t turn a blind eye. Take one thing at a time, be fully present in what you’re offering and know that you’ve done your best to save the world – or at least your own little corner.