Ever had days where you feel like you were supposed to do something critically important, but you can’t remember what it is? Days where you feel like you did something absolutely unforgivable, and someone is going to find out at any moment, though you can’t think what you’ve done? Days where it seems like every possible decision you could make is liable to ruin everyone’s lives?
Oh, I hate those. I think of them as Days of Impending Doom. Over the years, I’ve finally learned that keeping to a healthy diet that works for me has a huge impact on my emotional ups and downs. So does getting in a bit of exercise regularly–just walking helps a lot. So does playing music. So does getting in time for prayer and confession. So does finding ways–even small ways–to do things for others.
If I manage at least some of these, my doom days are reduced, but they still show up, regular as clockwork. I know they’re messing with my head. I know they’ll pass. And yet…they still lock up my life.
On those days, everything seems to take on giant proportions and it seems like there are no right choices. A few months back, there was one Saturday where I decided to buy tortilla chips–tortilla chips!–and ended up paralyzed and teary in the snacks aisle at the grocery because I couldn’t decide if the greatest good was to buy the cheapest, the most locally made, or the ones that were vaguely healthier than some of the others. This all sounds silly, I know, and it does to me too, after the fact…but it seemed really, really important at the time.
Another example: one day after work awhile back, the boss took everyone out for drinks. For reasons I cannot now recall, I was convinced it would be wrong to join the rest of the team for a drink and equally wrong not to, so I sat in the hot car in the parking lot at the restaurant sobbing for a lengthy period, not least because I was not doing either one of those two wrong things, and that too was wrong. It makes no sense. But at the time, it was paralyzing. (I did end by having a drink, for the record, and then went home and cried some more because it all still felt terribly wrong.)
I hesitate to make decisions on those days. I hesitate to even interact, because in those moments, I feel like everything I say and do is self-serving, stupid, or phony. I tend to end up holed up, feeling guilty because I’m holed up when I should be doing something for others, but I feel utterly unable to do anything good.
Still, I feel like I’ve made some progress, in that I’ve finally, if not totally consistently, come to recognize when I’m in the midst of those days, so I can know when my filters on the world are not functioning correctly. Days when I feel both weepy and enraged because I feel useless and I’m also convinced the whole world finds me pathetic and annoying, I can, on some level, step sideways and say, “Proooooobably this is that doggoned doom cloud, and this feeling will pass sooner or later.”
And I’ve gotten a little better about saying, “God, I feel like I can’t pray, and I feel like I don’t know your will, and that everything I could possibly do is against your will, but I’m going to give you this whole mess and try to just trust that you understand and you’ll get me through.”
Sometimes that’s all you can do.
EDITED to add a simple and beautiful little prayer a friend mentioned, for those times when everything is overwhelming: “Forgive me for picking back up what I already laid at your feet.” I love that. I really love that.