Bird by Bird

I’m overwhelmed again. This happens rather regularly with me, especially as the semester looms. One would think that the experience of living with yearly/seasonal/monthly/whatever overwhelm might make one an expert on dealing with it. One would be wrong. At least in my case.

No, my brain feels like…well, you know, I don’t really have a ready simile for this. It’s like everything I’m worried about (or just plain thinking about) is jockeying for the exact same brain space, the highest soapbox from which to preach down at me. These things include: preparing to teach courses I’ve not taught before; sending poems and essays out to journals; sending poetry manuscripts (book and chapbook length) out to presses; finishing the last bits of the memoir; preparing to go on the job market; dealing with general professional angst; getting Rudy ready to start kindergarten; managing, managing, managing everything and feeling competent at exactly nothing.

I *need* to get more exercise. I know it will help, but the overwhelm (I am resisting the impulse to capitalize that, to turn it into some darkly-hooded character from a morality play) swallows everything, including my good intentions.

So, I’m trying to remind myself to breathe and that everything will get done eventually and that nothing much is as important as my (and my family’s) mental and physical health.

And I’m thinking too of Anne Lamott’s book, Bird by Bird, which is a good teaching text for writing students and also tells the story of a boy who left his science project on North American birds to the last minute and finds himself overwhelmed and paralyzed by it the night before it’s due. The grown-up in charge counsels him to just go “bird by bird,” and he’ll get it done.

Okay, but where is the grown-up in charge? Oh. Right. That would be me.

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