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So, if you read the post about my giant English Mastiff, Dozer, over on the Storybroads (my group blog) you know part of the reason I’m feeling a little overwhelmed today. My precious dog is not well. And I’m trying to write two books, both due in a few weeks, neither anywhere near done. And I’m being sued by unscrupulous contractors. And my house is a mess. And my daughter’s wedding is next month. And, and, and…. The list could be endless. And by making it, I’m breaking my own cardinal rule of never focusing on the negative. Of never ever ever giving anything you don’t like any more attention than you absolutely have to. So what should I be doing instead? What is the surefire cure to the feeling of being at the bottom of an avalanche that just keeps on coming? To the worries that keep you awake nights? To the endless litany of things that seem to be going wrong, or getting ready to go wrong? To the endless list of requests and or demands from the people in our lives we wish we could accommodate?

First: Distraction. Find something to do that requires all of your attention. It has to be something you enjoy doing, something you will have fun becoming immersed in. Something you can get lost in. Art, drawing, creating, exercising, a great film, a great book. For me, it’s writing. If I can apply just enough will power to get my butt into the chair, and my fingers onto the keyboard, I will very rapidly sink into my story and become completely lost there. No outside thoughts will be able to reach me until I emerge again, hours later. And by then, I might be feeling more empowered and more able to approach those outside things from a more positive place. Second: Shrink your “to-do” list. Here’s a way to do so, with a ritual that will help. 1. If a to-do list item is there because of guilt, and it’s not something you want to do, but something someone else is pressuring you to do, cross it off. Learn to be okay with people being mad at you for not doing what they want. They’ll get over it. Realize that while you’re ticking them off, you’re also teaching them, by example, that it’s okay to put their own needs first. They’ll thank you for it someday, believe me. 2. Anything on the list that is an “I should” or “I ought to” do item, should be examined closely. Is it really your job? Do you really want to do it? Could it be delegated to someone who would enjoy it? Is it, at the end of the day, someone else’s problem and not yours at all? If so, are you really helping them by doing it for them, or are you a bit of an enabler? If that’s the case, cross it off, reassign it, delegate it, and let it go. 3. Now organize your list into two columns; on the left, list the things you actually want to do, on one side. And on the other side, put the things you feel you have to do, and can find no way around doing, but really don’t feel up to tackling. 4. Cut out the column listing the stuff you do not want to do, but feel you have to do. Yes, take a pair of scissors and cut it out. Roll it into a tiny scroll shape, and tie it up with a black ribbon.

5. Find a flameproof dish (or a black iron cauldron, as I like to use) and a quiet room, or go outdoors. Put some nice smelling dried herbs in the dish, like sage or sweet grass, or maybe mint or rasberry leaf. You could even use flowers you’ve saved and dried. The point is to make the ritual a little more mystical, to make the smoke a little more fragrant, and to provide kindling for the scroll. So dried grass and leaves from your lawn will work equally well. 6. Light the herbs, let the flames flare up, and then toss your scroll onto them and let it burn.

Say, “I don’t have to figure out how to make the sun rise in the morning. You do that. I don’t have to figure out how to make the moon move through its cycles and turn the tides. You do that. I don’t have to figure out how to make the seasons flow from one to the next in perfect rhythm. You do that. And I don’t have to figure out how to accomplish the things on this list, which are far simpler. Because you can do that if I let you. I surrender it all to the higher wisdom of the Universe. I am letting it go. You figure it out.”

If the fire goes out, light it again until your scroll has burned all the way. When the fire goes out, let the smoke keep billowing toward the sky. When you’ve finished, pour the ashes outside and let the winds carry them away. (You might even do the entire ritual outside, to keep your smoke detectors from interrupting.) It is done. Do not give these items another thought right now. What remain on your to-do list are items that you are looking forward to doing. Pick the one that makes you feel best, move it right to the top of the list, and do that. Continue in this way, doing the thing that feels best to you, each day. And after each day’s task is done, do something that’s not on your to-do list at all, something that is purely for your own pleasure. A walk, a nap, a massage, a chocolate. Anything! Within a few days of doing these things, you will begin to notice something odd. Somehow or other, the things on that other list, the one you burned, are getting done. Maybe by you, due to a sudden inspiration. Maybe by someone else. Maybe the task just becomes no longer necessary.

Try this method and see what happens. Shrink the to do list. Reassign and delegate. Hand some of the items over to the Universe, or your Higher Power by whatever name you call Him/Her/It. Do the things you most feel like doing.

And feel better. I got lost in writing this blog and I feel better already. Next, I’m going to list all those bad things going on, just one more time, take my cauldron outside, and get rid of them.

#maggieshayne #lettinggo #ritual #todolist #overwhelmed

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