The farmer had done everything right. He had planted his seed on time, weeded, dealt with pests and diseases, applied manure and watered as indicated. His crop was ready, a bumper harvest was expected. Just a few days before harvest, something unprecedented happened.
It rained hailstones. His crop was ruined and with it, his hopes for supporting his family and paying school fees for his children. He fell to the ground, pounding the wet earth in despair. “What am I going to do now?!” he cried. He had not seen it coming.
While the year is young, and some of us are still sending goodwill wishes (heck, my Christmas tree is still in the living room), it is easy to believe that all days will be smooth sailing, happy and full of promise.
But if there is something life has a knack for doing, it is usually this: it won’t always go according to plan. Stuff happens and through no fault of ours, the best laid plans go awry from time to time.
That’s why it is sensible to have insurance for our health, cars, homes and life. And while that helps should you have an accident or your house burns down, no-one has yet offered emotional insurance for your soul when life sucks. Like that farmer, life’s
unexpected tragedies or derailments, leave us feeling overwhelmed, confused, angry and desperate. We are at a loss of what to do, where to start to gingerly start rebuilding our day or life.
Years ago, a friend gave me a formula for dealing with overwhelming days or events. She told me, “First do what is necessary. And then do what is possible.” Everyday, I was to wake up with only two things on my to do list: what was necessary and what
was possible. For each task, I would ask myself, “Is it necessary? Is it possible?” If it fell into the two categories, I would do it. Before long, the days turned into weeks and finally months. Finally, one day I woke up with a renewed sense of accomplishment
and hope. The worst was over, the clouds had lifted and I hadn’t been destroyed by the huge waves. Since then, I have used that formula to encourage someone dealing with everything from debt, deadlines, crises at work or home to those grieving.
On a daily basis, what is necessary could be sleeping, having a meal, taking a bath, combing your hair and getting dressed. While these are routine tasks, they appear mammoth to someone who is overwhelmed or grief striken. If they are unable to care for
themselves in these most basic of ways, it helps to have a friend to gently nudge them to do so especially when they don’t feel like doing anything. For someone with a health condition, what is necessary might include seeing their doctor, getting their check-ups
or taking medication. For someone in severe debt, what is necessary could be talking to their debtors, reducing their expenditure or downsizing their lifestyle temporarily. Refusing to do the necessary, even out of frustration or anger only takes us backward.
After we have done what is necessary, our confidence slightly bolstered, the next step to tackle is what is possible. This requires taking an accurate assessment of your current situation vis a vis your resources. Are you physically and mentally able to do it? Do
you have the time and finances? Do you need help? Can you pay that? Can you finish that report? Should you have guests over? Can you accept that invitation? A review is necessary as you may either be underestimating or overestimating your capabilities at
that point which can lead to more feelings of hopelessness. If you realise something is possible with the resources you have, don’t think too much about it, just do it. If it is not possible, then with your newfound knowledge, you can revert to doing what is
necessary. If you find that you won’t be able to deliver that report to your boss, you need to let him know in advance, and ask for more time. It may or may not be granted, but knowing you have done both what is necessary and what is possible, in this and
other things, you can have a measure of peace. And on days when you are overwhelmed, peace is usually a good thing.