Those who know me know that I'm a planner. I love lists, rely way too much on aesthetically pleasing planners, and if it's not in my Google Calendar, then it doesn't exist!
Maybe you find everything I just said to be intense, and that's okay! I fully embrace my 'plan everything to the minute' craziness. But there may be some things that resonate with you, like the fact that you need a plan. You need to know how things are going to play out before you say yes. You spend time analyzing the different options so that you can figure out what the right next step is. A lot of your free time is spent wondering if you've made the right choice after a choice has already been made.
If you're like me, a lot of time is spent in your mind. And let me be clear: Taking time to think, pause, weigh pros and cons, and discern is good. We should be doing these things. It wouldn't be prudent to rush into things, flip a coin to make a decision for us, or just decide without taking the time to educate ourselves. We need to plan and plan well.
But I want to challenge you to slow down and take a step back. I challenge you to try and reign in your freewheeling mind and take it one step at a time.
Dear Fellow Overthinker, let's slow down together.
I used to think that it was impossible to not overthink.
After every interaction, I would think about what I could have done differently or how my words and actions could have been perceived by the other. I drive myself crazy as I agonize over a decision to make, even if it's a very simple one. And I think at this point, it may be a good time to share that I do have generalized anxiety, so these types of reactions are pretty typical.
But recently I came to challenge my way of thinking in an attempt to slow down my mind. Recently, I read a book by Sarah Swafford called Emotional Virtue. I highly recommend it. It's a very simple and straightforward read with a powerful message. And while the focus of the book is on how to navigate dating with a purity of intention and heart, there was a point in the book that really called me out.
The gist is this: Sometimes we can confuse 'planning' with thinking too much and thinking too far ahead. At first, I didn't think too much about this. But the more I read, the more I saw that I was falling into this trap of thinking too far ahead. This happened especially when I met someone interesting.
Tell me if this sounds familiar: You meet someone new who is attractive, funny and makes you smile. After hanging out a bit, you start to think about the conversations you could have, the dates you could go on, the cute things you could do with and for each other. Pretty soon, you're scoping out who they are on social media, figuring out how you would best fit into their family, and all of a sudden the wedding is in order. Now all that's left is to see whether you'll take their last name or you'll hyphenate it.
I wouldn't blame you if you didn't want to identify with this. Personally, even writing this makes me cringe! But I definitely see myself in this and can say with certainty that I've done this more times than I can count.
I don't need to tell you that this kind of behaviour doesn't progress the relationship quicker. It's not a guarantee that it will help the relationship to last either. So why do we do it?
I know that personally, I demand answers from God. I need to know where I'm going to be and how I'm going to get there. So whenever there seems to be something going my way — i.e., He places a cute guy in my midst — I question whether or not this is it. I look for husband potential. And I don't let God do His thing.
In fact, thinking too much or too far ahead of where we are right now can land us in some pretty tricky or even hurtful situations. We may unearth things that we weren't supposed to know or didn't need to know without any context. We may misinterpret things or blow things out of proportion (totally me!).
If you're thinking that you're discerning religious life and that this doesn't apply to you, I'm here to tell you that actually... no one is immune. A few months ago, while I was on a Come and See with the Daughters of St. Paul, I thought that I had found exactly what God wanted for my life. I thought that just by showing up, God would tell me what my vocation was and that religious life was it. I started thinking ahead to the places I could be posted to serve, what it would be like to live with so many amazing women and in such close proximity to a Catholic book store, what my new name would be... so many amazing thoughts.
Imagine my surprise when I was asked by the vocations directress to take a step back from discerning. It wasn't a no, but a not yet. I needed to take more time to learn about myself and grow in my love for the Lord.
But Lord, I complained. I already gave you 6 months of intentional discernment!
I put all my eggs in one basket, and after I heard those words, my heart broke. I thought that God didn't want my time, my sacrifice, or my heart.
This scenario might be a little less relatable, but the same idea remains: We sometimes think too far ahead, place all our hopes into one narrow dream, and shut our eyes real tight as we try to will it into existence. But God doesn't work like that, and He invites us to open our eyes and unclench our fists.
COVID-19 has shown me that nothing is for certain. Even certain things aren't certain.
COVID-19 has shown me that even though you plan and put the work in, God may have another plan for you.
COVID-19 has shown me that we can't continue looking too far into the future. We need to focus on the here and now, one day at a time.
I'm not saying never plan, never save money, or go through life blindly. But instead of working on our plans, goals, and hopes in isolation, why not open up our hearts and lives to God?
It's true that He knows everything about us. But He still desires to hear from you directly about what you want to achieve, what you're scared of, and where you want to go. He loves you and He would do anything to go on that journey with you.
Dear Fellow Overthinker, we have no way of knowing what is to come. But we do know one thing: God's love and mercy are infinite. It never runs out. It's always there waiting for us. All we need to do is quiet our minds and listen.
It's okay to plan, and you best believe that I will continue using my cute planners! But God has really challenged me to slow down and offer up my hopes and dreams to Him. In turn, I challenge you to do the same. Slow yourself down and let your mind rest in His hands. He has a plan for you — are you willing to trust it?
Your Fellow Overthinker,