I came across a statement/question this past week that made me chuckle:
“I know you can be overwhelmed and underwhelmed, but can you ever just be whelmed?”
This question made me start thinking and searching to understand what is meant by the word “whelmed.”
So I went to the dictionary and this is what I found:
past tense: whelmed; past participle: whelmed
- engulf, submerge, or bury (someone or something) “a swimmer whelmed in a raging storm”
2. flow or heap abundantly; “the brook whelmed up from its source”
In my none-too-deep analysis, I came to the conclusion that whelmed can mean two different things: overflowing, and/or submerging, which to me, seem like opposites, thus leading me to understand the over and the under. I’m still a little unclear about the word, and I’m wondering if I can ever find a way to use it in a sentence that will make sense.
And now, after this journey down the road of over-thinking, I have a headache from harvesting deep thoughts after a very busy, tiring, wonderful week.
Please bear with me while I try to tie all these thoughts together. And you might want to get out a bottle of Advil, Tylenol, Excedrin, or Aleve in case the thoughts I heap upon you in an abundant or engulfing manner cause your mind to spin, and you become a victim of a headache due to being over or under whelmed…
I think an easier illustration of what I would like to write about can be found in part of my morning routine. And it lies in my search for the perfect cup of coffee.
Alas, I’m still not completely satisfied with my morning cup of Joe. In fact, in some ways it’s underwhelming. But, in the grand scheme of things, it’s the best I can do while avoiding all the “extras” that make coffee a sugary jolt of empty calories.
I’ve tried, folks, but I just can’t drink it black. I’ve added powdered creamers, liquid creamers, flavorings. I’ve tried Splenda and Swerve. I’ve changed from McCafe, to Breakfast Blend. I’ve driven through McDonald’s and ordered the sugar-free French Vanilla Iced Coffee with two Splendas (which I actually really enjoy). I’ve done the whole Starbucks Mocha Frappuccino Light thing. Without fail, whenever I finally find a flavor, consistency, and temperature I like, I am at a loss once again, because the calorie count/sugar, etc… is too high to expend on a drink. It’s a vicious cycle.
Let’s face it. No coffee will ever measure up to the coffee made by Grandma Smith. One probably shouldn’t even call it coffee. It was cream and sugar with a dash of coffee, served in a pink Melmac coffee cup. And it was perfection.
But maybe it wasn’t the taste that made it addictive. Maybe it was the company, and the fact that my grandmother made it special, just for me. And she always accompanied this liquid ambrosia with two home-made sugar cookies (out of the creepy clown cookie jar).
It wasn’t about the flavor. Or the fact that the cup of coffee made me feel really grown up. It was about the experience. The memories of sitting in my grandmother’s lap, and later moving to the couch as I became more grown up and was allowed to hear more grown-up conversations (just the facts about people—-never gossip!)
Those times and those memories make up the flavor of the perfect cup of coffee. And that’s how I know I will never again find that elusive taste. And you know what? I’m okay with that.
So instead of drinking normal coffee or trying to recreate a flavor that only lives in my memory, I’ve started something new. I now mix one tablespoon (heaping) of instant coffee into my chocolate flavored protein drink. As coffee lovers and snobs all over the world gasp at this, I won’t even bother to defend it. It’s just the easiest, most flavorful way to get my caffeine fix, along with a low calorie drink that has vitamins and protein and is also gluten free.
So now, after taking a few laps around the idea I first began with, here goes.
Yesterday, I was mixing up (in a Blend Jet) this drink I’ve settled for. This tiny blender is the perfect size for traveling, or any time. My husband gave it to me as an early Christmas gift, knowing we would be traveling a lot, and I love it. I never knew it would lead me to write a blog, but it did. Inspiration can come from the most ordinary and everyday things.
As I pulled out the Blend Jet, I began to think about life. There’s always a beginning, middle, and end. There’s always a before, during, and after. It’s the way the world works. When I looked at the empty vessel with the absence of anything, it served no purpose. And then I filled it with the powdered protein drink mix, and there was anticipation of the outcome. I added water, my designated amount of caffeine via the instant coffee (fancy). I added a couple of cubes of ice, and then began to blend.
I watched it all swirl together, and the individual parts became one. When all the parts had been mixed, and no ice chunks remained, I poured it into my glass and sat down to think about my day. In the thoughts that followed, I realized that this is how I live my life.
Every day, I begin again. I start anew, with expectations, and goals. And as I check things off the to-do list, and do the mundane everyday stuff, I notice that there are always unexpected surprises, disappointments, hopes, dreams, and fears. When all of these things come together, and I find myself at the end of the day, I analyze what the day has brought. Some days I’ve done very well. Other days, I wish for a do-over. But no matter the outcome, I always appreciate “the middle.” For that’s where you find the stuff of which life is made.
I was reminded through this coffee-related journey that I live in the space between my mom on one end, and my children and grandchildren on the other. I’m not old (ha! at least not in my mind) and I’m definitely not young. I’ve learned a lot, and I still have so much more to learn. I’ve suffered losses, but I’ve gained so much more. I remember the past but look toward the future. I mostly try to live in the moment; enjoy the day I’ve been given; celebrate the challenges, struggles, joys, and blessings.
Life in the middle isn’t before or after. It’s the road from where you depart, and it leads you to your destination. The hard work is done in the middle. It’s what makes the good things come to fruition. It’s where we grow, mature, change, transform. It’s where we choose to become better rather than bitter. It’s where the messes are cleaned up. Where we make our weaknesses our strengths. It’s where we become “real” and laugh, and cry, and learn to love this reality. It’s the place of love, loss, and letting go, where we embrace who we are, and who we will become.
And it’s in that often-overlooked-place—- the middle —- where you discover that you have enough. Where you cherish, enjoy, and celebrate all the little things.
It’s no coincidence that one of my favorite TV shows is “The Middle.” Over the years, I’ve had many people tell me I remind them of Patricia Heaton—the actress who plays Frankie Heck. This comment actually first occurred when she played Debra Barone on “Everybody Loves Raymond.” During the first season, her hair looked like mine did at the time—a similar cut. Our coloring is the same, as well. Anyway, I guess if I had a celebrity look-alike, Patricia Heaton would come the closest. As recently as two years ago, a man working in the Post Office asked, “Has anyone ever told you that you look like Patricia Heaton from “Everybody Loves Raymond?” I smiled and said, “Yes.” But I wanted to add, “These days I feel more like Frankie Heck.”
Last week, while in San Antonio awaiting the arrival of my granddaughter Harper, we binge-watched “The Middle.” I have seen all the episodes, but I still enjoy re-watching every single one of them. There is always a lesson learned, laughter is guaranteed (and sometimes there are even tears).
As I watched, I remembered an episode where Brick (the youngest child) had to write an essay for Valentines Day answering the question “What is Love?”
Here’s his essay:
“What is love? Shakespeare tells us that love looks not with the eyes, but with the mind. I’m only 10 and have yet to experience great love, so I chose to write about the only love I’m familiar with, the love my parents share.
It’s not a new love filled with burning passion. My sister says they don’t even French kiss anymore. But it’s the little things I see them do for each other that tells me what love is, like in the car, when my mom puts her hand on the back of my dad’s neck and massages it… Or when my dad warms up my mom’s car and scrapes the ice off her windshield on cold mornings…
And how they’ve learned to communicate with each other, using their own special language.
It’s true we don’t have a lot of money, but I like to think, even if we did, my parents would still be at home, hanging out together– Of course in a much nicer house with a jacuzzi soaking tub. If you ask people what they think are the greatest loves stories, they’ll say Romeo and Juliet, or Hermione and Ron Weasley, and those are fine, but if you ask me, great love stories can be small, like my mom and dad’s.”
All the things he describes are simple. They are a part of daily life and that makes them more precious than a grand gesture— when someone takes the time in the midst of chaos, and ordinary, and underwhelming times, and demonstrates love in a random, unexpected way. These moments are what the middle is made of. A sweet or funny comment. An across-the-room glance. A Blender Jet.
As I mentioned, my precious granddaughter was born this week. It was a busy, and a very slow-moving time, as we awaited her arrival. We love our Cooper so much, it’s hard to imagine having any love left to give, but we were quickly reassured that our love is like the brook that whelmed up from its source. Our love is abundant. Unconditional. Steadfast.
In the middle of all the excitement, anticipation, and relief, I realized that I had to go home. I needed to be back at work this week. Our daughter-in-law had a C-Section, making her recovery more difficult. Brian offered to stay behind and lend a hand. My heart wanted to stay, but my mind reminded me otherwise.
There are fourteen little ones I meet with every week. Since we were in San Antonio all last week, I didn’t get to see them. If I didn’t come back this week, that would mean another week missed. And then there’s Christmas break. Add another two weeks, and that would equal a month without touching base with my kids.
While I wanted to stay and help, and hold the baby, and play with Cooper, I couldn’t. As I stood in the middle, torn between which thing to do—-which direction to go—-I realized that the answer was so clear. I had to go. You see, Harper, and Cooper have an overwhelming amount of love that is showered on them daily. The spring is overflowing and endless. But these little ones at school aren’t all so lucky. During this time of celebrating peace, and joy, and the birth of our Savior, many people go without. Many of these children come from families who don’t go to church. Many will miss out on eating three meals a day. And sadly, Santa won’t be coming to visit some of them.
I will see my family again soon, and I will fall right back into the chaos, and the messy diapers, and spilled juice. I can’t wait to get back and go on walks with Cooper and the dogs. I am counting the seconds until we play with the Fisher Price Nativity set and I get to say crazy things like, “Cooper, don’t throw baby Jesus across the room,” and “Hey, I think I found the Angel of the Lord under the sofa.”
I’m ready to hold Miss Harper and tell her of the great things she will do. To taste the memories and not the coffee…
As I look out from my spot in the middle, I know where I am needed most. I hope and I pray that in these three days that I spend with my school kids, I can share with them the hope, and joy, and belief that although life is hard, it’s still so very, very good. I pray that God will watch over my school kids, and equip them with the tools they need to survive the hard times. I pray for them, as they live in the middle, between all the things they have or don’t have, and all that they want and hope to become.
For now, I’ll sit right here in the middle and count my many blessings. I’ll drink my protein shake. I’ll continue my search for the perfect cup of coffee, realizing that I might not find it in a cup, but rather in the special moments I spend with the people I love. It’s not the taste. It’s the experience.
My life isn’t too overwhelming, nor is it underwhelming. Like Goldilocks, it’s just right.
For all of you feeling overwhelmed, or underwhelmed during the holidays, my prayer is simple.
I pray you are whelmed.
I pray you are happy where you are. That doesn’t mean I want you to settle for things the way they are. There’s still work to be done.
But for now, enjoy the peace, and quiet, and joy that is in the right now. There’s plenty of time for the over and under that come with being whelmed. Enjoy the chair, the porridge, the bed, and the feeling of things being “just right.” And have a very Merry Christmas, and a happy and joy-filled New Year.
If you haven’t read my book, I hope you’ll order it soon!