you CAN just be whelmed.

I’ve been feeling whelmed lately.

Yes, of course, this is a cultural reference from the late 1900s.

Specifically, it’s a nod to the acclaimed 1999 hit, 10 Things I Hate About You¹ in which high schooler Chastity wonders aloud, “I know you can be overwhelmed, and you can be underwhelmed, but can you ever just be whelmed?”

Anyway, Chastity, you can be.

The end.

Oh, sorry. You were hoping for something shorter this time?

I realized it the other day. It was 7:30 and all our kids were in the bed (all the praise hands for that one – we’re getting there when it comes to sleep!).

Jake and I were sitting on the couch, and I was trying to put words to an anxiousness I had been feeling.

And as we talked through it, Jake articulated exactly how I had been feeling: equal parts underwhelmed and overwhelmed.

So, whelmed.

The life of a parent is as such.

It’s underwhelming because every day is exactly the same. The same regimen of wake times and meals and toys and bedtimes and negotiations (while being sprinkled with the periodic play date or library story time, of course). And then the weekend comes–those days of rest you used to live for–and nothing changes. You do it all again.

But it’s also overwhelming, and I feel this at the end of each of these predictable days of preschool transit and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches when I wonder if I’m doing a good enough job. Am I loving them well enough? Am I offering them enough undivided attention? Are they eating too many peanut butter and jelly sandwiches?

(Answer: Yes, of course they are. Whatever, okay?)

So whelmed, although I will admit this to be my own personal definition, is somewhere in the middle.

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I suspect I’m not the only one to feel this way. To go through my days spinning my wheels a little as I try to balance the enormity that is life with the ordinary, particularly simple things that are present all the same.

The more I think about it though, the more I have decided that my general “whelming” feelings aren’t so bad because they keep me rooted in the things that matter.

On one hand, the place in the middle reminds me to love my people well in the simple and understated moments. To unplug from my distractions and pay attention (which is, unfortunately, easier said than done). To engage with them and listen to them and really be with them.

On the other hand, those moments in which I begin to feel overwhelmed are important too because there is a world outside our home that I will one day send our kids into, and the only people wholly responsible for preparing them to face that world are Jake and me.

I want to feel the weight of that because I want to do it well. I want their love and compassion and kindness someday to be rooted in the eternal. To be saturated with Truth.

Which is something that certainly won’t happen by accident or happenstance.

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So, in the end, I guess I don’t really hate feeling whelmed.

Not even close, not even a little bit, not even at all.


¹ Great news: 10 Things I Hate About You IS ON NETFLIX. (In case anyone was wondering what we’re doing tonight.)

you have something to offer.

When I was in middle school, I had a bad run in with a water trampoline. I was at a church camp with my youth group an hour away from home, slipped on the wet surface, and ended up with two toes on either side of one of the trampoline springs. This landed me in a small-town emergency room with two of our group leaders: an adult and a high school student.

I couldn’t get ahold of my parents, you know, because they weren’t home to answer their landline telephone, so needless to say, I was fairly traumatized (if anyone knew me in the late 1900s, this shouldn’t surprise you. Going to a week long camp away from home was something in and of itself.).

I left the hospital with a few stitches and a love for emergency room doctors, but what I really remember from the whole experience was how touched I was that the high school girl had come with me. Her presence made me feel well loved and less anxious during what would have otherwise been a pretty terrible day for twelve-year-old me.

I was reminded of this whole experience a few weeks ago when I found a typed letter dated July 19, 1998. It was from that very high school girl, and she had written it to me in response to a letter I had written her thanking her for all she had done for me. It was kind and encouraging and meant enough for me to keep long past I received it.

Life is full of so many of these small moments, isn’t it? Moments when people, often unknowingly, impact us greatly or change our course significantly. I’m sure you could think of one1.

Seriously. Stop reading and think of one.flower.jpgI think it’s easy to miss out on creating these opportunities for other people. I can’t tell you how many times I think, “I should give her a call” or “I should write her a note to let her know I’m thinking about her” but then leave the call unmade or the card unwritten.

And then it’s easy to convince myself that it wouldn’t have really mattered anyway. What do I really have to offer, after all?

But here’s what I know: I have never received a card in the mail or a random email or an anonymously packaged pound of coffee (you guys, this ACTUALLY happened to me last week and I really need you to know that it was real and amazing) and thought, “That was weird. I wish she hadn’t done that.”

Instead, I feel exactly the same as I did back in 1998: well loved and important.

As people, we inherently have something to offer. I know this because I have received such wonderful things from people all throughout my life who never knew how much they were really giving me.stop (1).jpgSo here’s to all the unwritten mail. The text messages that get typed out, deleted, and then never sent. The lunch dates that we pretend we don’t have time to plan.

Let’s hit send and lick some stamps.

That one’s for you, 1998 Molly.


¹ I used to make my students watch this Ted Talk every year. It’s just over six minutes and a great story about how a particularly insignificant gesture has the power to change someone else’s trajectory significantly.