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Overwhelm and the fruit harvest
This year has been so fruitful.
I cannot remember another year like it for the sheer scale of natural abundance.
The branches of the plum trees are trailing on the ground under the weight of their crop, the hedgerows surrounding us are gleaming darkly with bramble berries.
Even our feral apple trees, down by the wood, are looking like a properly productive orchard (albeit one you need to scythe through nettles to get to).
At the beginning of the season I swore that I would use up every last scrap of this natural bounty. I would pickle and preserve, I would dehydrate, I would freeze, bottle and put into alcohol.
Then - at the beginning of this week - I began to get overwhelmed. No matter how many plums I picked there still seemed to be more, my kitchen hummed with the buzz of the dehydrator, the oven, the slow cooker. My hands were permanently sticky from stoning fruit and everywhere there were mason jars and freezer bags of produce. How many crumbles can 2 people eat?
Then I realised how foolish I was being. I don't live a Pioneer Life, I am not from the pages of Little House on the Prairie - my survival does not hinge on whether I preserve enough vitamins to see us through the winter.
Preserving the fruit is something I do because I enjoy it - it connects me to the seasons. Visually I love the shelves of full jars, I love pouring a glass of blackcurrant gin in the middle of winter and remembering picking the fruit in the summer sunshine.
The whole point is that enjoyment.
Thinking about it earlier this week - wondering how I had let myself get overwhelmed by the idea of the harvest - I realised that I had been doing exactly the same with creative ideas in my business.
The change in season from summer to autumn always brings with it a rush of creative ideas for me. I can feel them bubbling up and then bashing against the sides of my brain in an attempt to get out. It is exciting, it is energising - that roll of wide eyed wonder as I think of future designs, new projects, interesting topics to explore. Faster, faster, faster . . .
And it so easily slips into overwhelm - the idea that there are too many things to do makes it difficult to even start any of them. The pleasure in the creativity slips into a panic.
So yesterday I stopped myself, sat myself down and here are the 3 things I am doing this week to reset my abundance meter.
1. Recognise the meaning of abundance.
Abundance isn't about 'being enough', it isn't just a few steps along from scarcity, it is way, way out on the other side. Abundance is a cornucopia. Abundance means that there are so many plums that it is safe to leave some for the birds, to select only the best. It means that there are so many ideas that I can give some away, and discard others as 'not for right now' without fear of running out. It means a generosity, a relaxation, an ease.
2. Write it all down and prioritise.
I looked at the size of my cupboard and the number of my jars and deciding that if I have five 2 litre jars for plums, what would I love them to be full of (it turned out that it was mi-cuit plums in rum and home dried prunes).
In exactly the same way I have 2 months of product planning left this year - of which I am working at home for 21 days. So - that is maybe 100 hours creative time. What do I want to fill that with?
3. Positively categorise everything that isn't going to be used.
This was the final important point. To take everything on my initial list and give it a home (even if that is home turns out to be in the bin).
What this did was take it all that 'waste' out of my mind, getting me out of overwhelm and giving my brain space for the projects on my priority list.
With the fruit this has been giving lots of it away - the team have been labouring up the hill from the workshop with bowls of plums and apples - and re-categorising the windfalls and slightly sub standard fruit as food for the birds.
With the ideas it has been shelving some in a 'some time' notebook and giving some away to people who I know will do a better job, and simply discarding others as they just aren't shiny enough.
What do you do when you begin to feel overwhelmed? Let me know in the comments.