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I’m whelmed, thanks for asking.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011 by Marianne Elliott

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Sometimes I think Danielle LaPorte is my big sister from another mother.

My big sister from the same mother, Sarah, was in town last week. We had a blast. She’s the kind of woman who has always known how to have a blast. Even when she was working full-time as a teacher, raising three children, helping out on the farm and – don’t ask me how – still managing to style her hair and apply make-up. I, on the other hand, have neither kids nor farm and I still barely manage to pull my hair back into a pony tail and slick on some lip gloss most days.

Danielle, like my sister Sarah, makes time to put on the make-up.

Why? Because she chooses not to be overwhelmed.

She told the universe ‘Bring it on!’ And now the universe hath brought it, she has faith in her ability to step up.

Sarah does the same. She says to herself and the world: Yes, it is a lot. But don’t you worry, I can handle it.

I used to say that a lot too.

And then I reached a point where I couldn’t handle it. And I fell apart a little bit. In the middle of a war-zone. And learned that there is a time and a place for saying to the world (or at least the people you trust most): Yes, it is a lot. And I can’t handle it by myself.

Which was good.

It was very good for me to learn that it was okay – more than okay – it was wise and smart and brave to ask for help when I needed it.

But I’ve noticed lately that the ability to say ‘This is more than I can do alone. Can you help me?” has been sliding into something much less helpful. Something more like “I’m overwhelmed. I can’t get through all of this. I don’t know what to do.”

It’s okay to admit when I have too much on.

But this idea of being overwhelmed? It doesn’t help. It tells me, and then everyone who is listening to me, that I can’t cope. When the truth is that I can cope. I just can’t cope alone.

So here’s my new practice: every time I want to say ‘I’m overwhelmed’ (to myself or anyone else) I’m going to stop and instead say ‘I have a lot on at the moment. I probably need to clear more space in my life for the things I want to do most, and I definitely need to get more people involved in this work.’

Or I’ll just say, ‘Babe, I am totally whelmed.’

You never hear anyone say that, do you?

We are always either overwhelmed or underwhelmed.

Why not simply whelmed?

Yes. It is actually a word. The verb we are all over- and under-doing is ‘whelm’ – which can mean either engulf or submerge (which is generally what I mean when I say overwhelm) or – get this:

flow or heap up abundantly

So how about that? I’m not overwhelmed, my friends. I am well and truly whelmed. Life has heaped up abundantly and I plan to enlist the help of my favorite people to make the most of this abundant heap.

So first up – if you know of anyone in New Zealand or Australia who knows a bit about setting up charities, has some time on his/her hands and might be willing to donate a bit of time and knowledge to Off the Mat, Into the World, let me know.

Likewise if you know anyone in New Zealand with accounting skills who might like to volunteer a couple of hours a week to help out Off the Mat, send them my way.

If you are or know a yoga teacher who might be interested in volunteering t spend a couple of months in Cambodia teaching yoga, let me know. They would need to be able to fund their own travel, but should be able to be paid a basic stipend that would cover the costs of a modest life in Cambodia.

And how about you? Has life been heaping up abundantly for you? If so, who might be just dying to help you climb that heap and plant a flag on top?


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6 Responses to "I’m whelmed, thanks for asking."

  1. Four dogs, a cat, a biz, a book, nine kids and a couple of chickens. Heck yes, I am whelmed! And I utterly love the way you are defining this dance. I needed this reminder today, an infusion of “bring it on” for the week.

    Good luck finding all the perfect help and feeling the peace of knowing you actually *can* do everything — and thank you for the inspiration. xo

  2. Jasmine says:


    I have a friend who is a successful and engaged artist and activist and when asked if he is busy, he always responds, “No, I just have things to do.” I love this. Just the word “busy” or “overwhelmed” increases our heart rate toward anxiety.

    What is the time frame for teaching yoga in Cambodia?

  3. Whelmed – I love it. I am it. Thank you for writing this, Marianne; thank you for linking to Danielle’s post. The word ‘overwhelmed’ has just been stricken from my vocabulary! Now if I can just teach the sheep to wash dishes or reply to e-mail. 🙂

  4. Swirly says:

    I have been using that word a lot lately – overwhelmed – and it really hit me this past weekend that I’m sick of hearing myself say it. I have a few days all to myself right now, and it is giving me a lot of time to think about how it might be possible to re-orient myself towards, as you say, simply being whelmed.

  5. Tina Tierson says:

    Marianne, I am so WHELMED! I was starting to feel panicky. And scared. And afraid of letting people down. Then I realized the universe is actually giving me what I’ve asked for and of course I can handle it. With absolute joy, too, (I think!) 🙂 Thank you (and Danielle) for this lovely reminder! The whelmed of the world unite!! xoxo

  6. […] the concept of seeing ourselves of being full of capacity instead of being at full capacity. And Marianne Elliot, who also took heart from this article, adds a lovely dimension to this. She looked up the word […]

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