Getting Past Overwhelmed – How to Keep Going When I Feel Like I’m Drowning!

Nancy Smeltzer, art quilterThere are so many times when I’m working on my art quilts when the creation process is so effortless. The ideas flow, the fabrics fall into place, and magic unfolds before my eyes. Life is good and all is right with the world. Those times are not what this posting is about.

Instead, I’m speaking today about those times when I have to force myself to sit and sew because there’s a deadline looming. That time constraint may be because there’s a blog to write, a new piece to photograph for consideration for an exhibition, or a commission piece whose owner is waiting to show it off at a party. Whatever is the reason, there are times when I feel as if I’m drowning in the “I  should be doings”. I thought that when I retired from my teaching job of 27 years of instilling the rudiments of science into 7th graders, that I would have countless leisurely hours to sip a favorite beverage and stitch masterpieces. The reality, is that I now work much harder than I did when I was employed by the local school system.

A few additional things in my life began to command my attention. I began a spiritual path, which involved a healing practice that teaches powerful tools to empower others to heal their own issues. I extended my gardens to heights of horticultural grandeur, but which require lots of attention. I began to enter more substantial shows, and started publishing this blog. (and have since started a second one.) I’ve added onto my rudimentary knowledge of photography and Photoshop skills. There is also the maintenance of a 3 story house and trying to maintain some semblance of cleanliness, coupled with three months total last year of pneumonia that are still taking heir toll on my energy.

So, yes, there are times when I feel overwhelmed with what I want to do to get myself out there. I have big dreams and plans to get my art and healing practice better known, and it’s hard sometimes, to do a lot of that work and promotion by myself. I try to make lists and keep a calendar of mini- deadlines so that I can stay on track of due dates for goals that are important to me. Still, sometimes, it feels as if I’m just treading water, and if I stop working so hard, I’ll be pulled downwards into an endless vortex of oblivion. I guess it’s the need to be seen that keeps me going sometimes.

So sometimes, there are moments of despair arising over whatever the complaint of the day is. “This is taking too long”, “This is too hard to do by myself”, “I’m doing all of this work and nobody but me cares” are some of the usual gang of suspect ruminations rumbling around inside of my head. It’s those moments when I have to remind myself that the reason I am doing all that I am doing is because it matters to me. I want to create art, I want to write about my work and I want to help others heal because I want to do so. There is nobody else in the world putting these “chores” on my head but me, so it’s at those times, that I re-frame my view of my world. Some of these reversed outlooks appear as ….”How lucky I am to have all of these marvelous supplies to create my art work!”. “How fortunate I am that I like to work early in the morning so that I can write my ideas down from the night’s thoughts”. “How blessed I am with my connection to the Divine that I am shown ways to help myself and others.” These are some of the ways I try to re-examine how I look at the world, which seems to take away the fear of drowning from my present state of mind.

Now that I’m writing all of what I do out, it seems to be a pretty impressive list of what I do get accomplished. I’m a pretty driven woman, so I always have very big plans and dreams for the future. Perhaps, I could also pare down my list of what I want to accomplish in a day, in a week, in my life…nah! I’d rather think big and not get it all done, then be sitting around with nothing to do.

 What are some of the ways that you have of maintaining your sanity? Do you have some special ways to trick yourself into getting more done?

Why not leave a comment as to your thoughts on this posting. Please take a minute, fill out the form below or by clicking on the “comments/no comments link” at the top of the posting, and then share your ideas with the rest of us. We all grow when we share our thoughts and impressions, so why not join our growing community of those who appreciate art quilts and textile arts. We’d love to hear from you!… and PLEASE tell like minded souls about this blog! The more readers and contributors, the more I write.

You can see more of my art work on my web site at (be patient as it loads; it’s worth it), my healing work at and can find me on Google + , Facebook (for Transition Portals) Facebook (for Fiber Fantasies),  and Twitter.

To find out how to buy my art work, please check out “How to Buy my Art Work” in the “Pages” section to the right of this blog.


  1. Wendy says:

    My problem at the moment is a blockage. I am well on the way with a quilt and one whole corner os red – I want it to be red …. lol but it is not balanced with the rest of the work. So I have pinned it to a board to look at in the hope inspiration is ‘drop in on me’ but it’s a few days now and I am still waiting, waiting. Tried placing bits and pieces on it here and there but the waiting goes on.
    Cheers Wendy in very hot Melbourne Australia.

  2. Dear Wendy, Yup, I’ve been there! Usually I can resolve a quilt issue like that in a day or two as I go and work on something else. However, this quilt that I wrote about in February….. /?p=2739 took 4 years to resolve! I find that when I let the piece tell me what it wants to do, I quit butting heads. Do write back and tell us how you resolved your desire for red int he corner. Is the fabric a print? Sometimes, I use the backside of a print if the front is too bright.
    Good luck and patience, patience, patience. My take is that there’s a lesson to be learned here..:)

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