I suppose it could come from the fact that I have lived my life feeling the need to "prove" to people that I am valuable. Valuable even though I have no college degree. Valuable even though I will never have children. Valuable even though I think about and talk about the things that most people want to avoid. Valuable even though my body is sometimes fragile, often quick to tire. Valuable even though I am not "normal."
Maybe that's part of why I work so hard. Maybe that helps inspire me to find the opportunities for growth and discovery within difficult or unusual circumstances. I feel most valuable when I help people, when they see themselves in me and find a new, undiscovered strength. I feel most valuable when I am "making a difference."
What's wrong with that? Nothing except that my work is not sustainable 100% of the time. No matter how healthy my body is today, no matter how smoothly work is going, no matter how much I am surrounded by those I love, I still have days where I am not who people want me to be. I have days in which I am sad, tired, discouraged or lonely. But this is not the side of me people find helpful so this is the side of me that does not feel valuable.
Yesterday was one of those days. At times I feel a weight on my shoulders; the unanswered emails, the lack of blog posts, the book chapters not written and the marketing that has gone cold. It is days like this when the work outweighs the joy and I feel too small for the tasks at hand. I feel like my fatigue is a sign of weakness on a road in which I have not gone far enough. I feel like I am not enough.
So, what does one do on a day like this? Push harder? Lay down? Cry? Reach out?
I experiemented with all of those things. Pushing harder made me feel as though my heart would explode, this body and mind were already at maximum capacity. So, I stopped pushing and tried trusting. Trusting that one day without work, a week without blogging, a month without marketing, would have to be ok. I trusted that the work I have done already will carry me through the times when I have less to give. I trusted that if this is truly what I am meant to do, it won't all come crashing down. I had to trust that taking care of me would be of the greatest benefit in the long run.
So, I laid down. I cried and I could feel the stress melting out of my back. I reached out to friends and family for support and held on to the knowing that they would love me even if I quit working today and never wrote another sentence or gave another talk. And then, I remembered all of the times in the sick world when I had to stop pushing and give in to the truth of my body and the fatigue of my mind. I remembered the warmth that came after accepting that today was not going to go as planned.
I remembered learning from my CF days that there is nothing that can not be rescheduled. So I made it a Cancellation Day and canceled all of the meetings on my calender. They could wait until I felt better and would be more productive then anyway. I canceled and canceled and canceled and guess what? The world did not stop spinning, the sun kept on shining and no one seemed to notice. How ego wants me to believe that taking a break will ruin everything for everyone! But, time after time, I see there is nothing that can not be rescheduled.
After I cleared my schedule, I lit a candle and had an afternoon of Sacred Television. To appease the critical voices in my head about "not doing enough" I have learned to make rest as much of a ritual as meditation, work or socialization. So, when the candle is lit, and the television is on, this is sacred time for my brain and body to rest.
Today, I am still tired but I do not feel lonely or discouraged anymore. Healing is my responsibility and it does not only apply to times of obvious physical illness. Healing is also needed in times of fatigue, stress and self-doubt. Today, I will continue to nurture myself with rest and compassion. I will give myself permission to write, market and push myself another day.
Oh, but wait. I just wrote something, didn't I? Progress!
Oh, Mr. Balance, how you puzzle me!