Some people have one job, and they do it, and they spend the rest of their time doing other things- like reading books or going to yoga or taking their kids to the park. I do all of those things too, but I have one job, two businesses, a contract here and there, multiple rotating projects, a book contract, a paper on the back burner, a seat on the board of a local organizations and, three gorgeous girls all of them under five, and, and.... I've been wondering why I'm tired.
There is so much I want from this life. And so I stay up late. I say yes to projects that are exciting, and I find new opportunities. At one of my jobs- one I really love- everyone pulled a leadership card at our recent retreat. Do you know what mine read? RENEW. There is a quote on it by Anne Lammott that reads, "Almost everything will work again if you unplug it for a few minutes. Including you." These cards are meant to frame our year, to be a source of reflection and resilience and... renewal. But come on, RENEW?!?!?! I don't want to unplug- I want a power strip so I can plug in more projects, do more things, say yes more often. I'd especially love an extra ten hours while my children sleep. I recently tried this coffee drink meant to increase productivity and happiness, and I felt like I was on speed, which I thought would be great until I realized being on speed makes it really hard to do actually accomplish anything. It was the idea I loved- the idea of being able to do more, do faster, add more, say yes more, be with more people, more projects, more things.
Part of it is how I've always been: growing up, I did all the extra curriculars. But there is something deeper going on, that hit me like a load of bricks as I pondered about how I ended up pulling RENEW out of a deck of cards filled with cards that would have been a better fit, like ACCOUNTABILITY and COLLABORATE and DIRECTION and AWARENESS and TRUST. What beautiful words most of those are! RENEW though, renew is scary.
To renew is to rest. To unplug. To be still.
And when I do those things, I get worried about my cancer. I start to feel nervous that I won't accomplish all of the things I want to do in this life. I know so intimately how fast everything can be gone, in a single second, in a single moment everything as we know it can be obliterated, shattered, erased, untrue. I know how suddenly we can find ourselves in a metaphorical house of mirrors where nothing is at it seems, and I know how terrifying it is when the only reality that is tangible is a dissonance.
I recall once, a dear friend that has since moved on from this earthly world and I were laying on couches. She looked me in the eye and said... "I don't feel like I should ever nap, because I survived." She went on to explain how she wanted to do all the things, have all the babies, squeeze all the drops out of her life. She was going to do it all, because she almost didn't get the chance. It was a time in which we were both healthy- neither of us knew she'd be sick again with a couple years and dead soon thereafter. She didn't get the chance.
And when I thinking about all the things I want to do, when I decide not to nap even though I'm tired, when I say yes, when I start a new project- its a homage. It is a homage to all those who didn't make it. It's gratitude and respect for dear ones who had eyes full of dreams and time that fell too short. It's my way of saying, hey people I love so much- and hey, scariest experience of my life- I got this. I am here, and I am doing it, and I am squeezing every drop out of this life, and I am doing all the things, for all of you who I was with and who departed, for all of us who are afraid or tired or skeptical or worried about cancer invading our bodies again.
When I start wondering if I have too much on my plate, my dear and well intentioned Mom-friends will often say "you can have it all, just not right now." I have even said that to others. But it never makes sense to me. I can have it all, when? What if I"m not here, when the time comes? With my diagnosis, time went from being weighty and significant to becoming slippery, light as a feather, translucent and sometimes, not even there. I'm not sure how to get the weightiness back, how to reground myself in the present and the future all at once. Sometimes people tell me to just be in the present, but they don't understand that being in the present is facilitated by a deeper trust of the existence of a future.
That friend on the couches? She didn't know how little time she had left when she said those words. My sense of being able to inhabit and imagine the future was left behind somewhere between the chemotherapy chairs and the cancer friendships. I get whispers of it, when I imagine my children accomplishing milestones that are years or decades into the future. But when it comes down to the choices I get to make everyday, I make them because I want everything, and I don't trust the future, so I want the things now. And so now, I stare at this card with RENEW scrawled across the front and I wonder, if by resting I'm trading time for projects, time for relationships, time for dreams?
The question then, is what does it mean to renew? To rest? To be still? To say no? To decline? To curl up and nap?
I think it means feeling secure enough in the future to fully embody the present, including times of quiet, repose, sleep, connection, nothingness. What a gift renewal can be, if only I can stand to open the package.
Chelsey is a digital storyteller, geek, mama, researcher and yogi. She loves to make things and her favorite food is artichokes.