Saturday, June 15, 2013

Adding Things (Consciously) To The Table

The last few months have meant a lot of physical changes for me.  Surgery will tend to do that, but it was also the mental fear of what I was facing -- surgery, chemo, radiation, and's a long, long haul -- and how much energy needed to be saved back to deal with everything over this long course of treatment and all of the after-testing this diagnosis will require.

Being at the halfway point in the chemo, though, it is time for a little self-assessment, and I am finding myself seriously wanting. 

Things that I have wanted to do for years still languish, and things I know I ought to be doing for my own health or sanity as I struggle forward with all of this continually get placed on the back burner.  Fear is still holding me back in a lot of ways and cancer has become a too convenient excuse for chickening out or failing to even try. 

For some reason, I am still holding back...or, worse, on hold altogether.  Unacceptable.

That is no way to live, especially given how valuable a commodity my energy is these days.  Shouldn't I be spending it more wisely?  With more purpose and drive?  (Not to steal a phrase from Rick Warren or anything, I swear.)  It just feels like I ought to be working toward something or, even better, consciously choosing forward steps toward an overarching goal or two...or five.

One of my lifetime scourges is that I bite off way more than I can chew far too often.  Take on too many projects at once, fail to say "no" even when I am more than aware that I cannot possibly do it all for everyone else without leaving my needs in the dust. 

What woman doesn't have that issue on occasion, right?  But I have "people pleaser"-itis in spades.  Even worse, my real shame is knowing that there are also things that I have failed to tackle because I have been afraid to fail in my heart of hearts and that is simply unacceptable.  No more hiding behind excuses:  if I cannot move forward on some of these things right now then when? 

One of the things that the forced introspection of chemo has begun is an awareness in me of being far more conscious of what I choose to do or not do.   As Thoreau once said, in his great classic Walden:
I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived. I did not wish to live what was not life, living is so dear; nor did I wish to practise resignation, unless it was quite necessary. I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life...

Because there are days when "cannot do" is the whole of my day, quite honestly.  So the things I choose to do on good days ought to be deliberately selected and savored for the most part, because I have to spend what energy I have as wisely as possible without allowing the perfect to be the enemy of the good.  It can be tough not to get frozen over-analyzing everything into oblivion when you only have so much energy to expend in any given day, let me tell you.

This situation has given me the ultimate out, in a way, for things that I cannot possibly do right now but, in all honesty, didn't really want to have to do anyway.  While that is a side benefit in clearing my calendar, it also has the effect of slowing other people down from asking me for things because they are more aware that overload is a bad idea for me.

So kind of a temporary bonus buried in a tough situation, right?

What I want to learn from this, though, is what my inner voice is actually saying about wanting to do something or not...and being able to firmly say no if that is my answer.  THAT is a lesson worth learning.

More than that, though, wouldn't it be great to consciously and deliberately choose some wonderful things to put back on the table?  Dreams, goals, even just random wonderful things I have always wanted to do but haven't gotten around to yet.

That is also worth doing in a big way.  And savoring every step of the way.

Couldn't all of us benefit from a little personal introspection in that way?  It's tough in the day to day rushing around to really stop and think about what we really and truly want from our lives.  Heaven knows I get lost in the daily rushing far too often, even now, to sit in the quiet and really give some thought to that sort of thing.

But that has real value in terms of telling you where you need a course correction, as well as giving you a glimpse of the next big goal or dream you want to achieve.

This week, I am setting myself a little project.  We have a bazillion magazines all over the house, and I am going to go through them and put together a little wish collage of things I want to do, places I want to go, stuff I want to name it.  No matter how ridiculous it might be, how impossible I may think it could be in the abstract,  my plan is to begin to put together a visual representation of all of the things I want to put back on the table.

Under the circumstances, it is not very likely that a lot of it will happen this year.  There is a long road of treatment ahead, and then a building back up period that will have to occur before anything strenuous like hiking or major travel or whatever can take place.

But without putting the dream of something in front of me, and figuring out how to work toward it, step by step by step, how will I ever get there?

Enough putting things off.  It is time to put a number of things back on the table.

And no matter how impossible each individual goal or dream may be?  Just working toward them is a lot of inspiration.

For far too long, I have been letting my life live me.  Letting other people's schedules and needs trump whatever I might have wanted for myself, sacrificing my needs to the greater good.  I know a lot of women who do the exact same thing, and what we all end up doing is making ourselves miserable and resentful in the end and, by association, everyone around us is made unhappy, too. 

My husband always says to me that "if momma isn't happy, no one is happy," and that really is so true to a large extent in our house.  I bet it is in your house, too.

So, what to put back on my table?  That is a question worth answering for me.  I'll be spending my limited energy in answering that this week, and we'll see where it takes me.

Why not join me.  What would you put back on your table?  Why? 

Think about it:  life moves forward, in which direction do you want yours to go?  What dreams do you still want to achieve, no matter how big or small, and what do you need to do to make them happen?  That's what I will be asking myself this week right along with you...

(Photo by Wendell.)


Sharon said...

Walden has long been one of my very favorites. Thank you for that great quote!

Christy, your table image is a powerful one. What you led me to think: A table that is overflowing is hard to sit at, eat from, or even figure out what it's all about. On the other hand, an empty table has no reason for being. Or, at least, it invites something to happen on it, right? Even if it's just sit there and put your elbows on it!

This is a "big birthday" year for me -- ending in "0"! -- and a professional anniversary as well. What you said about "holding back" and "holding on" really touched me. I will be introspective right along with you. I might even do some cut and paste, too!

Thank you so much. Sending prayers and hugs to you.

Christy Hardin Smith said...

Sharon - so glad you found it a useful analogy. I was struggling to find a way to describe it for myself this morning, and this is just what came out. But I really like the idea of setting up my table for the things I deliberately am choosing, rather than just throwing on whatever is handy. So much more personally resonant in some way, I think. It may just be my mood of the moment, but "good enough" is no longer good enough for me. Looking forward to hearing what you come up with, too. :)