>It’s a hard time of year and a hard year.
In Minnesota, the below-zero wind chills (and temperatures) are over-staying their welcome. I can look out my window and see a snow pile five feet high. I’m ready for the return of warmth. I’m ready to be rid of these layers of clothing that make it harder to move. I’m ready for less effort.
Some of my exhaustion IS about the time of year and some of it is about the way I’ve been living my life. I recently got a fortune cookie that advised me (in words more poetic than I can recall) to spend my energy in ways that give me more energy. It sounded like good advice, under the circumstances.
My life is full of balancing acts and this is one of them. On one hand, I want to be active and involved. I want to be LIVING life. This desire is made stronger by the knowledge I have—a body-knowledge deeper than head-knowledge—that next year I will be able to do less than I can this year. This idea of my being in decline is rejected by many people around me. They imagine it is pessimistic or, worse, that it will be self-fulfilling prophecy. My experience, in this body, is that it is a realistic expectation.
This is not a post about the power of positive thinking though, that, too, is one of my balancing acts. This is about the tides of activity level and how to surf them.
In the last few years, I have been increasing my activity level. We returned to Minnesota and I wanted to get back to some groups I had missed. New opportunities (including a part-time job) presented themselves. My “strike-while-the-iron-is-hot” attitude was in ascendance.
Now I find myself over-extended and tired. I need to decrease my activity level and that isn’t easy. I feel like I’m letting people down. The pop-psychology idea that I’m “not saying no to others, I’m saying yes to myself” seems like selfish drivel.
The phrase in my mind this morning (I grew up in the waning days of the Vietnam conflict) was “strategic withdrawal.” “One of the reasons for withdrawing,” (says someone who has some connection with the “military classroom”) “is that the terrain cannot be defended, and thus we withdraw to terrain that can be defended.”
In my personal life, it’s about deciding what I want to “defend.” That’s where it gets sticky because my withdrawal from something is saying it’s not important to me and I worry about hurting people’s feelings.
I bumped into another word this morning: yieldedness. In my reading, the context was Amish thought (Amish Grace) and surrender to God’s will. In my life, I saw it as an invitation to accept the realities of living with chronic illness.
A friend of mine recently died after a couple years of wrestling with pancreatic cancer. In her eighties, she opted for surgery and chemo and fought more aggressively than I would have. She bemoaned the fact that all she could do some days was sit on the couch. She hoped to return to a more active life.
Visiting with her was a gift to me because she was a gift to me…even as she sat on the couch. Her life took place in a very small space and yet she continued to teach and give even when she was not aware of it.
I have been imagining that doing and being active is somehow a measure of my worth. I have thought that “living large” is somehow a virtue.
i exhausting, one that does not have to be defended. I am feeling called to yield.
[This feels like part 1 of something longer…we’ll find out.]