Thursday, September 24, 2009
Basically, I have exhausted myself. And a tired, burned-out Teresa is a wicked, impatient, intolerant Teresa (oh my god I hate stupid people. No, really. Wait, I hate arrogance more. No, stupidity. No, it's definitely arrogant stupid people...that's the worst.). After launching into back to back tirades over certain aspects in my "volunteer" life, I realized that I was indeed burned out, exhausted and, um...not happy. And here was the kicker--I missed being in chemo!!! Okay, not the chemo itself, but the way I was able to run my life then. I, for once, gave myself permission to say "NO." "No, I can't do that right now--I have cancer!" and "NO, I will not be attending that event. I have cancer!" and "No, I can't solve that problem for you right now, I have cancer!" Oh, and just "NO. I have cancer." It's the perfect excuse. Nobody says, "Right, I know. You have cancer but I still need you to give me advice on x, solve y, and attend z for me." Nobody does that. So it was a huge relief. I decided right after I was diagnosed that I would have to just reduce my life down to "Fighting cancer and keeping my law practice going." This seemed like it would keep me busy enough. And everyone understood when I took a leave of absence from the 3 non-profit boards I serve on and the one civic organization, no one expected me to attend fundraisers; I didn't have a single "obligatory" event (family or otherwise), and basically, I had peace and quiet. Me, Chris, Seamus and, well, cancer. And I didn't feel guilty about it in the least. Please, it's cancer! I think when I say "it wasn't as bad as you would think" when I talk about the cancer experience--that's in part what I mean. My life was simplified and uncomplicated. Work. Heal. Repeat.
My first clue to my eventual epiphany should have been when I was looking forward to the chemo weekends. Again, not the chemo itself, but I can distinctly recall thinking on the Wednesday before chemo would start, "Fantastic! 4 days off where I can just stay in bed if I want to." Now, it never worked out that way--Thursday chemo days took all day and on 3 out of 4 rounds I actually went into work on Sunday, but I did like the idea of it. My second clue should have been when I was at my therapy appointment and said "Luckily, cancer is a great excuse so I'm not going" when I was only just starting to feel tinges of guilt for not doing something I probably may have possibly had the energy for but didn't want to do. My therapist (yes, of course I have a therapist...have you not been reading carefully??) said "Why do you need an excuse?" I believe I ran screaming from the room at this point (note to self: make another appointment).
So this week I looked at what I'd done to myself. I finished cancer treatment (okay, so let's be clear, I no longer have cancer) on July 14th. A little more than two months ago. And then I promptly, immediately, swiftly and with no questions asked, resumed my life. Full speed ahead. Cancer's not getting me down, no sirree. I even stopped wearing wigs, hats, scarves, etc. on July 19th. And between then and now here's what my schedule has included:
4 Non-profit board meetings
1 all day strategic planning retreat
4 doctors appointments
1 veterinarian oncology appointment (which takes a 1/2 day because of where the specialist's office is)
6 fundraisers attended
7 non-profit committee meetings
3 wine tasting events (for Chris's growing biz)
1 giant Survivor party
4 Writer's group meetings
2 days of jury duty
1 family visit to Missouri
1 trip to Chicago for a 3 day conference
4 speaking engagements/ seminars
1 new associate hired and training commenced
2 books read
30 blog posts (counting this one)
39 pages of a really shitty first draft memoir written
1 Breast Cancer Resource center advisory committee started and many events planned.
60+ days of practicing law full time.
And that was in the summer. You know, the lazy, hazy, crazy days of summer? Right. Yeah. I'm a moron. And the thing is, I'm pretty sure I didn't do any of those things well.
When I throttled back my life to "fighting cancer and continuing my law practice" I managed to read 12 books, write 150 blog posts, still visit with friends, spend lots of time with Chris, and actually sleep. Oh, and I was never in a rage at being pulled in too many directions at once (okay, sure, there was the rage over the whole chemo-stein thing, but that passed...eventually).
So my epiphany? It's a kind of simple, stupid one...I really need to prioritize my life better. Just because I can solve a problem, doesn't mean it's mine to solve. Just because I have a blank spot on my calendar when someone asks me to do something doesn't mean I have to say yes. Just because I once upon a time said yes I'd do something doesn't mean I have to do it for the rest of my life. Just because life has been unfair to someone doesn't mean I have to step in and try to make it more fair (um, hello?). I'm allowed time for me and hey, I might actually like that! I could read more! I could write more! I could sleep more! I could spend more time with Chris (doing all of the aforementioned)! And guess what? The world will continue to go on! Just like it did when I had cancer (and hey, that kind of hurt my feelings at first but now...wow, now I actually know the world--and the non-profits--will continue on just fine without me! This is awesome. Thanks world, for letting me know that! How very stupid of me to think otherwise. Stupid and arrogant. And we all know how I feel about that!).
That's my epiphany. It's not the greatest one, but it's all mine. It still remains to be seen what I'll do with it. Just right after I stop thinking "hey, my epiphany is going to turn me into a quitter."