Having it All

To grasp the world more fully, one must grasp it gently. (Aharonov & Rohrlich)

“There’s so much I still want to accomplish! I want to write a book, and move forward on all my goals,” says Annabelle in my office this week. Her formerly black hair is growing back slowly, a steel gray, wiry texture I can see, now that her headscarf is gone.

She feels weak and fatigued, and has trouble organizing her schedule because of chemobrain from treatment and early chemically induced menopause. She’s fatigued and just beginning to understand the effects of treatment on her body and mind. But today she has no patience for herself: “I feel like I’m just being lazy. I’ve already lost time being sick. No more excuses!”

Last week, her perspective was different: “I want to do more meditation because it centers me and helps me remember to be more loving towards myself and my family. I know it’s ok for me to rest and heal. I’ve been through a lot. I’ve been so grateful for each moment and I just want to be present and open to how life is unfolding.”

Annabelle is facing the dilemma many cancer patients and survivors face and that I deeply relate to as well. Facing the reality of her own mortality in a new way, she understandably wants to make every moment count and accomplish outstanding goals. On the other hand, she wants to breathe in each precious moment and experience it more fully.

How to reconcile this seeming paradox? It’s a challenge to DO and BE at the same time.

One way is to embrace it. Yes, you have clarity about what you wish to accomplish AND you can give yourself the time you need for healing, resting. and being awake to what is happening around you, the miracles of life and love. You can have both, but NOT always simultaneously.

To help myself, I schedule my “being time” meditation practice for the morning and slow my daily routine down, making room for running late, a sick child, forgetting something. I challenge the inner critic who judges me negatively or pressures me to work harder, taking on more, in order to feel worthy. After cancer, I say “no” a lot so that I can say “yes” with real joy.

But I don’t lose sight of my goals and neither should you. Listening to your desire for new experiences and going outside your comfort zone, are crucial for your vitality.

How do you manage this paradox, the desire to get things done vs. allowing yourself the space and grace to observe and delight in the moment?


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