When I smacked my face with the car door last Monday evening in Guymon, Oklahoma, my first thought after “I can’t believe I did that,” and “Holy Toledo, that hurts!” (only I didn’t actually say “Holy Toledo”) was “I’ve got to slow down. I’m trying to do too much.”
With 400 miles to drive the next day and the first hundred traversing the western end of the Oklahoma Panhandle, one of the flattest landscapes I know, I had plenty of time and space to think about that last observation.
What responsibilities and to-dos could I let go of?
The most obvious is selling my beloved house/guest cottage/studio creative complex. I had planned to handle the sale myself, since I know the place better than anyone else, and honestly, a real estate agent’s commission amounts to a pretty big chunk of change for someone who has had essentially no income for the past several years.
But I’m not a real estate professional. And sales is not my forte, as evinced by the fact that I’ve given away many of what may be the most valuable books in Richard’s extensive library, preferring to pass them to friends who would appreciate them or donate them to our public library rather than sell them.
Okay. Selling the house/cottage/shop is one rather large responsibility I could shed. What else could I let go of?
I pondered that question as the Panhandle gave way to the rumpled black basalt flows and volcanic cones of northeastern New Mexico, and finally to the first views of the snow-streaked Sangre de Cristo Range, the mountains I follow home.
Well…. I could ask for more help with the final push to finish my beautiful-but-not-quite-ready-to-sell place. Thanks to my friends Maggie and Tony Niemann, plus Bob Spencer and my nephew, Andrew Cabe, a lot of the finish work is done. There’s just the master bathroom and then all the “fluffing” details. Which is still a lot.
Beyond those two things though, I got stuck. No one else can write Bless the Birds, the memoir I’m immersed in. Or mastermind the launch of the landscaping-for-wildlife project for Terra Foundation and Audubon Rockies. Or give the talk at Denver Botanic Garden in just over two weeks. Or keep tabs on the myriad details involved in construction of the new tiny house. Or….
The next morning, I woke in my own comfy bed remembering Christian McEwen’s book, World Enough & Time, which I reviewed last August. One of the things I learned in reading McEwen’s book is shedding to-dos and responsibilities is only part of making “enough” time. The other and perhaps more important part is pacing.
I could choose to race frenziedly through each day, telling myself that once I got through this crunch, I’d take some time to rest and recover. (That’s my usual M.O.) Or I could choose to recognize that this isn’t a temporary crunch, it’s simply a full and interesting life. And I need to find the time each day to breathe, rest, and take care of myself.
It’s that old saying about life being what happens along the way, not the end of the journey. Oh, yeah.
It is good to have an end to journey toward; but it is the journey that matters in the end. (attributed to Ursula K. LeGuin)
I’ve spent the week practicing pacing my journey more deliberately. Every time I feel that panicky need to race through something just to get it done, I remind myself that this isn’t a temporary crisis. It is the journey.
And I rest when I need to rest. I stop and breathe. I look around me and appreciate that I am here. Now.
I’m accomplishing just as much, and appreciating more. I’m finding more grace and delight and outright joy. And I’m less overwhelmed and burnt out.
Also, I haven’t fallen, smacked myself in the face or injured myself in any way. I think I’m making progress.