Thoughts on Sacrifice

(no, not the type that involves sharp instruments)

It’s been two years since Your Life with Rheumatoid Arthritis: Tools for Managing Treatment, Side Effects and Pain was published. It’s the first in a projected series of three, but is so far an only child. Well, if you don’t count the redheaded stepchild called 7 Facets: A Meditation on Pain.

See what I did there? Nice little plug for my babies, innit?

So, what happened?

Life did. And avoidance. After the first book came out, I groaned a fair bit about starting to write the second in the series. This was mostly expressed as “I don’t wanna,” the idea of starting over again at the beginning reducing me to the emotional eloquence of a toddler. Some wonderful friends suggested I enjoy being a published author for a while before diving into the blissful hell of writing another book.

Seeing the wisdom in their advice to actually enjoy having realized my lifelong dream, I did. And then some really excellent opportunities for advocacy came my way and I loved every minute of it. That is, until I recently realized I wasn’t enjoying it quite so much anymore.

No matter how much energy you have, you fill your life to the brim and sometimes beyond. In the last two years, I’ve gradually filled up my life to past capacity. Admittedly, this is a nice problem to have, but it is a problem for a couple of reasons. One of which being that I’m really tired. Really, really tired.

The second is that I’m itching to write.

I love having the itch again. Love the feeling of not just wanting to write, but needing to write. That if I don’t write, I will disintegrate.

The problem as that there is so much stuff in my life that I don’t have the mental space or energy to write.

Something has to give.

A couple of days ago, I read a post by Kristin Lamb on the five principles of achievement and #4 — or rather, the graphic for #4 — hit me so hard I’m still reeling.

The most important decision about your goals is not what you’re willing to do to achieve them, but what you are willing to give up.

I can’t do it all. Despite the persistent myth that this is possible, none of us can do it all. So we make choices about where our focus goes (and feel bad for not giving to the other places). I, too, have made choices and those choices have come home to roost. In saying ‘yes’ one too many times, I have filled my life with wonderful and meaningful work, but in the process also skewered my social life, sacrificed writing books, and it’s having an impact on my health.

Sacrificing something meaningful to work for a cause that’s even more meaningful is okay. Sacrificing what makes you truly happy for work that doesn’t — or used to, but no longer does — is not. And compromising your health in the bargain is downright stupid.

What am I willing to sacrifice to find my happy, healthy place again? How do I create the mental and temporal space to disappear into another book? And, at the bottom of it all, what do I want my life to be?

On this day in 2010, I made a five-year plan to be a published author. I did it in three years. And then I stopped planning. It amuses me to no end that my epiphany has arrived with such ridiculous punctuality and without any planning at all on my end. It also makes it feel more right, more destined, if you will forgive a flaky moment.

It’s time for another five-year plan. It will mean letting go of some of the jobs I love or the ones I loved and which are no longer nourishing me. But it will clear a space for what I really want to do: write books. 

And that’s not really a sacrifice at all.


Trevor Tymchuk said…

The last few years have been busy for me, and I'm grateful that I've developed the ability to sometimes say 'no'. As you well know, there's a delicate balancing act. Not sure if I always have the right balance. But there's always this push and pull going on where I want to do as much as possible (I think I feel I need to catch up for all the years I did almost nothing), but making sure I don't take on too much and collapse under the weight.
Kim M said…
Fabulous news, Lene. I got your first book when I was newly diagnosed, and found it to be extremely informative. I'm the type A personality who usually deletes books from my carousel after reading them. Yours remains on my active list so I can refer to it when I want. I may even buy a hard copy for easier reference.

And yes, sometimes we have to give something up in order to make way for something new. First and foremost, protect your health by purging if of things that are not a priority right now. Too much stress from over commitment is never a good thing.

I hope you'll keep us updated as you begin and develop your next publication!
Anonymous said…
The most important decision about your goals is not what you’re willing to do to achieve them, but what you are willing to give up.

When I read that, my selfish first thought was "Please don't let it be her blog." After reading the rest of the post, my final thought, still selfish, is "Please don't let it be the blog."

cathy kramer said…
The problem with being so talented is that everyone wants you. I love that you give yourself 100% to everything you do. I'm also so happy that you are excited to write again. Choose the projects that most fill your soul.