On August 20, my friend Nancy and I got on a plane, fully expecting to spend two months walking across France on the 450-mile Chemin du Puy. The universe had other ideas.
During our flight to Chicago, I had a “coronary event” and was brought to a hospital once we landed. We returned home two days later, our pilgrimage canceled by the cardiologist.
As you can imagine, it was a tearful few days, but I found myself feeling thankful for a lot of things: that it wasn’t worse (I’m nearly fully recovered now), that it happened stateside, that I had a great friend with me, and that our AoCC team had prepared so well. (They. Are. Amazing.)
A wake-up call
It was a shock, though. I am in my forties and stumped the cardiologists with my healthy vitals. However, one perceptive doctor asked me, “How’s your stress level?” Yes, friends, for all I’ve encouraged self-care over the last three years, the whole painful event was a direct result of stress. (An arterial spasm, if you want to look it up.)
This wake-up call was a gift. I had been running on empty for too long, and it caught up with me. Despite the change of plans, I decided use this gift of a home-based sabbatical for long-term good. Instead of sauntering across France, I gradually implemented the self-care strategies that lead to physical, mental, and emotional health: a media fast, walking, spiritual reading, therapy, meditation, and deep talks with friends.
Along with pounds, I’ve shed the illusion that I personally spin the planet. In these last ten weeks, I’ve learned that while I can do my best, I must also ask for help, let others step up, and make peace with what’s undone. It’s just saner that way. Sustainable. My stress has plummeted, and I feel lighter than I have in years.
How’s your stress?
To be clear, I know that my situation isn’t as grave as most of what’s going on in the world. I share my story because I’m sure there are others (maybe you?) who carry more than their share of work and emotional labor. Like me, you may feel guilty for not doing more at times. Or perhaps you feel overwhelmed by all that’s on your plate, angry that others complain and check out.
Friends, I’m living proof that resentment, guilt, and perfectionism are a toxic stew that make the work exponentially harder. Let me be your cautionary tale. Don’t wait to have a coronary in the plane.
Doing the work with more ease
If you believe that your heart matters in this work, join me in finding ways to make engagement humane, kind, and sustainable. Perhaps, for you, this means prioritizing your well-being, setting clear boundaries, or resting before you’re spent. We can do good in the world while refusing to do violence to ourselves and others.
In fact, how we do the work of change matters as much as (maybe more than) what we do.
Gratitude, of course
I owe an enormous debt of gratitude to the entire AoCC team who kept liberty’s torch lit while I recovered. To our intrepid researchers, writers, team captains, production team, and social media goddesses: you are some of the smartest, kindest, and can-do souls and inspire me daily with your commitment to making a positive difference. Immense thanks to Jennifer Brunton, Marcia Bagnall, Marissa Bracke, Mary Blasko, Nancy Earl, and Wendy Cholbi for filling special shoes. I couldn’t have done it without you.
It’s good to be back and I’m—thankfully—here for the long haul. Onward, better than ever!
If you’re inspired, share below ways you lighten your stress and care for yourself. We’re in this together, friends.
P.S. After you comment, zip on over to the Acts of Gratitude section of this week’s AoC Checklist to get an extra boost of goodness!