You really need to slow down, my friend tells me for the hundredth time.
I have slowed down, I tell her. This is the truth: I don't do a tenth of what I used to do. My former self would have considered my current schedule a rest cure.
My current self, though, is annoyed to find it exhausting. Annoyed at not being able to do what I once did. Dispirited at not being able to just pull it out, the way I used to. Puzzled at the inconsistency of my fatigue: Why do I get chest pain from carrying a purse and a shopping bag through an airport but none from a half hour at Curves? Why does standing to preach put me in danger of fainting dead away but working in my garden make me feel wonderful? I have given up trying to understand myself. It will be enough if I can just make it all work, at least some of the time.
Ugly harsh thoughts parade by now and then. You're malingering. You know there's nothing wrong with you. You're just lazy. You're just not trying. You don't really have pain. You're making the whole thing up. Snap out of it.
You know, you're really not a lazy person at all, my husband says mildly, when I confide these thoughts to him. Nobody who knows you could possibly think that. But I know me. I know he is sincere. But is he the best judge? Does he really know? Does anybody?
Yes, there is a liar within. But which one is it: the critic or the striver? I type "Rest-- don't schedule!" into the little box in my calendar that represents today: no meetings, no visits, no nothing. That helps me to feel more entitled to goof off the day after a trip. I type "Rest --don't schedule!" on all the days that follow trips. I can do this for most of them, but some of them are already claimed by something else, and the rest day will have to be a movable feast in those weeks.
Someday this will all come to an end. It will be abrupt, I think: it will be suddenly obvious that the jig is up, and whoever was expecting me will have to alter their expectations. I think of this every time I schedule an event for two or three years down the road: If I live, I think, when we have come to an agreement about a visit. But this is true of any of us. If any of us live.
When this phase of my life is cut off, it will not be long before people lose track of me: Didn't she die? someone will say, and some one else will say, No, I don't think so. She just doesn't travel any more.
I wonder if I will finally be at peace about time and work then. If my internal nag will fold her tent and move on to other things. I wonder if I will just sit in the sun, watching the garden and allowing it to be enough, if drinking lovely tea from one of my mother's lovely china cups will be enough. If the opportunity to be useful will finally become an occasional blessing only, in my life, and never again a hovering demon.
I hope so. I hope there is time. It sounds delightful.