The day before I was supposed to teach at a writers conference last weekend, I ended up in the ER with pain in one of my legs. Since I’ve had a blood clot in that leg in the past — one that broke off and hit one of my lungs, I'm quick to seek medical attention.
The medical staff was attentive, and after an ultrasound, informed me that I had a superficial blood clot. They used fancier language, such as “hematoma” and a couple of other words I can’t remember. Later, I found out from a nurse at my primary care physician’s office that a superficial clot is really a bruise. I don’t say “just a bruise” because I don’t take anything lightly when it comes to my leg.
I probably lost four hours that day — on a day I really needed to be taking care of last-minute preparations for the conference. But I’m learning to take advantage of unexpected breaks. They give me permission to slow down. That’s how I see it, anyway.
Even so, I don’t need as many unexpected reminders as I used to because I’ve gotten better about slowing down when my body tells me to. I just say no, and I don’t often apologize or explain why — partially because I don’t feel obligated to say yes to other people’s priorities, partially because I’m not sure everybody believes me when I explain the situation with my leg (the original clot caused permanent damage) and partially because the limitations I experience have cured me of my people-pleasing tendency. Pain has a way of doing that.
At the beginning of worship services, my pastor often prays for congregants who aren’t there that morning because they are suffering from depression or chronic health conditions. In doing so, he expresses an understanding and compassion that always makes me a little teary-eyed.
Something my dad used to say comes to mind. He used to say everybody has an agenda. The older I’ve gotten, the more I think he was right. I don’t think he meant that in a negative way. It was just a statement of fact.
If a person is organizing a committee, outreach or event, he or she often expects participation from others within the organization. That committee, outreach or event means something to that person, and maybe even to the organization, so I get it. But that doesn’t mean I need to (or even should) say yes.
I think it was John Maxwell who once said, “Learn to say no to the good so you can say yes to the best.”
Not every opportunity is the best. And being so deeply involved in the good is draining. The truth is, we have to guard our time. We need to listen to our bodies. And we have to prioritize the feeding of our souls so the Creator can rejuvenate and reorient us. If we do, we’ll be ready to say yes when the best opportunity comes along.
For those who are wondering, the hospital cleared me to teach at the conference, telling me to just keep heat on the affected area whenever possible. I was compliant. Honest.