After an odd and, frankly, frightening bout of fever and chills last night, I took a sick day today from work and devoted myself to the task of getting better. For those who don’t personally know me it’s hard to communicate just how extraordinary this is. My mother recently reminded me that I insisted on getting my wisdom teeth out at the beginning of February vacation week so I wouldn’t miss any school. My first year at my current job I had a wracking cough for six weeks and didn’t take a day off. If I counted all the sick days I have taken since kindergarten, they might number a dozen.
No one is a workhorse without some sort of pathology. We’re avoiding something else, we’re convinced no one else can do it right, we are unrecovered oldest children. We are hung up on being needed. In a few weeks I will leave my position as PR director of Boston Opera Collaborative after a total of four years on the leadership team. Two years ago I finished my term as President and left the office in the more-than-capable hands of a colleague and dear friend, and I will leave this directorship to an equally extraordinary woman. I need the time, and the organization needs fresh blood and fresh ideas, but it is so hard to walk away.
When I decided not to run for a second term as President I was willing myself into humility. I needed to say “this will go on with out me” and I needed to mean it. That I was dragooned into another leadership position (an experience for which, despite initial reluctance, I am grateful) mitigated the withdrawal symptoms.
Graveyards are full of indispensable people. Of all the maxims that roll around inside my head, that may be the one I need to hear most. Everything will go on without me. Everything will go on if I am not in charge of everything, if I don’t always have my way. When I realize that I am “nothing special” I can be overwhelmed with the grace of knowing I am everything special, that my specialness doesn’t come from doing what no one else can do but from the uniqueness of my Creation. I have already been loved into being. Running the world won’t improve on that.
So this morning, when I woke at 5:00 am shivering and sweating, I got out of bed, emailed everyone to say I wasn’t coming in, sent enough guidance to people filling in for me, and lay down again. Everything would go on without me. I could rest without disappointing anyone and without ceding my power. Life went on while I slept: a reality I can finally accept.