Throughout my life I have been a planner and an activist. I have methodically kept a calendar of upcoming activities and carefully planned my days in order to get as much done as possible. I describe myself an activist because I envision tasks and then set out to get them completed. I don't procrastinate and I generally finish tasks before deadlines. I work quickly. Some people see these qualities as virtues. I merely see them as personal characteristics, although they have certainly contributed to my ability to accomplish a lot of work in limited amounts of time.
While these qualities are still a part of my mindset, my cancer has landed me in a very unfamiliar place. These days, I can't reliably plan for tomorrow or next week. I don't know whether I will have the energy to accomplish what i would like to do. And my body is simply not physically dependable. Some days I feel good enough to conquer larger tasks, but I can never do any heavy lifting anymore. Some days I can endure work that takes longer than anticipated. Other days, my plans just have to fall by the wayside.
I've always counted it a privilege when I had periods of time when I had nothing at all planned--when what I did was entirely discretionary. But these were considered a gift and not the nature of my daily patterns. For the most part my daily schedules have been carefully shaped toward maximum productivity, whether that was relational or administrative.
So now I have to live with a lot of uncertainty. My body is not dependable. My energy level is not predictable. And even my mind frequently succumbs to what some call "chemo brain" when I am forgetful, unable to concentrate, and lack the ability to think things through as carefully as I once could.
I'm being forced to learn that when you can't plan tomorrow you have to develop new skills to seize today in whatever form it presents itself. Instead of putting tasks on the calendar, now I have to simply put them on a list of possibilities. When I assess how I am feeling on a particular day, I have to run through my list and do my planning on the fly.
I've lost a lot of efficiencies, but I am also gaining new skills in reflection and in more spontaneous activity. I'm realizing that keeping my schedule "full" is not the only healthy way to live, and that a slower and more thoughtful pace can be just as faithful. Listening to my body, listening for the Spirit, and listening with an ear to the possibilities are important life skills, too.
The Apostle Paul's admonition to "make the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil." (Ephesians 5:16) takes on new meaning for me. It's not that the days are bad but rather that they can present us with wasted opportunities if we aren't prepared to seize the day and live into God's call.