BT Tuesdays: The Art of Not Doing (Anyone Have Ice Cream?)

Upon watching the blind auditions for The Voice, I realized two, very important things: 1. My karaoke voice is not as good as I thought; and 2. Alicia Keys should be emperor of the world.

If you also watched, then you know among the contestants were two moms who put their music dreams on hold until they raised their children.

I admire these women–not only because they pursued a dream in which they could have easily walked away. But they also made a clear choice. Right now, I’m going to raise child. Ok, check. Now I’m going to sing my glorious heart out.

This is something I struggle with–have always struggled with. The self-control of picking and choosing what to do, but more importantly, what not do to.

When you’re pursuing a passion, the pressure of Doing It All is immense. “Have you read that book?” “Taken this class?” “Watched that documentary?” “Seen that show?” We’re incredibly lucky to live in a city with so much information and opportunity at our fingertips. But as I’ve learned on many occasion, just because it’s an option, doesn’t mean I have to read it/enroll in it/Netflix it. It’s the same with ice cream in the freezer. Just because it’s there, doesn’t mean I have to eat the whole carton. (Unless it’s cookie dough. Then it’s like, Byyyyyyyeeeee.)

People are constantly talking about how “busy” and “tired” they are. It implies dedication. It implies hard work. It implies success. Just look at the greats who’ve gone before us! In books or interviews with Amy Poehler, Jordan Peele, Amy Schumer, Tina Fey, Hannibal Burress, Judd Apatow, they all hone on one thing: putting in The Time. Many of them discuss the sleep they lost, the weight they put on or shed, the shitty apartments they lived in, the crazy roommates they had, the hot dogs they ate for breakfast–all in the name of pursuing their dreams.

I gotta tell ya, that sounds awesome. I also gotta tell ya, there’s no way I could do that.

As anyone with chronic illness knows, picking and choosing what not to do makes pursuing our dreams possible. Much like the mothers on The Voice. Because, let’s be honest, children are basically chronic illnesses, too. 

Last week at a meeting, I was lamenting over the work ahead, mentally carving out when I would be able to complete it. I joked that I wouldn’t be getting any sleep for the next three months. My teammates shrugged. “Well, that’s just what you have to do. Not sleep.”

Yeah. Not an option. Not for someone like me. Not for the millions of people that suffer from chronic illness. Pulling all nighters, eating like crap, random schedules. Those things are a luxury. Not a rite of passage. Not a part of paying your dues. I hope the other side enjoys that Pop Tart for dinner and 2 A.M. bedtime and thanks their lucky stars that the worst thing that might happen is fatigue or a flu.

So. Does this mean it can’t for us? Not necessarily. It just means it has to happen differently. People with chronic illness must be more creative with their time because we could be out of commission at any moment. Not unlike the CTA.

It’s for this reason that many people with chronic illness are incredibly efficient. I make decisions really quickly, because I know that none of them are really lifechanging. I know that very, very few decisions in a week–or month even–will change the entire trajectory of a major outcome. There’s always a chance to change course, reroute, reassess, and move.

And, of course, keep chasing.