I once had a reader criticize my book Promise of Spring because she felt it was unrealistic that the character would get up and make cinnamon rolls for breakfast. I was astounded. I do this quite frequently (probably more often than I should). Doesn't anyone else do this? I tried not to respond defensively. I've had readers criticize my description of harvesting wheat, too, and managed not to feel defensive about that. (I've harvested wheat. I feel pretty confident about that one.) So why did that one particular comment get my back up, so much so that I still remember it years later?
It was the same feeling I got when I wrote a paper in university about a particular aspect of bagpipe music, and my teacher accused me of choosing an arcane topic just so he couldn't tell if I had done my research or not. It took all I had not to reply, "Just because you don't know something doesn't mean I don't!" Fortunately, I managed to quash that particular childish and shameful response before it escaped, but the defensive feeling remained.
I think if I'm honest, I am prideful about how much I can accomplish in a short amount of time. I do more in an hour than most people do in three. I find I am most productive first thing in the morning. I can get up at 4:30, dress, have breakfast, pack my lunch, throw supper in the crockpot, read for a while, let the dogs out, fold a batch of laundry, make a batch of homemade granola, and still catch my 5:30 a.m. bus to work.
When I first started working at my office, there were three of us assistants to take care of three managers. Then there were two of us taking care of five managers. Now I am by myself, taking care of seven, as well as the committees and projects associated with them. I can write a novel in a week, for pity's sake, and have done. The question is, should I? What is it that makes me think I need to do all this? Is it just the satisfaction that comes from knowing I can? Who am I trying to impress? No one else in the house is even up at 4:30 to witness my brilliance! :) And what sense of self-worth am I getting from being able to be busy?
Obviously, my self-worth should not be reliant on the amount I accomplish in an hour. Nor should I judge other people's worth by the same standard. And I should not be looking down my nose at the critic who is not up making baked goods for breakfast! But as I am forced to slow down a bit due to my health, I am also forced to acknowledge that until now a lot of my self-worth has been derived from what I do, more than -- perhaps -- who I am. That's why it has been so difficult acknowledging that I can no longer do everything I used to. It makes me feel diminished.
Time to change all that, I think. As I've been learning over the past couple of years, it's all right to sit still and just be. A life lived quietly is as valid as a life lived large.
Of course, that doesn't mean I can't still have cinnamon rolls...