A good friend explained to me that he believes many people in our culture are afflicted with "FOMO"--Fear Of Missing Out--that somehow choices persons make about how they use their time, could leave them missing important and meaningful experiences in their lives. I am intrigued by this term, because I can identify with the fear myself. However, this year when my health took a nosedive and I was diagnosed with cancer, the fear dissipated. In my pre-cancer life, I often felt as if I was one lap behind in life's race and out of breath--relationships, writing, work, exercise--the list went on and on. Do more. Be productive. You'll miss out if you don't. Then cancer. My focus changed. Had to change, or I might not survive. During the months of chemo, I had never experienced such physical weakness, depression palpable. I could do nothing more than lie on the couch some days. I would rebound a little, but then I'd be hit again with another chemo treatment and faced with the difficult side effects. The experience was like living on a spare "energy" budget. I had to say "no" to almost all outside activities. I had little strength for anything but basic living. I felt free to stay at home with no reservations, because that's all I could do. And many days home was a sanctuary where I could rest and write and read and think and pray on the days I felt better. A haven. Margin. I had no fear of missing out on anything, grateful to be alive.
This week I received the good news that I am cancer free--the agressive treatment beating back the agressive disease--assisted by the generous prayers and support of friends, family and colleagues, the grace of God. Each day I feel stronger. People comment that I look more like myself, my face no longer puffy from the steroids, my hair beginning to grow again. I've turned a corner, and can feel my energy returning. Like having more money to spend. When one only has money for the basics, decisions on how to spend and save and give aren't difficult to make. When you have more money, decisions can be harder to make. I face those decisions now with energy. Will I return to my previous pace, or will I be more calculating, free from the fear of missing out? Will I learn the lessons from the chemo months and put them into practice now, not feeling guilty about saying "no"and saying "yes" to taking the margin I so crave to survive this frenetic culture?
I've been fortunate to travel a bit in my life. And when I travel, I can struggle with FOMO. There is so much to see and do. Do I drive myself to fill my schedule until it bursts, or do I take my time and see less and experience the beauty, the sounds, the people, the flavors of the place where I am? The last time I was in Italy with my husband, I got up early, before sunrise, and headed downstairs in the little house we have there. I made a cup of coffee and got out my New Testament and began to read. The comforting words of Jesus filled my mind and I read with no time limit. My husband slept upstairs, and occasionally I'd hear his light snoring. I felt thankful for him and our relationship--that he had made it possible for us to have this home to come to across the ocean. The sun gradually penetrated the early morning darkness, its warmth pouring through the living room window, creating pools of light on the dining table. I can remember thinking, "This is Italy too, not only the trips to Venice and Pisa and Rome." I rose from my chair and opened the front door. I could hear the neighbors beginning to stir, a dog barked in the distance. I breathed in the fresh morning air and gazed out over the bright green field that sits adjacent to our home. I felt almost as if I was standing on a balcony, overlooking a city with all its nooks and crevices of beauty. I had no rush to see it all. I would get to the city's bounty all in good time. There was no fear of missing out. What I had already was beauty and bounty enough.
Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you'll recover your life. I'll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me--watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won't lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you'll learn to live freely and lightly." ~Matthew 11:29-30 (The Message)