The truth is, had I really wanted to be on this trip, I would have happily brushed off the consecutive presentations and my aching head as yet another series of challenges to be overcome in my constant book-related travels. However, since I was putting myself through this particular experience more out of obligation than desire, I was feeling doubly abused, both by this person and by myself. There were so many other things I could have been doing. I could have been writing. I could have been sleeping. I could have been lunching with my beloved. I could have been consoling a dear friend who had recently lost her mother. I could have been playing with my niece and nephew. I could have been eating my own chocolate hearts in my own house.

Since I mostly try to follow Gandhi's suggestion to live as if I were going to die tomorrow, I couldn't stop thinking, 'If I die tomorrow, is this the last thing I want to be doing? Pleasing other people while making myself miserable?' I was neither doing these people nor myself a favor by showing up when my heart wasn't in it. They were not getting the real me, the whole me, the true me.

On the plane back, I got a chance to open a book that a friend who knew my tendency to overplease had given me. The book was The Early Journals and Letters of Fanny Burney, by an 18th-century novelist and letter writer. My friend had highlighted several sections, and in a rare moment's respite from the stomach-churning turbulence, I spotted these lines: "This perpetual round of constrained civilities to persons quite indifferent to us, is the most provoking and tiresome thing in the world. É 'Tis a most shocking and unworthy way of spending our precious and irrecoverable time."

I now have that passage and the remnants of the bump on my forehead to remind me. The next time I do anything, large or small, I will have to be almost thrilled to death about it. Otherwise I will stay home and eat my own chocolates.


Next Story