Put your ear down close to your soul and listen hard.
— Anne Sexton
I love the way light falls across your face. Hillary Rain

It's been a month of little sleep and a magical to do list. I say magical because, strangely, it grows longer and more abundant each time I cross something off. When my hand shook so hard from fatigue last week that I couldn't send a text in my phone, that's when the low, steady urging of my soul voice at last broke through. 

“You can't do everything,” she reminded me for the hundredth time.

“I know, but. I committed. I said yes.” A long list of yeses lay scrawled before me, some with notes trailing uphill on the side, others with asterisks! and stars! and underlines for emphasis!

“Unsay it. Uncommit. Let go.”

“It's not that simple.”

“Let's look at the facts, Rain.” She and one or two loved ones still call me Rain. “Your eyes are burning. You're trying to stay awake at ten in the morning and you can't even finish a text because your fingers are shaking and weak. You dropped your phone just now. Your stomach is growling. When was the last time you ate an actual meal? You put the coffee pot on top of the coffee maker, not on the burner. You put the cheese in the cabinet, not the fridge. If you don't let some things go, you won't be able to do any of it.”

It's just the season, I kept telling myself. But when my eyes glazed over and I found myself staring at my keyboard trying to remember what I was writing—an email? HTML? A Pinterest caption? An article?—I surrendered and said yes to my soul. I sent apologetic messages and texts. I put what my dear friend Laura calls “a sacred pause” on my soul-doula sessions and the magazine I've been dreaming about for years. I backed out of commitments with a sincere “I'm sorry, but I need to do this.” Release, release, release. It's hard and achey and exciting, all at once. Yet the very warm-in-my-skin part of me flinches knowing that letting things go lets others down. Even though a clear no makes space for hearty Yeses, there's still a twinge of shame because I gave my word; I already said yes. People made space for me. Reached out. Drew me in with expectations that I agreed to. And here I am, disappointing.

I must allow it ... the eyes squeezed shut, the deep deep inhale, the blustery exhale, the unsteady rising, the resolute step, the internal committal, the all-out run. Release release release.

I released many necessary things one day last week, and as I checked my little Deluxe Moon app I couldn't help smiling to realize that I did so on the Full Beaver Moon—traditionally the time when Native American tribes set beaver traps before the swamps froze to ensure warmth for winter. It was an act of self-care, of survival, of looking ahead and planning strategically for an intense, upcoming season.

That's exactly what I'm doing right now.

This means getting away for a few hours this week to allow my inner wild wanderess child to breathe in the sounds and tastes and stories that will adorn the inner walls of her soul so that she will stay nourished in lean seasons. This means giving myself a moment to notice the way light streams through the scarf on my window and the pattern of gypsy flags dancing behind it. Or wrapping my cold-haunted fingers around the steamy warmth of an earthy mug of tea. Or the way my heart thumps to receive a sweet, unexpected text from a beloved, and feel my whole body just burst with love.

How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives. What we do with this hour, and that one, is what we are doing.
— Annie Dillard

My sincere hope is that those who were on the receiving end of my can'ts and Nos will find someone even more suitable to meet their needs. And I'm overjoyed to gather my energy back to me, clean it up, and make it shinier and stronger than before.

Moving forward, may my Nos be kind and deliberate so that my Yeses are exultant. It's a clumsy process, but as I sculpt away at my learning curves to reveal a me that is wiser and truer with time, I hope this pathway leads to a new sort of list—strange, magical, and abundant, a syllabus of grace.

Hillary Rain is a writer and mystic contemplating the incredible strength behind softness and surrender. She is Editor + Creative Director of Annapurna Living. When words find her she paints them across the dark and holy subway walls and tenement halls of