“We carry our burden on and on, until one day, suddenly, we laugh and set it down upon the ground.” ~Muriel Strode
The other day, a friend reached out to me: “We have a rare opening on our Board of Directors, in case you are interested.”
I immediately responded with “Thank you for thinking of me. My plate is full right now and I am still very active on another Board.”
There was a time that I would jump in and say “Absolutely!”, just knowing what a great feeling it is to help and be part of a solution. I thrived on volunteering: the PTA, various Boards of Directors, Non-profits and fundraising – it was like I had a big “Yes, I’ll volunteer!!” tattooed on my forehead.
Over the past few years, I’ve removed that tattoo.
Sending that message back to my friend felt good and I did not have one ounce of guilt. My time is important, and I want to make sure I spend it doing things that are meaningful to me and to my family. I had given away so much of it over the years that I had become miserable and resentful and doing the work had become a burden.
Before this shift in my thinking, I used to sit down on Sunday evening and review my calendar for the upcoming week, resulting in the thought “I can’t wait until this week is over!” My calendar would be full of commitments as well as a lengthy To Do list – most of which was not important to my personal goals or to health and well-being of my family.
That weekly ritual was deflating; it was as if I was wishing my life away. It was a lousy way to live – living in a mindset of “I have to” as a result of overcommitting.
I saw the light when my Mom was ill. I wanted to spend more time with her. I wanted to be there to help my Dad. I wanted to be in the moment and take one day at a time. Wishing the week was over before it even started was not in line with my desire for a balanced life.
It was a process. I had to remind myself that saying “No” was perfectly acceptable. I honed my “No” muscle by modifying my response when asked to do something.
“Karen, will you run the bake sale?” became “No, but I am happy to bake an item.”
“Karen, will you drive my kid M-F next week?” became “No, but I can drive him on Monday.”
My “No” muscle continued to get stronger and it felt wonderful!
Now I can say I have effectively moved from “I HAVE to” to “I WANT to” and from “I WANT to” to “I GET to” – without the burden of an overcommitted calendar and welcoming each new week with open arms.