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Learn to say no

In the rental car on the way to my meeting while in Lubbock, Texas, I came across a Christian radio station that caught my attention. From what I gathered, people were calling in to discuss their struggles with saying “no”.  I’ve read countless articles on wellness and self-care that often emphasize the benefits of saying “no” sometimes.  As I’ve gotten older and have vanquished my former people-pleasing ways (a lot of them), my “no” indicates that I’ve set some boundaries and recognize that I have limitations. It’s a statement that indicates that I value myself more than I desire to please people.  What struck a chord with me was that the host presented a whole new perspective on thinking about this. His point was that it’s great for people to take on different tasks, goals, activities, etc. as long as it doesn’t prevent them from doing their very best in their primary God-given assignment. Everybody has an assigment from God whether that be taking care of their family, community, business, ministry, etc., but if you take on so much that you are unable to effectively manage your main assignment, then it’s time to say “no” to some things.

 

The main reason that resonated with me is I’ve had to learn to say no without feeling guilty.  I know that my primary God given assignment is to take care of my family. However, there was a point in my life that God had to remind me. I do value an identity outside of being a wife and mother, after all, I was myself before they came along.  As a result, I am involved in different activities that bring me joy.  I constantly set goals on different things I want to accomplish, I’m a constant learner, and tend to be an overachiever.  Balancing all of this while raising a family with my husband can be challenging at times. For example, upon completing graduate school, I felt like SUPERWOMAN. Around that time, I used to pray for God to use me to fulfill his purpose, which is to help people. Completing such a fete while working full time and raising a family with small children fueled the fire that I could do most anything. Plus, I wanted to help people. Therefore, I said a lot of “yeses” when I should have been saying “no”.

 

Soon after I graduated, I became a board member of a small, local dance company that my daughter attended. I had also been leading a ministry at my church. Both projects required a lot of time and effort, which I did put in.  I genuinely enjoyed them both, but boy did I overextend myself.  I started to see the toll this was taking on me and my family.  I honestly didn’t realize how much work each would take. God was sending me messages that I was doing too much. I also didn’t like how stressed I was and I struggled with resentment. I began questioning my intentions and why I had committed myself in such a way.  And then one day, I heard the message loud and clear that I should be using my gifts for my family. I had constantly prayed for God to use me to help others, but he had already entrusted me with my beautiful family (people to help). I had spent so much time away from them while in graduate school and here I was helping other families in these projects when I needed to be with my own. Don’t get me wrong, my family was not neglected (that much – I’m an overachiever), but I began to think about what more I could pour into them by redirecting that energy.

 

I resigned as the board chair of the dance company after a year. That experience taught me to question my intentions and examine my expectations and returns on investment before I agree to extend my time for such a project.  What was I trying to prove and what did this project have to do with my larger goals?  I also eventually phased out of leading the ministry at church, which I had done for a few years. Thankfully, the pastors were messaging the importance of taking a break from ministry to avoid burnout, so it was all coming together.

 

Something that the radio host stated that made me pause was to ask God about what to do when approached with various requests. As an intellectual, yes, I can rationalize, and after careful consideration, come to a solid conclusion on my next steps – participate or not.  In some ways, I do believe that listening to my gut and gaging for signs of peace with my decision (s) are indicators that I am seeking guidance from the God within me, but I will work on also asking God directly.


As I indicated earlier, I’m involved in several activities/groups and I get offers to participate in various activities such as lunches, fitness classes, events, projects, etc.  Similarly to what the radio host indicated, if any of these take me too far away from my primary God-given assignment, then I say “no”.  And I do think it’s possible to have more than one God-given assignment although the radio host didn’t mention it. He did specify “primary” assignment.  Therefore, since my family’s happiness is my gage of performance in my primary assignment, then if either of my children start having problems of any sort, I pull back on things I’m working on. If I find myself working on projects that cause me to spend less time with my family for long periods of time, I pull back.  If it feels more chaotic at home or if I sense that my husband is becoming stressed, I pull back.  If anyone becomes sick, such as when my husband was ill, I pull back. If I no longer feel enjoyment, start feeling burdened or stressed by the activity, I pull back. I schedule my reqired work travel so that I am not gone for too many consecutive days so that I can get back to my assignment.  All of this requires self-awareness, constant re-examination, flexibility, and knowing my assignment.

 

Something tells me that someone from the peanut gallery (I haven’t used or heard that expression in years…ha!) may be frowning and thinking that I’m giving too much and should put myself first. In a lot of ways, I do put myself first, but I also know that my primary God-given assignment (my family) requires me to be selfless too.  And saying “no”  isn’t so bad because it means that I’m saying “yes” to something else that I happen to find more important.

 

 


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Rest

 

I did not leave the house at all this weekend. I’ve been really tired and haven’t gotten solid sleep for the past several weeks, maybe 6 weeks or so. In fact, I don’t remember the last time I felt really refreshed upon waking up. I certainly wish I could sleep as often and as soundly as our kittens. The recent rains have not been helping.  For once, I did what I professed to my coworkers on Friday that I would do, which was rest for most of the weekend. It’s a good thing that I did too because I’m not sure that I would have appreciated an exchange between my children that I haven’t seen in a long time. It absolutely warmed my heart.

My idea of resting may not be someone else’s idea, but not leaving the house was a big step. I did do my Saturday morning ritual of kitchen/dining room cleaning. Cleaning doesn’t appear to do much for resting, but it makes me feel better mentally and is the necessary pre-work prior to resting (at least think so). I also prepped meals, cooked and supervised (constantly barking orders to stay on task) my kids cleaning their rooms. Aside from all of that, I lounged around, watched a few of my cooking shows and a couple of movies on Amazon Prime. This is rare, but I didn’t even go to church today. I said my prayers as usual, asked God for forgiveness and made peace that I was doing what I needed to do.

I tend to have lofty goals and there were some things that I wanted to do such as write a few blog posts, wash my daughter’s hair (an activity that takes several hours), and even catch up on work. I’ll be happy if I publish this one post on this Sunday. 

We’ve enjoyed our kittens for over a month now although one of them is not consistent with using the litter box. He still poops on the floor most of the time, but he will use the litter box to pee. Today, he decided to pee on the floor…next to the litter box. I was just about to do 20 minutes of stretching (it was 7pm), but once I saw him step in the pee, that was the last straw.  I decided that it was time for the kids and I to give both kittens baths in the tub.  Well, that turned out to be an experience that I never expected and won’t soon forget.

My kids were so excited about the bath.  One thing we discovered is that both cats were covered in fleas. The kittens were not happy about the water as can be imagined, but sadly we had to bathe them twice because they had so many fleas. The kids alternated between laughter, empathy, and shock as we tried to wrestle with them. In the midst of it all, I googled how to naturally kill fleas. This resulted in the second bath. I didn’t have a flea comb or flea medication and I wasn’t about to go to the store this late, so I reluctantly used my good pair of tweezers. 

It turns out that my son (age 15) was so patient and gentle with the kittens and I learned that he has a really steady hand. My daughter (age 11) was not as steady, and she wanted to leave after a while because it got “boring”, but I was so pleased by their overall behavior. What I saw after I stepped away for a few minutes was how well they worked together. My daughter held the cat, while my son pulled off the fleas one by one. I haven’t seen them work cooperatively in a long time, and quite frankly, I didn’t think I would see that any time soon. The three of us worked together and it felt so good not yelling at my kids for various reasons. I tried to get my husband involved, but he didn’t want any part of it. He did hold the kittens during the blow dry. They didn’t like that either. 

By the time we were done with the baths, the tub was filled with fleas and about an hour of my life washed down the drain along with them, but I was so grateful for having that small experience with my kids. I look forward to having this memory to share with them. I hope they remember it too.

As far as the kittens, I gave them a final night hug (even though they tried to run away from me) and some food. Hopefully, they’ll sleep it off just as I plan to do.

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So much for that

I have been itching to write all day.  Literally, while at work I thought about how I wish I could have my thoughts recorded somehow for a new post while I do my work and no one would ever know.  Sounds silly…I know, but I’m onto something.  Today, I would rather have written a blog post than spend 2 hours in a meeting rehashing what was discussed 2 years ago.  At the end of the day, I facilitated that meeting, got on a conference call shortly after to address a pressing issue, and practically ran out of the building to teach my Tuesday night Zumba fitness class.

It feels good to have my fingers on the keyboard, but I’m having to navigate my thoughts while listening to my husband express his concerns regarding our son and the marching band. Parenting is hard work.  It can be emotionally, physically and spiritually draining.  This is further complicated by having to deal with one’s own insecurities that can bubble up to the surface when dealing with one’s own child(ren). I’m now counseling my husband on strategies that would help the relationship and how we can best move forward.  Some of the issue is communication and communication styles.  Inadequate communication is a problem that I’ve observed in more and more settings (i.e., home, school, and work). I’m glad that I can offer calm, rational and relatively objective feedback.  That would not have been the case a while ago because I would get frustrated by my husband’s frustration.  However, my stance is that the atmosphere starts with me and if I could listen to the problems of about 35-40 clients every week for years, I could certainly be patient enough to listen to my husband’s.  (On a later post, I’ll write about the message God sent me with regard to serving my family.)

So much for my brilliant, thought provoking blog piece.  It’s getting late and I need to get some rest. I’m not adhering to the guidelines I set for myself to shut off electronics at least an hour before bed.  I couldn’t help but get a blog post in.  Actually, I could.  (I caught myself. There are things within our control that we act like are not. Stop it.) I made a choice to sacrifice some sleep to write. The problem with that is that I am at a place where I could go from a few days to a week of getting little sleep, which is usually prompted by stress. I know first hand what lack of sleep does to the body and mind.  I hope to get some solid hours in tonight and I hope you do too.

 

 

 

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Slow down

I’m still savoring the memories from my trip to Jamaica for my 25th high school reunion last weekend. Being the introspective social worker that I am, I want to memorialize my fabulous experience with a blog post and I suspect that I will have more. It was great seeing familiar (and not so familiar) faces from high school in the same place after all these years. I’ve lived in Texas for the past 19 years, I don’t visit Chicago often, and there are only a couple of close friends that I keep in contact with, so I’ve been somewhat removed to say that least. Thank goodness for facebook, otherwise, I really would be in the dark. 

 What I enjoyed most was being with my close friends, which I expected, but what I didn’t expect was bonding with a couple of people that I only “knew of” in high school. That doesn’t mean that I acquired some new best friends, but for that period of time, we were in the moment together and we clicked. Now that was special. I could focus on problems with the hotel, our reservations, the rain the last couple of days, and other snafus, but I don’t want to. The point is that although the whole experience was not perfection, I choose to focus on the positives and set aside the rest for now.

My blog is primarily about self-care and that is what I accomplished by going on this trip. Being with friends, sans my husband and children (although I love them dearly) re-energized my spirit. I think it’s important to stay connected to things, people, activities that remind you of your younger days before marriage, responsibility, careers and children. My family is benefiting from my re-energizing because that time away made me miss them even more which means they’re getting more attention from me right now.

A huge takeaway from this trip is that I need to slow down. Laying on the beach, peering into the crisp, blue sky, feeling the warm sand and water swoosh back and forth on my bottom, made me appreciate being alive.  Also, I watched how the Jamaicans moved at slower pace and didn’t appear as uptight as Americans. This definitely made an an impression on me, but don’t get me wrong, it did get frustrating, especially when our flight (a friend and I) to Houston got canceled. The attendants didn’t seem to have the same sense if urgency that we did when it came down to providing basic information and issuing the hotel vouchers. At one point, I wanted to offer my services to work behind the counter to help them expedite things.

My intention is not to stereotype a group of people. There is definitely a different way of living when you live on an island as opposed to living in a big city. I could say that when I get to a certain point or age in my life, like retirement, that I will slow down to appreciate things, but tomorrow isn’t promised to anyone. Do what you need to do now to live the life you want. If you don’t know what that is, then slow down and listen to God. If you do know, slow down anyway and appreciate the journey.