I’ve had many trips around the sun and over the course of being hurtled around a giant star on our little blue planet, I’ve found myself in situations that aren’t my “jam”.
To be honest, I often think about writing a book on life as a parent of humans including all the things NOT covered in What to Expect When You’re Expecting…and In The First Year…and In The Toddler Years.
My book would be not quite The Battle Hymn of a Tiger Mother and a slightly more than the shit I read for too many years on the Dooce blog. Because there are only so many mustards to put on canned tuna and ways to describe depression that I can stand. Also, music practice should be intrinsically motivated and, to a certain degree, child-led if it’s to remain successful. That said, my children haven’t played, yet, at Carnegie Hall.
Essentially, I needed someone to tell me to stay away from PTA/O; to limit my exposure to neighborhood play groups; that jobs on any governing board of parents are thankless and hopeless and to be avoided; that committee chair positions in many organizations are already being run by Busy Body Bessies who don’t really want to relinquish control of anything; Booster Club is really PTA/O 2.0 for high school parents; and avoiding swearing around kids is overrated.
With that said, there is never an overt transition from going along and minding my own business to managing some committee’s fresh version of hell that looks like managing a spreadsheet but feels like being waterboarded.
My tunneled hearing goes like this:
the job requires blah blah blah, and this and that, and there is a spreadsheet, and I think you’d be great!
Oh, well, I do love spreadsheets!
And then I find myself in some monthly torture session disguised in description only as a “meeting” while having a daydream about how scooping my eyeball out with a spoon would be more pleasurable.
Or, something like this happens:
The scene is my monthly quilt guild meeting. I’m standing near the refreshments table deciding how many oreo cookies I can call an “appetizer” and someone approaches with a clipboard.
Oooh, I love a clipboard.
The clipboarded individual is asking for committee volunteers.
What jobs are available, I asked.
She moves around the refreshment counter and into my hula hoop of space (that’s how teachers ask nicely for personal space…it’s a hula hoop, because describing it as “dance space” ala Patrick Swayze in Dirty Dancing is inappropriate.)
Anyway, she’s now in my hula hoop and asking me to consider a job not on her clipboard list…that I should consider being Vice President of our quilt guild.
Whoah Nelly, I’ve been in this quilt guild five minutes, I can’t be the vice president!
Please consider, she says, you’re young and we could use a young perspective.
Yes, I recognize this as flattery.
I say I’ll have to think it over, that I’m going out of town for a week and I’ll get back to her once I’ve decided. She asked me to let her know one way or the other before the next monthly meeting.
Fast forward two weeks. I called, because I said I would.
I was calling to discuss the VP position.
“Oh, I had to move on to other candidates because I couldn’t wait around for you forever. But I’ll tell you this, Thea, if you want to be Vice President I urge you to do some more committee work over the next 3 or 4 years and then you’ll be perfect for Vice President”.
Ok? Thank you?
The words I used were “thank” and “you” but the sentiment was more, so much more. The sentiment was “what” and “the” and “f*ck”.
Um, hello, YOU stood in MY hula hoop, remember?
I processed several emotions ranging from rage to confusion to appreciation over the next few days.
And then I started stewing a metaphorical pot of decision soup. I tossed into the think pot my feelings about spreadsheets and committees and flattery and parents and women and Busy Body Bessies and kids and creatives and All. The. Things. I asked questions and journaled answers about how these ideas and conversations and circumstances make me feel. I hung tightly to the words of a dear friend:
Just because there is a need doesn’t mean its a calling.
Amen, hallelujah and hell yes!
I can say no.
I should say no.
Thea, can you be a chairwoman for our organization?
Thea, can you be the vice president?
Thea, would you mind…
Thea, you’re good at…
It’s a complete sentence.
It’s an answer.
It’s a season.
This is my season of NO. As I was entering this new season I gave myself a few guiding principles. Here they are:
- Say yes to my household family, myself, and close friends and family (in that order) before saying yes to anything else. Furthermore, if my life isn’t filled with those categories then, reevaluate, because it should be.
- Keep the commitments I’ve made already…but no renewals and no dropping everything because someone needs something. Their needs don’t come before my family’s or mine. The building isn’t burning.
- For everything else, no.
I feel like this season may need a Hallmark card…or a whole aisle of Hallmark cards!