I had a nearly 1000 word article written and realized I wasn’t even close to the point of this article. Sometimes I really do just need to STOP! So let me see if I can get my words out more quickly this time. (It really hurt to just delete 1000 words by the way.)
I grew up lazy, not because of my family as they tried hard to get me active, but at some point in my life I decided to become responsible and accountable. I think it started in college when I would take the leader position in almost every team project; but you can also attribute that to being a control freak. It continued past graduation into my jobs and my personal life.
I think it wasn’t until I got married and started accompanying my wife to church that I started to really become more active in social clubs and work endeavors. I joined a structured men’s group and worked my way through a few officer positions until I was elected the top dog of this charity-oriented group for 2 years in a row (the past 2 years). I ran many of our events such as Rebuilding Together (it’s like Habitat for Humanity, but renovating homes, and you run EVERYTHING like it’s your own project), Christmas tree sales, dinners, community cleanups and, of course, our business meetings and reports. It was a lot to take on for one person, especially during some troubles I was going through the last 2-3 years, and it really ran me into the ground.
In addition to this volunteer effort, I also taught Sunday school with my wife for 4 years until I got burned out. My wife continued on for 3 more years, changing grades and moving to Mondays (EVERY Monday). She’s burned out now too. And in addition, we both have day jobs, I have this blog to write for and we have our home, friends and families to care for.
Basically we have too many things that we’re trying to focus on, and all of them are suffering. I bet almost each and every one of you can relate to this, some more than others especially if you have kids, parents to take care of, your own business, etc.
Having to say NO to new opportunities
My leadership position term with this men’s group ended recently, so I was able to free up a good chunk of time and relieve a lot of stress. At the same time, my wife’s school term ended and she informed the head of the school’s religious program that she was done teaching (which took her 3 years to finally say).
We thought we were in the clear and would have a chance to focus on our marriage and our jobs, with a bit of volunteering on the side, finally, but we were both presented with individual and combined opportunities by our pastor and higher levels of my men’s group. I was offered a position at the lower state level, which could easily begin a “career” that would last about 14 more years if I went up through the ranks (all volunteer positions, not paid). Also, our pastor asked us both to teach 8th grade, but it would be run by a new coordinator (thank goodness!) and be a much different format than we were used to. Also, it would be with teachers we knew and liked…but it was every Monday again!
If you can’t tell by now, neither my wife nor I are very good at commitment. I always like to use the anecdote (although my wife hates it) that when I proposed, she replied “I think so” (it’s truth though! But I think I surprised her too much in the moment). Anywho, we like to have flexibility with our time and we like to pick our commitments rather than others forcing them upon us. Perhaps it’s one reason we don’t have kids right now and prefer to visit our family and friends who have kids (we get to hand them back when they need a new diaper or get cranky).
So when these two opportunities came up, we had to each decide separately and together what we wanted to do. For me, I saw that this new position with the state was going to take up a lot of time and require much more travel. And for us, we both were interested in teaching together again, but the “every Monday night” thing was the killer for us. I’ll throw in there that our pastor wanted us to also volunteer with another activity (once a month or so), but that one just wasn’t for us as we travel often on weekends.
In the end, and after much thought,we decided to just say NO to everything. Why? For me, I saw that I had neglected my job and my family for too long with my volunteer commitments, and for my wife, her workload has been taking over her life. So I decided I needed to STOP. I also told the new top dog of the men’s group that I wouldn’t take on the roles he had in mind for me and I would dictate what I wanted to do, and at what degree I would do them. He’s ok with it, and we both realized it allows him to bring in new members to take part in running the group now where they couldn’t before. Bonus! It was tough to tell our pastor and friends that we wouldn’t take on teaching this year, but we have a number of excellent reasons behind the decision, and we didn’t come to it quickly (we actually considered it for over a month). I have to ignore my “sense of duty” and think about my own mental and physical health right now and for the next year, as well as refocusing on my job, which I had neglected and things were coming to a head where I needed to focus or find another job. I chose the former.
Speaking of physical health, I’ve been able to lose 30lbs in a year, which brings me under 200lbs for the first time since probably early high school. I’m running 2-3 times a week, and taking walks on other days. I feel better than I ever have (even with some messed-up knees), and I couldn’t hold this schedule with work, church, volunteering, home responsibilities, friendships and, of course, being a good husband otherwise.
I’ve been trying to refrain from using the term “stop and smell the roses”, but honestly, that really applies here. I’ve had to put the brakes on a number of things personally and professionally to be able stop juggling so many things and focus more effectively on what is left. We’re considering more travel, domestic and international, and trying to determine what we want to do with our immediate and long-term future. It’s not easy when you live in a region flush with jobs to choose to go somewhere with less offerings…much less change careers entirely.
I advise you all to look at your lives and see if you’re stretching yourselves too thin and make the hard decision to stop participating in something or reduce your time/responsibilities in something. When it’s a volunteer effort, what’s the worst that can happen? They can’t “fire” you. Don’t be afraid to say NO to people (kindly) up front and not when you’re already in the thick of it. Don’t worry about having to throw out a list of excuses. I just said “I’m taking a mild retirement for a year” and if they don’t like that answer, that’s their problem. Having been on both sides, I can now appreciate when people are burned out and need some time to just sit back and choose what and how they want to volunteer or participate with friends, etc.
And with that, I’ll just end the article 🙂 Your ideas?