Every year our local public school has a day long carnival that raises a lot of money for the PTO. While I have volunteered in other ways in the past, this is an event that I try to avoid, between the crowds and the screaming kids with cotton candy in their hair. A friend once said regarding volunteering for this event, “What is the very least that I can do for this?” My answer seemed pretty obvious: “Nothing is the least that you can do.” I guess that option hadn’t really occurred to him.
So many of us feel guilted into doing too much for too many people and organizations and then wonder why we’re exhausted and feel stretched so thin. One thing to remember is that you can always do less, and that doesn’t make you a bad person; it makes you a sane person. There’s always going to be the person who feels it’s her job to make sure you’re volunteering enough at school. This is usually the caffeine-fueled “CEO” of her children’s lives who feels it’s her duty to direct you toward more volunteering “opportunities.”
I fell into that trap of pleasing other people early on as a new parent, but then gradually learned to say no over and over to most things and yes only to what really mattered. (No to one more bake sale, but yes to recording songs with my kids.) I once had a man call from a church we had only been attending for six months to pressure me into serving on the vestry, which is the governing board of the church. At the time my kids were 4 and 2, I was working part-time, and barely had time to breathe, let alone help lead a church. My answer: “Thanks for asking, but no.” The man continued on and on as though I hadn’t said no. I finally said, “You’re wasting your time and mine since I already said no.” He said, “So you really mean no?” I wondered how he was teaching his kids to respect some else’s NO if he couldn’t do it himself. I think he was stunned, because most women roll over with enough pressure, they want to be liked, and they can often be convinced ultimately to say yes (in lots of situations) when they don’t want to. They have the disease to please. Not me. Not anymore.
If you want to contribute what you came to this world to do and find your world stage, figure out how you can do less of what you don’t want to do so that you have more time for what does matter, what makes your heart sing. For me, it’s snuggling with my kids, laughing with friends and family, singing, coaching, traveling, and watching sunsets in Hawaii. Remember, you get to decide, not other people. So this week do less, please fewer people, and see how your spirit soars.