A few days ago I realized something that helps me understand why I am so consistently over-scheduled and frantic. Friends were talking about the busyness of the season and how it’s not possible to accept every invitation and that sometimes you just have to disappoint someone and say “no.”
We all know that, right? We all know we don’t have time to take advantage of every opportunity that comes our way. And frankly, I have no trouble saying “no” to something when it disappoints someone else.
My problem is saying no when I don’t want to disappoint myself.
I want to go to every party to which I’m invited. I want to attend every minute of my children’s sporting events and concerts and as many practices as they’ll allow. I want to participate in every living history event and learn from every historical seminar in the mid-Atlantic region. I even want to take every turn with the after-school carpool, volunteer at the school and chaperone every school dance. I want to experience it all, even the mundane and (to satisfy my need to be occasionally useful) even the unpleasant.
So when I have a day planned where I’m supposed to be teaching Sunday school at church in Baltimore County at 9:30 and leading laundry demonstrations in Harford County at 10 and my son asks if he can be a substitute in a baseball game in Anne Arundel County at 9:45 I say “sure.”
I want him to have the chance to play in that game. It doesn’t even occur to me to say “no,” until I’m on the highway to Harford County, late as usual for the next thing. I don’t really want to do all that driving, and really, it’s a little cold for the laundry demonstration but I promised I’d do it so I’ll do it. Not to keep from disappointing the person I’d promised, but to keep from disappointing myself.
So what can I do about it?
And I need to something.
Because the problem is that being so consumed with satisfying my need to do everything, I really am disappointing others. I’m late for everything. That means I make my kids late for everything. Other people have to wait for me, probably often wondering whether I will show up at all. I never have time to plan a Sunday School lesson or jump rope class or prepare for an event I’m supposed to lead. I come to my daughter’s school to volunteer and then spend the whole time complaining about how I don’t have time to be there. Am I really helping?
Am I even satisfying myself?
Technology has made it possible to cram more and more into a 24-hour day, but I will never have enough time until I learn to say “no.” And the person who needs to hear that “no” is me.
We try to teach our children to cope with disappointment, but I don’t know how I can expect them to manage it when I still haven’t learned that lesson myself.
I think prayer will have to be the answer to this one, too, because I don’t see myself improving this on my own.