2.03.2009

Because I get off on withholding

A few weeks ago I switched to a partial RSS feed in an attempt to gauge how many readers I have. And then there was an uproar. (And yes, two people can sometimes count as an uproar sometimes.) But I wanted to keep making people sad until I was full up and sated and drunk on with their pain. Or maybe until I could figure out how to get my feeds all set up so that I could track them--harder than it sounds, seriously.

I think an unfortunate effect of living in The Technical or Whatever Age is that even though I try to keep up on things I feel like I actually know less about technology every year. And I don't mean that my store of knowledge becomes smaller in comparison to the vast influx of new information every year--I mean my brain actually shrinks down and I forget how to do things I used to know how to do. It is unfortunate. I blame Twitter, which I have not started using but which I'm sure is responsible in some way because everyone's so excited about it and one day I bet we're going to find out that it's really evil. (I find that's a good stance to take on things, really. Popular = Evil, The End. Or, the even better one, Things I Don't Get = Evil, The End.)

But enough of that. Your feeds are back, I hope you're happy. (I hope you're happy now . . . I hope you're happy how you've . . . ahem. Sorry.) And I want to have a bit of a follow-up on yesterday's discussion, if I may. Because you might have noticed that a LOT of people have experience with and feelings on this issue. Also I thought we got a really good range of perspectives. We heard from women who:

Feel incredibly overwhelmed

Are willing to put their shoulder to the wheel, but hate sacrificing to perform tasks that aren't actually effective or testimony-building

Have learned to say no without guilt (or to clearly state what they can do, again without guilt)

Want us to maybe buck up a bit

Kindly point out that things actually have simplified, churchwise, quite a bit in the last generation or two (sadly, I think it's our female urge to make things complicated which has not changed)

Really enjoy going the extra mile with things like decorating, invitations, food, etc. They don't ask others to share the extra work, but they feel like they're now being judged harshly for how they choose to use their time and abilities. (This brings up an excellent point--callings are a chance to use our talents, which is why we should be flexible when a new person with possibly different talents comes in rather than saying, "Oh, but so-and-so did it this way and so WE have to do it this way.")

What I'd like to find out is how to apply what we're talking about in real life. I mean, clearly when it's just you doing something, or when you're in charge of a committee, you get to be right-thinking about what to do and how much to ask of people and how to use the available talents and resources at your disposal.

But what about when you're NOT the one in charge? How do you know when it's important enough to say no? One woman told me that sometimes she says "yes" to freakish, unreasonable things because it can be just as exhausting to say no and then deal with the emotional fallout and stress of her leaders. So, if necessary, how do you keep saying no without seeming unsupportive, uncaring, or unwilling to sustain and help your leaders? How do you know if & when you just need to suck it up and take one for the (dysfunctional) team? (This is when GH chimes in about how happy he is to be a guy. "Guys don't care what anyone thinks.")

Also, the woman who pointed out how much the church programs have been streamlined in recent years made me think of something else. Church programs may have been streamlined in the last 40 years, but our lives certainly have not been. Maybe people didn't have a problem with spending 3 days a week at church because they didn't have as many other things going on (I could absolutely be wrong about that). But could part of the problem be us and the way our time is divvied up? But if so, is there anything that we can really do about that? Should we be able to spend more time working on church things? Although I must say that what I seem to be hearing from most people is not an unwillingness to spend time, it's more a resentment of spending that time on things that don't matter, that don't contribute to success, and that don't draw people closer to Christ.

Would love, love, love to hear your thoughts.

14 comments:

Janssen said... [reply]

The full feed is back! I may throw a party with a nine-hour cake and elaborate 50 part invitations.

cooldad. said... [reply]

We all have the same amount of time each day. That is as true now as it was 40 yers ago or 140 years ago. The questions is, What do we do with our time? This is not meant to judge any of the comments to your previous post. I'm all for downsizing and simplifying. Like GH point out, I'm a guy. We don't care. Most of us are very busy. My point is that when we get to the point of feeling overwhelmed, it is also a good time to evaluate how we are spending our time. Is our time spent wisely and on the important things? For instance, I know I spend too much time on the computer. Heck, I spend at least an hour every day just checking my kids' blogs.

C. said... [reply]

I think something important about saying no is to recognize that the person who asked you probably wouldn't have brought it up if they didn't think it was important on some level (even if it is the "fluff" level. maybe they like fluff.). The number one rule: be polite about it (duh).

Number two: provide an alternative. Having served on the Enrichment committee before, I can attest that we are just humans and don't have access to a file that includes every single idea that has ever been thought of about a given topic. So when we ask you to do something to contribute, it's probably because it's the best (or only) thing we thought of. If you say no, sometimes that leaves the person feeling like they have no other options. So if you can say, "I don't have time for that seven-layer bedazzled cake this week, but I would be happy to bring some brownies," that would be muchly appreciated.

I think that's all for now.

Polly said... [reply]

I think it is just fine to let people know in a polite way why at this time in your life you are not capable of (fill in the blank).
We often assume that people know where we are coming from or are aware of all the stress in our lives. I have found a little explination goes a long way. By keeping our lives as balanced as possible we are able to do more true service for others and our family.

This is off subject a little but- our ward does the RS birthday dinner with the other 2 wards in our building. They rotate the responsibilities of food, program and decorations every year. The night of the priesthood cooks and serves and cleans up the meal planned. I have been on RS pres, enrichment committee, and just a regular attendee and it has always been very nice with a reasonable amount of work for everyone. I guess spreading the work as much as possible and assign the husbands jobs helps. Oh- any fathers of little children are assigned to ensure there will be babysitting for thier wives and reminded of it the sunday before in priesthood. We have been doing it this way for a decade and are happy with the outcome.

kip said... [reply]

I have to force myself to honestly communicate with my leaders rather than resenting them for asking me to do something that they probably have no idea will cause me tons of stress. I just joined an Enrichment Committee where most of the other members are wealthy middle-aged women who seem to really enjoy having lots of assignments. I need to remind them sometimes why I can't make it to the Church to decorate at 3:30 pm on a Wednesday. But they are usually pretty understanding if I make them aware. I guess my point is that we've all got different capacities for Church assignments at different stages in our lives and that's okay. We just need to increase our communication with one another.

Nemesis said... [reply]

For you, Janssen. All for you!

Um, Dad? What hour could be BETTER spent than checking our blogs, huh? I'm pretty sure that's totally called Family Time.

C., I think you're hitting it here with the providing alternatives & showing your willingness to help in the way you CAN help, etc.

Polly, I think your RS birthday dinner sounds awesome.

Kristy said... [reply]

Hmmm. Good question. Maybe you consider a combination of things before you say either yes or no to "fluff"? For example:
Is there meaning anywhere in the fluff?
How much time you have to devote to the fluff that week.
Sometimes fluff is just fun. It's good to recognize that and be a part of it OCCASIONALLY. When it's not going to stress you out and make you bitter.

Snarky MorMom said... [reply]

"I'm sorry that doesn't work for me right now." is the most empowering phrase anyone has shared with me. No explanations needed just a simple truth.

In the past I have found myself doing things for others that I would never do for myself or my family, which probably means it was totally not necessary.

2nd most empowering phrase: "I would love to but let me check to see if it will work for me." Then I have some time to realistically look at the impact it will have on my family. If it won't bring joy, peace, or growth to my family or if it is not a dire emergency for the asker, I can revert to phrase #1.

Elsha said... [reply]

I agree with the previous comment-- just say it doesn't work for you, no explanation necessary.

goddessdivine said... [reply]

I was actually thinking about yesterday's post later and thought of that phrase "If you want something done, ask the busiest person", because you know--there's some truth to that. Personally, I love to stay busy and I am most productive when I have a lot on my plate. I love trying to juggle everything and accomplish things.

But at the same time, we need to find the proper balance. I love serving in the Church and I find great fulfillment in doing so....and I am fully aware of the blessings I receive for magnifying my callings to the best of my ability. I've never been one to turn down a calling or assignment, but I have no problem 'toning it down' to an appropriate level. I don't generally worry about offending someone if I were to say "I can't do A, but I'd be happy to do B"; or "This is over the top--let's do this....."

I do appreciate fluff and the people who can pull it off; I'm just not that creative, so the practical person in me likes to stick to the basics.

Jenny said... [reply]

S-I-M-P-L-I-F-Y
(and be oh so understanding, compassionate and polite)
There are ways to say NO without saying NO. Some have been mentioned already.
good topic.
too bad the ones who need to read this the most are probably making ice sculptures and decorating the cultural hall in their mom jeans right now.

jeri said... [reply]

This is a really hard situation to address. I think our lives are more busy and complicated these days than they were 40 years ago. But are they busy in a good way? Or are we busy because we're shuttling our kids around to piano/ cello/ football/ line-dancing/ harp-playing/ lacrosse/ Li'l NBA Pre-walker All-Stars Camp lessons that we feel are an essential to any child's upbringing?

I really liked the talk by Elder Oaks in the '07 conference about choosing what was Good, Better or Best. Maybe when we "simplify" the things the Church asks us to do shouldn't be the first to be crossed off our list. And then sometimes 'fluff' is just... fluff.

I think C. hit it right on the head with "Provide an alternative". It's OK to say no. Just have something meaningful to contribute in return. Otherwise you're just being a stumbling-block to someone else. This got kind of long... hope it makes sense.

Nookleerman said... [reply]

If you were going for Trashcan Man from Stephen King's The Stand, bravo.

Also, while not the focus of your post, I would like to point out that we lurkers are very much like cockroaches. If you see one or 2, there are about a million in the walls and floorboards you don't see. So if 2 people were willing to protest your partiality, you can bet there were plenty more of us who were upset but not wanting to make waves.

Nemesis said... [reply]

Jeri, I really liked that talk too. I think we have times when we're caught up in all the things we feel like we're SUPPOSED to be doing (like the shuffling kids around to every extracurricular thing in the world) or things that we feel we DESERVE to have time for (like, in my case, TV shows, movies, and excessive Internet use). I don't like to think about it, but that IS time that I'm choosing to use on things that don't necessarily add value to my life or do anything to help others. Sigh.

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