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Thursday, March 31, 2011

The Parable of the 300 Cupcakes and Saying "No."

Lately, I find myself completely overwhelmed with everything,and yet I seem to be putting out the lion's share of fires and taking on tasks for everyone. The whiney "me" generation in me gets very upset. I don't seem to have the energy for the vital personal things we must do for ourselves, like eat, get ready for bed, get ready for work, let alone have any recreation or down time. It is not hard for me to say "no," but it is hard for me to give up responsibility. If my good word is involved, and I have to back out or change plans, I feel as though I'm irresponsible and that I've let everyone down. And, of course, reliabiity is part of trust, and on down the slippery slope we snowboard. Maybe I'm not irresponsible, just not responsible for everyone else's wishes and agendas. It is very hard to adhere to and live by other peoples' schedules. Also, it is equally hard to make people understand just how busy you are. I always get answers, though it isn't up for debate: "we're busy, too, we have no time, I teach, and I work, and it never is what you describe!" [so, now I'm a liar, too!].

Yet, we all know what we can stand. I have to live by my Dad's/parents'/families' schedules. I have to swallow anything unreasonable in that realm. I don't have to constantly cover for everyone else's work and mistakes, nor do I have to be a team player by letting everyone else take advantage of me.

I've spent hours covering for people who begged me for help because life and death were at stake, only to find out that someone wanted to go canoing because "they have to have a life." I've changed offices and classrooms so someone wouldn't have to walk several blocks carrying a lot of books and equipment, when I had to walk the same distance with at least two book bags, a camera, my purse, and all sorts of other equipment, with shin splints, carpal tunnel, back injuries, and foot injuries. I guess they didn't feel my pain.

I've learned why so many people say "no" with such vehemence. I lost my Lia Sophia party gifts at one juncture because I didn't want to let a perfectly bossy stranger take over my house so she could sell trinkets at 1000% overhead on my time. Just moving my books and glass cases around would have been a logistic nightmare, let alone providing her with an audience, display cases, and refreshments. Never give explanations; for the sake of her hostess, my good friend, I tried to explain that I had a family and worked, to which she replied, she had seven kids and did umpteen parties per week. Well, great. I didn't tell her to have seven kids either, and she could get another job. I went to law school with a girl who had five kids. She never complained, skipped work, or cajoled anyone into babysitting for her.

Let me illustrate with my mom's parable of the 300 cupcakes. When her little brother was around 12, and she was just out of grad school and teaching highschool, he came home from Sunday School and told her he had volunteered her to make a few cupcakes for the next day. It was Sunday evening, and my mom thought she could handle a couple dozen cupcakes for his Sunday School class. She had her sister and her mom to help, after all, and Georgie, her little brother, could pitch in.

Then he told her " a few cupcakes" meant 300 cupcakes! After she nearly clobberred him, she, her sister, her mother, and her three brothers, stayed up all night baking cupcakes. Even using a mix, this was quite a feat. In hindsight, she said she should have called the good church ladies and let them know, well, the answer was "no!"

Then, of course, there are those who are ungrateful as well. They have comments and opinions to make after you have sacrificed your valuable time and sanity to do their bidding. I often hear, "where do you find the energy to do all this? Your house must be a mess, your family must be neglected." Or, after you've dragged out all your holiday decorations to save someone else's party, you hear, "Where do you keep all this stuff? Do you have a large house? It must be a mess!"

I often want to take a page from St. Jerome's papyrus scroll so that I can take off for the wilderness and be a hermit, with only the scorpions to say "no" to.

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