I read Gretchen Rubin‘s latest book, Better than Before, a few months ago and learned that I am an abstainer. Moderation is really, really tough for me. I learned that there are people who can eat sweets in moderation. I am so not one of this people. Same concept applies to french fries, cheese and sour patch kids. Who knew you didn’t have to eat them all?
It turns out there are also people who can volunteer a small bit of their time. They say yes to all the right things and no to the things that will drain them. Over the past few months, I have learned, that I am also not one of those people. If I made a list of all the organizations and people that I said yes to this school year, most of you would say that I had lost my mind. And I would agree. This year, I overextended myself in a way I never have before. And that is saying something. Along with all the smaller things that I am committed to this year, I am president of our middle school parent association and earlier this month, I co-chaired our elementary school’s auction.
Knowing what I know about moderation and abstinence, I am tempted to think that I need to go cold turkey in the volunteering world. Once I say yes to one thing, the floodgates open. I meet more people and I learn about more needs. And then the yeses begin.
Over the past few months, I have read less books, taken few pictures and written far fewer pages than I would like and than I usually do. When I am not doing these things, I get really cranky. Ask any member of my family and they will agree wholeheartedly with me on this one. I have missed my time on the page and behind the lens. I have missed connecting with people who read my words in this space. I have missed the community I had begun to grow at Instagram. And I have missed knowing what books to recommend when people have asked what they should read next.
I am determined to wriggle my way back in to these spaces and I am tempted to take the abstinence route with my volunteer commitments. The problem with this method is that it would negate all the great things that have come to me over the past few months. I definitely missed all my creative outlets. I missed time with my family. And with my friends.
But I gained an awful lot too.
I met people that I wouldn’t have known in any other way. I met woman who give of their time, their talents and their energies in amazing ways.
Photo courtesy of Chris Moskovitz
I made friends with people that I wouldn’t have known if I hadn’t said yes. I shared so many laughs and (a few tears!) that I wouldn’t have if we hadn’t all agreed to do this work together.
I learned how to do new things. I became (more) comfortable with Excel and Google Docs. I learned how to communicate more effectively with small and large groups of people. I learned how to encourage people to say yes too- to hard but rewarding work.
I learned that I am great planner but that I might bend a bit under pressure. Turns out that hiding in the bathroom can be a great strategy when the stress of an event becomes a bit too much.
I learned to ask the talented people in my life to help. I learned that when we pool our efforts and our talents, great things happen.
Photo courtesy of Patty Connelly
And I learned that while I need to be an abstainer when it comes to sugar, perhaps I don’t need to stop volunteering cold turkey. Perhaps I can say no a few more times while also saying yes now and then too.