I just watched a video that got the wheels in my head turning. It was posted to Facebook by a friend of mine, and she shared it from a Mormon website.
You can watch the 8 minute video here, or read my synopsis below. (There’s nothing “preachy,” just a story.)
In this video, a busy mom of three is looking forward to an evening with her cousin, who has a short layover in her city. She works hard to prep for that, but has to do a last minute project with her son before school, then agrees to watch someone’s daughter for a couple hours due to an important doctor’s appointment, then agrees to cook dinner that night for a couple who just had a baby, then agrees to meet her sister for lunch because she’s distraught – but the dinner takes too long to make, the babysitter is late, and she misses her cousin.
Crying, she snaps at the kids to quit fighting and to go to bed. When they ask about prayers, she tells them to say the prayer.
Her son proceeds to thank God that he won the science fair, and then says “Thank you for letting up do everything you needed us to do today.” As he prays, the Mom starts to See what she has truly accomplished. Her son winning, her friend breaking down at the doctor’s due to a scary diagnosis but having time to talk with her husband without worrying about her little girl, her sister going back to work and making a difference due to their conversation, the couple eating the meal she cooked at all hours of the day and night as they care for their newborn . . . she SEES what she has accomplished, and she Sees that it is good.
She served God’s purposes, and . . . It. Was. Good.
I thought it was a very moving video, and I think it is a great reminder to us all that sometimes, when we feel like we’re “failing” because we aren’t doing everything WE think we should be doing, we’re actually succeeding because we’re doing everything that the Divine needs us to do.
But at the same time, something bothered me a little about the video. I was wondering if every day of this woman’s life looked like that. I was wondering if she EVER got to catch up with family and friends, or if every time it ended up looking like this. Does she ever take a long, hot bath and just quiet her mind, or does she allow life to cram its hectic self into every nuance of her existence, martyring herself day after day?
Why did she agree to cook dinner for the couple THAT night? Why not the next night? That one thing would have left her time to see her cousin. Why didn’t she ask the babysitter to come earlier so that someone else could handle the kids while she finished up her tasks, so she could get to her cousin on time?
Why did she feel the need to say yes to everything THAT DAY? Why did she sacrifice every bit of her energy and what was important to her happiness to cater to everyone else?
It doesn’t have to be that way.
I have had friends and family members who live life like that every day, and then they’re burnt out. They feel exhausted, trampled, and overall miserable. Sometimes they complain, feeling like they’re being taken advantage of. Other times they talk as if martyrdom is the way of motherhood and the church (which is balls, btw.)
I know it is difficult to say “no.” But sometimes, you have to. Trust me – God, the Universe, the Goddess, your Angels, or whoever you look up to – they do not want you draining yourself to “serve” every moment of every day.
If you don’t take the time to make sure your energy is replenished and your cup is full, then you really aren’t in a position to help others. Your energy will be off, the deeds you do won’t be satisfying to you, and you will feel oppressed by your life.
Yes, go forth and serve. Yes, be willing to take on the unexpected thing occasionally (like the woman agreeing to watch her neighbor’s daughter for a couple hours.) Yes, give your time and energy joyfully, seeing what a blessed life you have.
But learn to say “no” gently. Learn to say “I am so swamped right now, can you put me on the schedule to bring dinner for tomorrow or the day after? Today just isn’t good.” Learn to say, “You know, I promised to take them dinner, but I am out of time – I need to pick up something from the store for them, and I’ll make it up to them with a home-cooked meal in the next few days.”
Learn to leave yourself something at the end of the day. Or in the middle. Or whenever it is that your cousin is coming to town. Or when you just feel your head is going to explode with everything going on.
Learn that you need to save a little something for yourself, otherwise everything else you do is going to mean less and less, because you are going to see your good works through eyes that grow more weary every day.
Tell me, how do you say “no” gently? What do you do on a daily or weekly basis to make sure that you’re taking care of yourself, and your spirit?