Nothing is so fatiguing as the eternal hanging on of an uncompleted task. ~William James

Friday, February 17, 2012

Tangled Up in Yes

A few weeks ago, my husband and I attended "the other Unitarian church" in town in order to hear a sermon entitled "Learning to Say No."  The minister is a woman we've heard before, whose sermons are generally worth listening to.  I've been cherry picking sermon topics of late, weighing inspiration against desperately needed "free" time.  That particular Sunday, I was hoping that my husband, whose usual case of overcommitment has once again reached the critical stage, would be led to surgically crop his to-do list to a more human scale.

As it happened, "yes" was at least as much a part of her talk as "no." 

At its heart was the notion that saying no acts to protect and prioritize what she termed our "deep yes"--that thing we value most, the work we are meant to do.*

Trouble is, as we discovered over our post-church lunch, both my husband and I suffer from an overdose of "deep yeses."

My own list includes my children, my grandchildren, my novel, my blog, my social justice work, recalling our governor, my business, triathlon, meditation, oh, and I almost forgot, my husband. My husband operates in a larger arena, as a university professor, researcher, community agitator, expert legal witness, writer and speaker. Oh, and a husband and father.

Neither of us is blessed with the understanding that there are only so many hours in a day, days in a week, or lives in a lifetime. And so we run faster on our little hamster wheels, and stress more, and too frequently land in the red zone, exhausted and overwhelmed.

We are pretty good and getting better, each in our own way, at saying no to things we don't really want to do. Not so good, however, at weeding our overgrown gardens of missions and projects. And so, instead of purposeful winnowing, we end up with decision by default, a natural wasting taking down some of what we care about because we lack the time, energy, and miracle power to tend to it all.

I'm at work on a method for cutting away a bit more of this forest of passions. Stay tuned.

Turns out, I discovered after posting this, that the minister in question was relying on Stephen Covey for this terminology, as I now remember she mentioned. He famously said that "It's easy to say 'no!' when there's a deeper 'yes' burning inside.

No comments:

Post a Comment