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Tuesday, March 1, 2011

In the end...

Sitting at my computer, I started to become overwhelmed with the to-do list that seems to get longer every day. I have three more days to get this mess in line before my next project is scheduled to begin. The senior vice president of OR-COR has become too dependent on me. Out of two assistants, three secretaries, and five interns, how in the world did I end up with 80% of the workload?

Take a deep breath, Sharice. You can handle this.

The things I do to keep my mind occupied. I don't like sitting idle. It gives me time to think. I guess that wouldn't be so bad if I weren't going through so much turmoil in my current life. At least it's not the typical relationship drama. In my case, it's more internal. Once again, I bit off more than I could chew; all for the sake of getting ahead. I took on a double major for my Master's degree. I purchased a home that I knew I   couldn't afford at the request of my ailing mother who's insistent on living with me. My bills were piling up. My hair was falling out. Sleep was non-existent these days. I was in need of more than a vacation. I needed a miracle.

What better way to escape the madness of my life than by burying myself in work? At least it would take my mind off of the misery that engulfed me when I leave the office. I couldn't find peace anywhere; not at home, not at school, and now, thanks to my incessant need to say "yes", not even at work. This was becoming too much to bear.

Okay, where do I start?

I had less than 72 hours to complete a list of 35 items. Not all of them were difficult. A few emails, some report submissions, and a couple of meetings to schedule; those would be easy. I decided to tackle those items first. Ring. Right after I take this phone call.

"Hello?"
"Hi , Dear. Are you busy?"
"Yes, mom. I am."
"Oh okay. Well can you do me a quick favor?"
Here we go again.
"Sure, Mom. What is it?"
"Can you call Solstice Retirement Home and schedule a visit for me?"
"Why do you need to visit with them, Mom? I thought that's why you wanted me to buy this house, so you could live here with me?"
"I know dear, but you have so much going on. I don't want to be a burden to you."
She did it! She laid down the guilt trip.
"Mom, you're not a burden. I just have a lot on my plate right now, but it'll all be over in three days. Now get some rest. I'll call you tomorrow."
"Are you sure, Dear? They're covered by my insurance."
"I'm sure, Mom."
"Okay then, Sugar. I'll talk to you tomorrow."

I could feel the emergence of her crooked smile spreading across her lips. I loved my mother to death but sometimes she could be sneaky and deceitful. That bothered me, but I'm used to it. Sadly. Back to what I was doing. Ring. Are you serious?

"Hello?"
"Hey, Baby. Are you busy?"
"Yeah. I'm trying to get through this list, but..."
"Well can you do me a quick favor?"

Two hours and one "quick favor" later, I'm still in the same position. It's late, I'm tired, and nothing has been crossed off this list. I buried my head in my hands in frustration. This insanity has got to stop! What good are distractions if they add to the afflictions already present? Ring. Without thinking, I picked up my cell phone and threw it across the room. No more distractions. I had to get through this list, now!

In less than an hour I had all of the easy stuff done. That took my list down from 35 to 26. Not bad for an hour's worth of work. It was two in the morning and my body began to protest against me. I decided to call it a night. The next two days would be all about completing this list.

 Two days later, I finally understood how work-a-holics felt. With barely 15 minutes to spare I got everything on the list completed. The proposals, reports, interviews, presentations, and that gosh forsaken fiscal-year budget; they were all finally done. It was 4:47 PM and someones happy hour was calling my name. I started to turn my phone back on, but knew I would be bombarded with voice mail messages from my mom, Danny, and whomever else. I wasn't ready for their neediness yet. I left the office early and headed to McShane's for their happy hour event with Clara, one of the interns.

Clara was a lot like me when I was ten years younger. She is actually one of the few people at the office that I can tolerate outside of work. We had a couple of drinks, laughed, and celebrated the end of the fiscal-year madness. She had a lot of potential, and surprisingly taught me a very valuable lesson.

"How did you do it, Sharice? That was a lot to accomplish in three days!"
"I turned my phone off and went to war!"
"And no one came looking for you?"
"Yeah, they did. Last night the police even showed up at my door. My mother thought I was in my home dead! I just told them I had a lot of deadlines to meet so I turned my phone off. They said I should have told people what was going on so they wouldn't worry. I started to combat that statement, but decided against it. There's no what any sane person would be able to understand the stuff I go through."
"So why do you go through it?"

Her question stung me because I had been asking myself the same thing for years. For some reason, I felt obligated to deal with taking care of my mother even though I had siblings, waiting on Danny hand and foot, jumping at the aide of my classmates, and just generally being on-call for everyone.

"You know what, Clara? I don't know. It's just that when people call on me I feel I have to answer."
"You may feel the need to answer, but that doesn't mean it has to be in their favor."
"What do you mean?"

Clara looked through the window behind me and saw her ride pull up. She gathered her things and began to say goodbye.

"I have to go." She gave me a hug. "Simply put Sharice, learn the power of saying 'no.' It doesn't require an explanation. It doesn't require an apology. When you're pushed to the limit, start saying 'no.' You can thank me later!"

My miracle arrived, in the form of a two letter word.

I waved to Clara through the window as she and her driver pulled off. She was right. There was so much power in the word no. I knew of that power, but the problem was that I've been saying it to the wrong person this entire time. I'm so quick to say yes to everyone else, but I'm even quicker to say no to myself. That was going to change...today!

Later on that evening, I finally turned my phone on to check my voice mail. Before the alert light even came on my mother was calling. As I was talking to her, Danny patched through. Without a second thought I exercised the power of the word "no" immediately. It was Friday evening and I needed a mini-vacation. I saved the voice mails to respond to them on Monday. I alerted everyone of my pending absence, turned my phone back off, and got a hotel suite in the next city. I said "no" to everyone else, and finally said "yes" to myself. 

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