Monday, March 4, 2013

No is a declarative response.

This article struck a real nerve for me the other day:

http://www.christianitytoday.com/women/2013/february/women-need-to-say-no-more.html?paging=off

It's an issue that has been rattling around in my head for a couple of years.  The issue came up in my own life right as I was settling into my new life as a stay at home mom.  I was able to find the courage to go against the grain of the peanut gallery of opposition that resided mostly in my head to leave vocational ministry for a life raising my wee ones the way that worked best for me, my husband and my  children.  I struggled with guilt after arriving at my dream job only to find myself spiraled into a deep depression...that was largely hormone driven.  I took the dive into my new life not realizing that that simple decision to say no to career for a while would threaten to strip me of certain fixed points in my identity up until that point in my life.

I had come to identify myself as a woman seeking after God's own heart and did that through paid ministry.  I ditched social accolades of status or money to make a difference in the world.  I faced a mixed response to my departure from ministry and so while most of the messages of the peanut gallery were self produced, there were echoes of negative responses in my professional relationships and even in my own extended family.  I have occasionally hashed my responses to that season of my life on this blog in the past.  I no longer have an axe to grind with my internal ambivalence or with the people I was surrounded by when this all shifted for me...that work has been completed and everything got worked into good with some supernatural grace and presence.

So I found myself with no structured way to express my desire to serve and contribute to society in meaningful ways and I responded much like many women have in similar positions... I over volunteered.  I lost my ability to say No with just a period...though if I am truly honest, I really never developed that skill in my adulthood, not really.  Working full time was a nice neat little package to say no to many requests of my energy and time so I skated by okay.  Without the net of a job to protect me from fielding requests to fill my life I was drowning quickly.  I poured my heart out to my dearest friend and life sojourner one night and a couple of weeks later she brought me a most awesome gift.  She made me a coffee mug that said "Just Say No".  And so my awareness to the issue of why No was hard for me to handle became front and center in my life.  It was quite perfect timing, because by then my oldest son had entered the going out phase of development... you know the stage where mothering shifts from solely source to establishing healthy boundaries for a child to explore the world.  My barely toddler daughter was right on his tail in that developmental stage and I found myself with an unplanned pregnancy that I was going to need to re-arrange my expectations for family life going forward. Then some very important questions started falling out of me at warp speed:

Why do I find it so hard for No to be a complete sentence, with a period at the end of it?

How do I establish firm and consistent boundaries with these little people I'm charged with raising...especially when they follow me everywhere I go and call me mommy?

Why do I feel so powerless to write the story of my own life and time now that I am a stay at home mom?

Why does the most important person in my life seem content to let me shoulder more than my share of the family load and get triggered with anger when I attempted to take some steps to re-integrate equality in the home?

I realized over time that my life was one of poetic chaos because I was not clear with where I began and someone else ended.  It was a hard journey to travel from chaos to stillness and I have chronicled that journey here through the years.  I'd love to say my journey led me to a place of happy endings and neat closure...but it did not.  Learning to say no to fear and yes to God is hard work, requiring daily awareness and learning to accept that others won't like my choices most of the time.  I have been able to to correct course and though this resting space isn't perfect or the space of happily ever after, it is a space of sacred stillness.

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