I don’t talk about it a ton on this blog, but in addition to work (primarily writing, coaching, and teaching), I do a lot of volunteer work. I’m happy to be able to fit it into my schedule, to have the energy and opportunity to give back. To contribute efforts that feel good.
So that’s in my schedule, work, family/home obligations (chores, errands, pet care, etc.). I don’t have any children (which was a choice I made a long time ago and have managed to stick to and am very satisfied with, thank you very much). But all that stuff comes first before social asks.
Volunteering demands and social ones are pretty much hand in hand these days. Partly because most of my friends also volunteer, so I typically see them when I’m doing that work. Double duty and all that.
And it’s been brought to my attention that I’m quite a bit more hesitant than others around me to take on new tasks. Significantly.
By and large, I find myself surrounded by folks who easily say “yes” to more and more. And a few of these friends are very open that this approach sometimes backfires. Most of the time, they can do it all — and it goes great. And this work ethic and ambition generally serves them very well. Even in the situations where they have to drop a ball or two, it’s often work that can be reassigned or can wait a minute. And they end up doing 80-95% of what they set out to do, which is significantly more than what they would have attempted if they hadn’t been so free and fast with saying yes.
I Plan for Rainy Days, Not Sunny Ones
I’m amazed by this approach. I admire folks who approach life that way. But it’s apparently not me. I’m more of the chronically underbooked friend. Because, you see, when I’m evaluating whether I can take on another new project or responsibility, the question I’m asking myself isn’t if I could do it under ideal circumstances… the question I’m asking is I could do it during a pain flare, an awful migraine cycle, or a bad mental health spell.
And at those times, my capacity for managing my life is about seventy percent. Which is frankly REALLY GOOD in the chronic illness sphere… Essentially, I plan for the rainy days, not sunny ones. Because there’s no reliable weather forecast — and it kills me whenever I have to let other people down, even though I’m generally cool with helping them figure it out when they have to drop something.
So I underbook. And feel weird the entire time as folks around me are consistently juggling loads and I’m winding my way through what I have to do.
I suppose the upside is that I normally have a bit of extra capacity leftover — one that I can use to help friends who need help with their overload. I can act as backup a lot, basically. And it is extraordinarily rare that I cancel something I firmly committed to. (I usually only back out of maybes and try to limit that.)
And I have to say on the rainy days, I’m always glad that I “underbooked.” Maybe it’s not underbooking, after all, but realistic booking. Self-compassionate booking.