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Control Your Commitments

I Committed. I Obligated. I Promised. When you find yourself overextended, grab onto a friend. If she, or he, yanks you back to reality, they’re a keeper.

Last week I had lunch with one of my dearest friends, Wendy. She’s the one friend we all have, or at least wish we did. We laugh until our stomachs hurt and steal each other's fries without asking. Her hair is usually pulled back but falls out by the end of the day. She’s more reliable than my phone charger and loves me enough to move the junk from her passenger seat.

We’ve been labeled “Real and Random.” She’s the talented, random, free-spirited, sink-full-of-dishes friend. I’m more of a realist – profanity, wine with lunch and poking fun at grocery clerks with no teeth.  We’re a good match.

When something is plaguing my mind, I tell her. I attempt to convince her of a dilemma. Before she responds, her facial expression alone speaks volumes. She never strays and focuses on what’s honorable. It’s like trying to persuade the vegan mother to buy sugar cereal and getting flax seed. It may not taste very good, but it’s the better choice.    

There we were, sitting in our booth. She listens to my pitches of hectic calendars: the commitments, the deadlines, the projects and the meetings. I’m seasoned in the field of sleep deprivation, but even I knew I was in over my head. Like most busy moms, I’d rather stay up late, sacrifice myself and confidently finish the job... and carry the scars. Bloodshot eyes are covered with sunglasses and a false energy originates from unhealthy levels of caffeine, not a restful slumber. Sound familiar?

With a mound of country potatoes on her fork, Wenday says, “Then why are you doing it?”

I stared at the restaurant wall of uneven pictures and autographed memorabilia.  Sat back and responded, “Because I committed to it.”  She continues to eat her potatoes. “You know Cami, it’s okay to say NO.”

We then discussed the advantages of breaking the commitment. We defined the relief it would bring and thought of the higher quality my other endeavors would enjoy. Before I even broke the news, I felt a tremendous weight lift off my shoulders, like figuring out the answer to the never-ending math problem.

A solution was in sight. Wendy was right!

If we overextend ourselves, somethings going to give. It’s usually our minds. I’m certain we all know this. Yet, why do we continue to take on more and more? We know we don’t look hot in a spandex super-heroine (or super-hero) costume anymore, so why would we wear one? Is projecting the illusion of being organized and professional multitaskers that vital?

In this circumstance (with the specifics removed to both project the universality of the situation and protect the innocent) I should never have agreed to doing the extra projects. I was already spreading myself too thin, but figured I could handle it.

By doing so, gradually everything around me seemed to suffer... distracted family time, careless meal preparation, procrastinating on other projects and a lowered quality of work. I also found myself late with appointments, pick-ups and other meetings.  

Since completing this column, I have, in fact, scaled back. Initially I felt like a disappointment, a tad of a failure mixed with a dash of guilt.

Once I truthfully explained my situation to the concerned parties and apologized, sincerely, for backing out, sentiments of familiarity and understanding were clearly heard and seen through the speaker and screen of my abused iPhone.  

An important lesson was learned. I now feel a sense of confidence when other tasks are thrown my way.  I know that I have the freedom to take on as much, or as little, as I like.

Before I choose to overextend, I’ll remind myself that “No” is a complete sentence while striving for Wendy’s keen sense of what is just.

Being cognizant of your personal limits is an incredibly beneficial skill, one that benefits your body, your family and your sanity. But let's be realistic. Scaling back on profanity, lunchtime wine and finding humor at the expense of dentally-challenged big box store employees is still completely out of the question.

Patricia Gaglioti March 11, 2011 at 11:49 PM
I LOVED IT!!!!!! What a book you'll write........
Sherry L. Paquette March 12, 2011 at 12:27 AM
You are right, Sue - "no" tends to be a foreign word to many of us. It is very empowering, though. Recently on an Oprah episode (thank you DVR) I heard an expression that is worth repeating. "That just doesn't work for me" - I love this - no long explanation - just that phrase. Great piece Cami!
Danna Gauntner March 13, 2011 at 12:44 PM
Cami Lets just hope you don't say "no" to this column...what would we do without your insights and humor? Wishing you the balance you are searching for.
Joe P. March 13, 2011 at 01:32 PM
I agree. I hear constant praise for Cami's column whenever i discuss the Suffield Patch with my friends.
kate April 02, 2011 at 03:10 PM
yes, yes yes! As always, practical wisdom delivered with your usual wit!

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