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Helium Hand

It’s that crazy time of year….the kids go back to school (okay, maybe that’s a bit of a relief after a long summer), meetings piggyback practices, which, in turn, piggyback that “family dinner” we’re told we need to have every night if we want our children to stand any chance of developing into normal adults.  Talking heads are telling us to banish TV, but how else are we expected to shower, prepare a gourmet feast and look evening fresh when our husbands arrive home from work?  Personally, I am beginning to understand why people self-medicate.

All kidding aside, August-December can often seem like a marathon of homework, practice, games, work, philanthropic endeavors and recitals.  You would think the prize at the end of this race would consist of something more than the two week vacation our kids get from school.  However, the fab-u-lous (note my sarcasm) prize we’re often awarded for going that extra mile is…MORE COMMITMENT!

If you’re like me, you are somewhat ashamed to admit you have this affliction I affectionately (more sarcasm) refer to as Helium Hand. Picture it.  You’re sitting in a meeting- work, charity, PTA or otherwise and someone floats the ask. “Can someone please step up to the plate and bake more cookies?”  “We need one more driver for the field trip.”  I start to get a bit nervous just typing about it.  Your head is down- avoiding eye contact is always good.  You heart is pounding as you begin to repeat, “please don’t ask me.  I’ll give up funnel cake and reality TV if you don’t ask me!”  However, before you can even muster a syllable of the phrase you’ve practiced time and time again in the mirror….you know the one, “I’m sorry, but I’m just too committed right now,” it happens.  Your arm begins to rise slowly into the air, as if it were completely detached from your body.  Soon, and although you have avoided eye contact and repeated your back out phrase over and over again, you have once again volunteered to build the life-size class mascot, a rhino, out of papier-mache!

What gives people?  I mean, if Oprah can say it, why can’t we do the same?  I repeat my back out phrase in the mirror, I practice using “no” generously with my children.  Somehow, though, I cannot stand up like an adult woman and set appropriate boundaries.  You know I’m not the only one.

Do you wish you could say no more often and with more gusto?  Do you feel left out if you don’t participate in everything? Do you feel put out by activities that are supposed to actually be fun?  Are you stressed on Sunday evening when contemplating the week ahead?  If you answered yes to any or all of these queries, you are not alone!  There are plenty of us out there with our arm in the air, our tail between our legs and all the confidence Title 9 was supposed to give us down the drain.

If you’re looking to me now to offer some amazing solution, some golden nugget of wisdom, you’re sure to be disappointed.  I’m one of the afflicted, remember?  I have trouble setting boundaries.  I hate that desperate, wanting look many committee chairs get when they can’t staff the cotton candy booth at the church carnival.  My husband has rolled his eyes in exasperation more than once as I have ticked off everything I have (even more sarcasm) to do finger by finger, looking for empathy when I am completely responsible for the mess I’m in.

What I can offer you is a place to share, to ask how others say no (please enlighten me) and to relax.  Know that someone else really does understand the Helium Hand affliction and all the chaos, stress and sometimes utterly beautiful results that come from the commitments you make to your family, your place of worship, your child’s school, your job and to your community.  We are the glue that holds everything together, the worker bees that get things done.  We are the strength and heart behind organizations.  We are women behind it all.  And, you know what, the more I think about it, I AM proud to hold my hand in the air!

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Jennifer September 15, 2010 at 12:01 am

I’ve used the word “no” so liberally that i no longer speak to family save one individual…it’s lonely at the top…


Tracy September 15, 2010 at 1:24 am

You may not like my answer….but here it is: have more kids! I Junior League’d, PTA’d, church activitie’d with the best of them when it was just the boys, however, by the time Abby came along, I was getting very good at exercising “no”; once Sarah came along….I became the Queen of “Sorry, I just can’t”. It worked for me :).

THAT said, the feeling you get from volunteering is incredibly heartwarming and addictive and keeps us coming back from more. In fact, as the kids are now getting older, my hand is beginning to feel lighter already…..


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