Just Say “No”

I think it must happen every time. I know for certain that I’ve felt like this before, but this is the first time I can remember being able to resist it without feeling guilty for resisting it. It’s very strange: another of those moments where I stand outside my past and observe and wonder, “How on earth did she manage this?”

See, I’m feeling better. I’m actually feeling really good. The sleepiness is finally down to a manageable level, things around the house are getting done, I am socializing without paralyzing fear of doing and saying the wrong thing, I am actually writing regularly and posting it on my blog–which, no, is not the same as getting paid, but I’m putting out there what I was afraid to put out there before. And I have energy to keep doing it. So, of course, the same thing is happening that has happened every time I can remember having energy: I feel this deep-seated urge to start something new.

I already know I can’t really start a new workout regimen. For one thing, that could trigger my OCD behaviors with food and relentless exercise. For another, I like what I’m doing and am seeing results, and why mess with a good thing? But I keep seeing these books, such tempting books, that promise to teach me to become a professional writer. Or a real, serious Christian. Or a Christian writer to gets paid to write about being a real, serious Christian. And every time I see one, I think, “Oh, I should do that. I have energy. I should stop wasting my time and launch a new venture to self-improve/make money/make money by self-improving.” Every single book.

To be fair, a minor version of this happens every time I see a new shampoo at the store. “Maybe I should switch to this one. Maybe this will fix me. My hair, I mean. Fix my hair. Yeah.” As I said, this is nothing new. What is new is my ability to look forward, to ask, “What will starting this book’s program require?” Is is a slightly different version of NaNoWriMo? I already can’t do that with the time I have available. Set a timer and write every day for that amount of time, no matter what? I cannot afford the looming scrupulosity that comes with that plan. Volunteer for everything at your church, or start your own ministry? I really cannot afford to take on an(other) unpaid full-time job, thanks. (Also, my parish is renovating, and has put the kibosh on starting new ministries. See? I tried this one already.) I’m looking at the books and longing, yes, but I’m also realistically evaluating the cost of whatever the books is promising. And so far, I have walked away from them all. Usually, if I walk away, it’s really me swimming away through a sea of guilt. Or I didn’t buy the book because I felt like it was too expensive, and I would never put in the work to justify the cost of the book. And more guilt. And more guilt. This time, I don’t feel guilty.

I cannot explain how weird this feels–not even to my therapist, and I’ve tried. To walk through the world without the inanimate objects judging me? I can tell I’m having an off day, because it happened in the library today. Every book on the shelf: “Why haven’t you written one of us yet? I thought you said you were a writer.” The whole library. That’s a lot of books. And that was my normal for so long. Now I have days–lots of them, in a row–when this doesn’t happen once. Where all the extraneous voices shut up. When the inanimate objects are inanimate. When they’re not weighing me in the balance, finding me wanting. When it’s just me and the world, hanging out. And I feel pleasantly confused, because I have no idea what this sensation is or how the rest of the world lives without judgmental interior voices driving them from pillar to post, but I really enjoy it.

I’ll be honest: even having this urge–start something new! fulfill your potential! finally succeed!–scares the hell out of me. It makes me wonder if my symptoms are coming back, if my meds are wearing off. I’m not supposed to be on them forever. At some point, I learn how to cope with obsessions and compulsions without using medications. And I am learning; I’m just not sure I’m ready to take the training wheels off, yet. So I’m worried. And today, I’m glum. I overdid it this weekend (Do! All! The! Things!) and I’m a wreck. But even while I feel like I contribute nothing, like I am a drain on the family resources, like I should start freelance writing for real to earn money, even though my husband and I agree that it’s a bad idea right now–even through that, I am talking myself through it. Rather than researching ways to start a business, I am telling myself that I do, in fact, contribute to my family. That even if I don’t make us money, I save us a lot. That I have as much right to a share of the family resources as all the other family members. Whereas a year ago, I’d have been checking out books on freelance writing at the library, books that told me I was a waste of space.

Things are getting better, even if I am having a bad day. (I need to stop doing all the things on the weekends. Noted.) Even better, I read this today, and it’s a shot in the arm:

We are all trying to do our best to live out the life God has given to us the best way we can, using the gifts He has given us while also paying the light bill. Sometimes we do that by preaching to the choir and sometimes we do it by going to the dive bar to smoke newports and take shots of Jameson preaching the Good News. And if you think that is not possible, you are not giving God enough credit. God has diverse gifts to give to us and sometimes we are lucky enough that those gifts help us pay our bills and there is nothing wrong with that. Sometimes the gift is speaking pagan fluently. Who are we to say what God can or can’t use to bring His people to Him? God is much bigger than our limited view of Him. The best thing we can do for each other is asking each other “how can I help you?” or just shutting up and letting God do what God does.

I don’t need to listen to the library books; I don’t need to start an entrepreneurial venture or become a published Christian author. I need to keep on living the life I’m in the middle of. This is the first time in I-literally-don’t-know-how-long that I have been able to tell the books, “No, thanks. I’m good.”

And you know what? I am good. Thank God.

“Why haven’t you written one of us yet?” “Because I’ve been busy, Brenda.”

One thought on “Just Say “No”

  1. You are doing great things Kate. Very few of Christ’s people are called to be Mother Theresa or CS Lewis or Acquinas (trying to pick out big hitters in service and/or writing…and I know CS Lewis isn’t canonized but he did write impressive things). But there is just as much holiness in the Zelies and Ritas. (There are a few saint-moms that I won’t mention because their stories make them sound like superheroes and doesn’t help my point). St Therese highlighted the holiness in sweeping the floor. And ALL saints had hard times and times that weren’t so shiny or impressive.
    You are doing good work and that good work will pay off, maybe towards your dreams of writing big time but certainly towards that heavenly goal.

    Besides, if you do all your writing now, what are you going to fill your time with when the boys go off to college? 😉 heehee.


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