That’s what my #truthbomb asked me.
I held the question written in pretty handwriting on it’s little white card in my hand. I leaned back into my chair and thought about what the world could count on me for.
I was at a point in my life where I was overwhelmed with the work to be done in the world. That point in my life seems to have encompassed much of my twenties and all of my thirties. Darfur, orphans, refugees, cancer and sexual trauma in addition to what is now sitting on the world’s agenda. Honestly, the locations of the horrors, the oppression and the devastation just changes. It doesn’t end.
I am not being a martyr here. I’m hoping many of you can relate. If you participate in social media, you probably feel like you know too much. The images and videos flashing on your screen are disturbing but you feel some deep responsibility to bear witness. In this current moment I was struggling with what my role could or should be within other social justice movements that I support but have no active or vocal role.
What can we count on you for?
This question. Have you ever seen a video of a mobile of the solar system when it reaches a point when all of the planets align? That’s what this question began to do for me. As I kept repeating the words to myself, I found that I had made promises to the world and in order to keep them, I would have to limit my focus.
For one, I promised that I would raise three good people when I gave birth to three healthy beings. I have made promises about the care of children I serve through my foundation. I have promised a certain kind of friendship to those I am lucky enough to call friends. I have promised to be a good sister, daughter, niece and granddaughter. I have promised to be a good neighbor.
And oh, the promises I’ve made about the kind of person I want to be!
I have made a lot of promises. The world counts on me for a lot and I happily oblige. This is not grunt work for me. This is heart work. It makes me sing – even in the trenches with shit up to my ankles. I’m singing whether the songs be of sorrow or, as I called it to a friend earlier today, my own version of panic at the disco.
Deciding what the world could count on me for made it much easier for me to discern what I cannot be involved with at this time. In this season of my life, the world cannot count on me to volunteer for other nonprofits (unless it’s behind the scenes). The world will have to do without my leadership in other causes because I have chosen my soapbox and my torch to bear. The world cannot count on me to bake for the bake sale or always be the parent volunteer. I don’t bake and I am a working mother. This makes me so grateful for the parents who bake and who are there when I cannot be.
The world can count on them for that.
When you decide what the world can count on you for, you can allow others the opportunity to step it up. If you are not there to do it, someone will either get it done or decide it’s just not important enough to be a priority. That is the magic of allowing others the opportunity to rise to the occasion.
I believe that my yes must carry the same weight as my no. If I over commit, my family, team and friendships suffer. They have to tow the line, go the extra mile, do without and find ways to make the ends of my time meet their needs. It’s not fair and that expectation is not a declaration of my love for the personal relationships in my life as much as it is a side effect of my ambition.
Ambition with a dose of disregard is like a logging company in the Amazon. It will only lead to destruction.
Saying yes. The kind of yes you almost yell. Saying the kind of yes that makes you sit up late at night dreaming, get up early for meetings and show up with a mind open to learning the ropes – even if it means taking two steps backwards – is well worth saying no as many times as you need to.
When you decide what the world can count on you for and you don’t stray, you will shine. Because truly, the world has been waiting for you to bring it the way only you can.
So, friend. What can we count on you for?
PS – The question of when and how to say no has come up in the #militantselfcare Facebook group. Join the conversation here.