I have absolutely no skill when it comes to saying no. How is it that I never managed to acquire this ability in the last 37 years? Well, this really shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone given the name of the blog, but I’m a functioning introvert. I’ve suffered from low to moderate social anxiety for as long as I can remember. I often have to put a knife to my own throat to go out, even when I’m looking forward to something. Once I get there, I warm up, but I need to recharge afterwards. My ideal evening is spent with my nose in a book or watching something from my Netflix queue. But now I find myself busier than I’ve ever been in my life and I’m struggling.
The political climate of 2016 compelled me to act. I woke up after Election Day in a black, desolate mood. As the days passed, that despair transformed into helplessness, frustration, and finally anger. I needed a way to burn through that fury, to transform it into something meaningful. But how?
I’d never been involved in any political or social activism. So, I joined every group I could find. My typical week went from going out once or twice max to being out every single night of the work week and all day on the weekend. I was organizing, putting events together, making phone calls to strangers (which I absolutely loathe above nearly all else), speaking to crowds, canvassing for the local branch of the Democratic Party, and heading up various local initiatives. Once you become known for showing up and working hard, people tend to call on you to keep doing it, and when there’s so much that needs to be done, you find yourself volunteering and allowing people to set as much as they’d like onto your narrow shoulders. You feel accomplished, but weary. This rush of frenzied activity causes chronic overextension, which exhausts you in a way that even a string of good nights’ sleeps cannot fix.
So, what’s to be done when you want to create as much change as you can but also don’t want to perpetually feel like sinking into bed and pulling the blankets over your head until everyone forgets you exist?
Over the last 12 months, I’ve come to realize that the answer is balance. Don’t accept too many projects and leadership roles. Make a list of priority items and decide how much work you can do without driving yourself insane. Take the recharge time for yourself that you desperately need. Don’t allow anyone to make you feel guilty for saying no.
Have I mastered any of what I’ve just suggested? Oh, hell no. Not even close. But I’m learning as I go, because I’ve never done this before.
During a protest early last year, I saw a sign that read: It’s so bad even introverts are here. I had to laugh at that because it’s true. We’re uncomfortable, but we’re here. Just don’t be surprised if you see us running away from you in a parking lot or something. No offense. We’ve just reached the limit for socializing that day…