Are you feeling trapped? Stuck?

I read an interesting article in The Australian on Sunday morning. It was talking about how women are pretending that they can have it all – career, family, hobbies, everything – when we know we can’t. How women are hiding the failures and airbrushing their lives. How we are falling apart behind the scenes.

What struck me as I read was the feeling of being trapped. The women the author was writing about felt they had no choice, that they had to live like this, that they had to keep on with the career and the hectic lifestyle, that they just had to hide what was going on and just keep going.

It is obviously not only women who feel this way.

But I wonder if there is some freedom that can be found.

Moz now works as a teacher but he didn’t start his working life that way. He trained first to be an electrician. After his apprenticeship finished he got a job installing computer cabling with a small business. We are grateful for that job but long-term it was never going to be the right job for him. It involved long hours, shift work, and massive unpredictability. We never knew when he was working or for how long, and that doesn’t make for a happy family, especially with very young children.

Every month we would struggle to meet our budget and I would complain to Moz, and every month he would work harder, longer hours, more shifts, to try to get the money I was asking for, and I would complain that we didn’t spend enough time as a family.

We felt trapped in an unrelenting cycle.

Eventually we had the chance to stop for a few days and think things through. We realised that the family’s need to see more of him was greater than our need for the money he was providing. We chose to make some sacrifices and he quit his job and we went to university.

This was not an easy decision and we saw God’s miraculous provision for us more than once. But the point I want to make is this: we chose to have less money for a number of years in order to have the family relationships we needed.

This meant that we had crap furniture – a really dreadful brown lounge suite and a very daggy dining table and chairs. Almost every scrap of furniture we owned was second-hand and even the carpet in our house was hand-me-down, given to us by my Uncle and Aunt after they recarpeted their own home.

We didn’t have mainland holidays. When we went away we went to Pop’s beach house. It was free.

We didn’t have new clothes. Op-shopping and hand-me-downs were the order of the day.

We didn’t get to eat flash food. We got to eat a lot of bread that was given to us by charities, and we ate very simply (weetbix, anyone?) the rest of the time.

But we were no longer trapped. We were going on a journey to where we next needed to be. We were doing what we wanted to do.

People would say to us, ‘I wish I could do what you’re doing.’

They could.

They just needed to make that choice. They would have to make sacrifices just like us. But if they really wanted to, they could.

I know I am making generalisations here and maybe this doesn’t apply to you but I think it applies to more of us than we would like.

I think that if you really want to do something, if you have a dream, then you probably can make it happen.

I think some of us need to realise that we are not stuck, we are instead choosing the lifestyle that we have. We are prioritising things that we are not admitting to.

Perhaps you really want to be at home with your children but you are continuing in your job because you feel that you have to be able to provide the best in furniture, clothes, and toys for your kids.

Perhaps you would love to follow your dream but instead feel like you are trapped in your job because of the fees you need to pay for your kids’ private schooling.

Maybe you are putting off your dream because you want the financial security. You keep telling yourself you will do it once you have saved enough to retire early.

Maybe you are working 12 hours a day so you can afford the mortgage on your house.

It’s a choice.

You could choose to go with simpler clothes and furnishings and have more time with your kids. You could choose to send your kids to public school and maybe have a happier home life with a lot less stress. You could choose to sell your house and rent, or at least downsize so that you have less of a mortgage payment to pay. You can choose to work towards your dream now, on the weekends, or in your lunch hours, and not wait for some financially secure time that may never happen.

It is so easy to blame circumstances or external forces for the consequences of our own choices. To say ‘I really wanted to … but things stopped me’.

What is stopping you might just be you.

Are there sacrifices you need to make to follow your dream?

Or are you only willing to ‘rest forever in the shadows of the safety of what might have been’? (Barbara Turner-Vesselago)

This is not the whole story, of course. It is part of the story, part of the argument. There is so much involved in following your dream. Do you do it part-time? Full-time? How will it affect your family? Who do you need to talk to? Do you need training? There are so many questions that need to be answered.

I am just hoping that if your soul has been speaking to you and you have been brushing it off, that this blog post will help you get started. Start the conversation. Think about the sacrifices. Think about the choices you are making. Get un-stuck.

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How to ask

Buy my book

Well friends, this is the last post in this Saying No series.

It’s not that I’m going to stop writing about this stuff, it seems to be something I love to explore, but I’m going to be writing about it less regularly and writing about other things more, and I’m going to give my artist a break 🙂

And of course, it’s time to write some Christmas posts, isn’t it?

I’m also going to add a little more to the saying no posts, include some thoughts that have been sparked by your comments, and wrap it all up in a ribbon and make it into a book. I’ll let you know when it’s for sale!

I’ve talked in this series about losing the ‘shoulds’, about figuring out priorities, about making rules beforehand so that we don’t have to make yes/no decisions on the fly, about pushing ourselves sometimes, and resting regularly. I want to finish with something that came up the other day when I was chatting to some good friends over lunch.

We were talking about this blog and the conversation moved to discussing methods of asking people to do things in such a way that they feel free to say no. It got me thinking about things from the other side of the fence and I thought I’d explore the idea.

An interesting thing has changed for me as I’ve been writing this series. Now, when people have asked me to do something they preface the request with ‘you can say no, but …’

‘You can say no, but would you like to come to the quiz night on Saturday?’

‘Feel free to say no, but would you like to be a part of this fundraiser?’

‘I know you’ll probably say no, but there’s a dinner on and I’d love you to come.’

It’s been wonderful. My friends are so great. They can see that I’m working on something here and they are trying to help.

Some requests are not so easy to refuse.

I think one of the worst ways of being asked is this, ‘What are you doing on March the 21st?’

This method of asking assumes that if there is nothing booked into your calendar then you are available for whatever event the person is asking you to.

However, what if there is nothing booked in your calendar because you need the day off as a rest day? Or sometimes you even need to wait and see – if the week before turns out to be huge, then maybe you need to turn the event down.

Now this is difficult, because sometimes the person asking really needs to know how many people are attending an event so that they can plan properly. And sometimes people are putting off answering because they are waiting to see if a better offer arrives, and that’s, honestly, a little rude.

Tasmanians have a dreadful habit of booking tickets to things at the very last moment. We’ve had some big name performers cancel their tours because people couldn’t make up their minds whether or not they wanted to come. I guess this is another place where there needs to be a bit of balance.

Having said that, I still think there’s a better way of asking.

How about, ‘Hey, could you check your calendar and get back to me? I’d love to invite you to this thing on March 21st if you would like to come. I need to know numbers by Feb 20th.’

Or ‘I’d really like to get together with you for dinner, I know you’re busy but I’m free on these days, would you be able to make it on any of those? Or maybe you could suggest one that works for you? I don’t mind how long I have to wait, I’d just like to spend time with you.’

Or ‘There’s this really great event happening that I’m sure you’d like. Have a think about it and get back to me.’

I can see a pattern in these invitations, they all give the invited person time to think. This may purely be my introverted nature but I really hate being put on the spot. I like to have a chance to think about anything before I give an answer. So maybe this is what we can do. Give our friends time to think and the freedom to say no without guilt. Do you have suggestions for good ways to ask? Let us know in the comments.

Thank you so much for joining me on this journey. I pray that each of us grows in wisdom about when to say no and when to say yes so that our lives fill up with meaning, joy, and peace. And yes, feel free to say no, but when the time comes, will you consider buying my book? 🙂