Is it time to take a break?


Last week I took a break over the Easter weekend. You may have noticed that I didn’t post a blog. I decided to have four days off. Really off. No work, just rest, church, and family things.

What I really wanted to do was go to Pop’s shack for the weekend and blob out.

Let me explain.

When the kids were little, way back when, we had no money. We couldn’t go on holidays overseas, or even rent a motel room. But Moz’s Pop had a shack, a beach house. It was in Weymouth, a little town on the north coast of Tasmania. It had three bedrooms and a sunroom, enough for all of us, and it could stretch to fit three families if we really tried (and we did, a couple of times). It wasn’t a luxurious place by any means but there was a lovely long backyard with a BBQ, a hammock and a really old swing set. There was the shed, with tools and the dartboard. There was a lounge room where we could just hang out and play board games and watch TV. There was a kitchen to cook in and we would take up all our food for the weekend to keep the cost down.

We would head up there, leaving home straight after work (or as soon after work as possible), often arriving near midnight and carrying sleeping children in to put them to bed so that we could wake up there in the morning. There was nothing like waking up at the shack, knowing that we were on holidays now.

We would blob out. We would read, play board games, watch TV, go for walks on the beach and rides around the town on our bikes. We would head down to the local park and push the kids on the swings. We would play tennis in the town’s tennis court. Or at least something that looked a little like tennis. And we would jump over the fence of the property next to the tennis court to retrieve the balls that went astray.

In summer we would swim, and body board, and once or twice we took a boat out and went for a paddle around the estuary. The boys did a little fishing. We made sandcastles and looked at the crabs scuttling around in the mud.

In winter we would rug up and fight the icy breeze as we walked along the beach. We would pick up pebbles and skip them on the water. We would go rock-hopping.

But the big thing is, we wouldn’t feel guilty. We read magazines, ate chips and chocolate, just let all the rules go for the weekend. And we would be refreshed, rejuvenated. We would come back with all sorts of plans for regular exercise and renovations on the house, all sorts of things that we didn’t have the energy for in our everyday lives.

Pop has passed away now, and his shack has been sold. And you can’t go back to the past even if you want to, and I’m sure I’m wearing rose-coloured glasses and only remembering the best times.

But for the Easter weekend I rested the way I used to rest at the shack. I decided not to feel guilty. Just to sit, read, snack, walk on the beach, enjoy some silence and solitude (when the boys were out doing other things), pray, think, make plans.

I think that there’s more chance of my plans being put into action this year. I hope so. I’ll let you know as we go on. But one thing I know for sure: I’m very grateful for the rest. It has made a difference to the week just gone. And it will make a difference to the weeks ahead.

God made us for rest and for work. May he help each of us find that balance.

The week ahead is pretty huge, and one reason is that I’ll be at an Indie Book Fair. If you are in Hobart and you would like to come and see me and have a chat, I’ll be Hadley’s Hotel, this Saturday 4th May. Star Wars day.

I’ll be giving a talk about my journey to this work-from-home life at 1.30 pm and I’ll be reading some of my cosy mystery fiction at 11.15 am. I’ll be sitting at my table for the rest of the day (from 10 am until 5 pm) with books to sell, so please come and keep me company! I’ve got sweets to share.

There will be many other authors there as well. A couple that I can really recommend are Lindsey Little (Young Adult Fantasy), WR Gingell (Fairy Tales, Science Fiction, Urban Fantasy), and Maria Grist (Tasmanian History). It’s a wide-ranging fair and it should be a lot of fun.

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? 🙂

Invisible arguments

I have been told by my adoring public (that would be my Mum and my husband) that it is about time I do another blog post.

The problem is that after the big triumph of the milk post I have found that I don’t have much to say.

No, to tell the truth, I’ve just been a bit busy/tired/argh but I’m sure I can squeeze out a post for all two of my adoring public 🙂

Actually, one thing I have spent the last two weeks doing has been tying myself in knots of guilt for absolutely no reason. (OK, I thought there was a reason but it turns out, not so much.)

I read an interesting article the other day – 11 Things every ‘Type A’ person wants you to know. I didn’t know I was a Type A until I read this list. I know it’s not a definitive personality test and that I shouldn’t read too much into it but some things in this list are definitely me. I’m goal oriented and competitive, I live by to-do lists (even my relaxation is guided by to-do lists) and if I commit to something, then I am committed.

But as I am growing older (and hopefully more mature) I have found that my energy and resources have limits and they are hard limits. I should not push myself beyond them. And lately, I pushed myself very nearly to the limit. It wasn’t good and I knew I needed time to recover. I wanted to take the time to recover but that meant that I couldn’t take part in something I had committed to. And when I commit, I commit. But… The LIMITS! …I hope you can see my problem.

What I did about this dilemma was daft. I decided not to go to the event that I had committed to (which was the right decision) and instead I wrapped myself in a blanket of guilt for two or three days and felt horrible about my life (which was a wrong decision).

As well as the blanket of guilt I felt about letting others down, I also decided that others must be at fault. That is, I thought the situation wasn’t bad enough and by deciding what others were thinking of me I could make it much worse. And for some reason I thought that made sense.

So I made up little comments that I was convinced others were thinking. And I had those invisible arguments with them – you know the ones where you put in all the bits you would say, and then all the bits they would say as well, and it all gets very heated, and then you win.

I rehearsed over and over again in my mind all the ways I was hard done by. And then I felt guilty for doing that too – I know that’s not the way we are supposed to live. Feeling sorry for myself should be an indictable offence when I am blessed as much as I am in my life.

But telling myself that didn’t work this time. Trying to force gratitude, or think on other things or live in the moment – it was working a bit but it wasn’t working well.

I went around and around, digging deeper and deeper until Sunday afternoon.

On Sunday afternoon there was a meeting of all the lovely people that I had been having the invisible arguments with. At the meeting I laid out everything I was feeling, got it all out into the light. And those lovely people did not say all the things I had heard in the invisible arguments, but they instead told me that they totally understood. Suddenly the guilt fog cleared and I could breathe again and realise that those limits I have put on myself are good, right and warranted and that others were fine with me living by my limits.

Now this has happened to me before. I have had very long invisible arguments with my long-suffering husband, with my parents, with my children. I am learning albeit slowly to stop with the mental treadmill and actually talk to the people concerned (using ‘I feel’ statements and being non-judgemental and all that). I hate arguments and, honestly, would prefer to do them all inside my head than to actually confront someone. But as much as I would love to think it, I will never know what someone else is thinking unless I ask them to tell me.

If you are in the middle of an invisible argument with someone, can I encourage you to get it out into the light and see if it shrivels to nothing in the process? I know that many situations are more complex than my little fight with non-existent guilt (and there are counsellors and people to help in those situations) but I’m sure that there are others out there who are similar to me and I would love for you to feel the freedom I feel right now.

And if you’re a Type A who has just put your sanity before your commitments, I say ‘Congratulations!’ Hopefully we can all find a more balanced and sane life as we keep working on our little character flaws.