Must… Learn… To… Say… No…

If I wanted to be responsible for decisions that impact other people’s livelihoods, health, and emotional well-being, I’d be in management, making the big bucks in the software development business.

So why am I a) on the Board of Directors of a (small) international charitable organization, and b) a co-organizer of a writers’ group?

It’s mostly because I can’t say no. The charity — well, as I said, it’s small. My husband and I have been active at the lower levels for ten years, and nineteen months ago there was no one to step up and join the BOD. Hubby is actually into this stuff (he is Plant Manager for a respectably-sized manufacturing firm, as well as active at the (inter)national level for a much larger charity.) This particular organization requires that both partners of a couple join the board at the same time. Hubby persuaded me that we needed to “give back” to the organization. So we agreed to go on the BOD for a minimum term of two years.

It has been nothing but drama, politics and in-fighting. It has caused me grief and sleepless nights with the collateral damage of what I believe to be wise decisions for the organization. I told Hubby at the end of one year that I would not continue for the optional third year. But there is no way to quit before the end of two years. I can’t escape this side of August.

As for the writers’ group, on a small scale it is much the same story. It’s an outgrowth of NaNoWriMo, a local year-round write-in. I agreed to co-organize just to have such a group available in my area.

Little did I know that the other organizer was a former event planner.

The group is successful beyond our wildest dreams. This means I have moderated critique groups while my co-organizer has been out-of town. It looks like I will be playing Fearless Leader to a selection of our group’s members at a local book festival outing. The list goes on…

I like my co-organizer. I like (most of) the group’s members. I’m glad it’s successful, and will be continuing through Camp NaNoWriMo and presumably on through to next November. That said, I really don’t want to be part of a critique group. Nor lead an expedition. I’d rather have a quiet and supportive place to write… and explore the festival on my own.

I’m not socially comfortable. I am easily exhausted by a social event, even when it’s thoroughly enjoyable. I feel it my job to make everything work for everyone else if I am in a leading position, and feel terrible if anything goes wrong. The BOD is in large part about things going wrong and dealing with it, and a critique group is about . . . criticism. After a BOD meeting, or a critique group session, I need to find a quiet spot to hide from human contact for a while (in the case of the BOD, sometimes for days.) I will probably be useless for two days after the weekend when I will have the book festival leader job, a hockey game to attend, and a BOD meeting all within the space of 36 hours.

I want the charity to succeed. I want the writers’ group to succeed. I will work hard to achieve both. But it’s not my idea of a good time — quite the opposite. And I will duck out of both leadership positions as soon as I decently can, and go back to being just a member.

gaelle kermen

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