When Brandon, Dan, Mary, and Howard first started talking about doing a Writing Excuses retreat, I loved the idea. I wanted to be an integral part of all the planning. I wanted to be useful and essential. But much of the retreat discussion took place during recording sessions when I was not there. Task after task was handled and there was little for me to do other than to listen to the plans and make suggestions about implementation. I was of great help during the crazy days of registration and customer support. I’m good at answering emails and helping people. So I did that.
Then I figured that I would be most useful during the actual week of the retreat. I would arrive early and help with the hundred preparatory tasks both expected and not expected. I would stay late and help evaluate how everything went. Everyone thought this was a fantastic plan. But then responsible parenting required me to choose. It was no longer a matter of just finding someone to care for the kids in my absence, that someone would have to coordinate sending a girl off to camp and then dealing with her coming home. I checked and all the people in my life who I felt would handle that without being too stressed were unavailable. So the plan changed. I would come late to the retreat and I would leave early. This made me sad, because I’d wanted to be useful and essential. Instead they would arrange it without me and I would be a visitor at the retreat instead of integral.
I expected to arrive and be at loose ends. I expected to fill the odd task. Instead I got there and all the staff breathed relief. I spent most of my days working, helping, arranging, facilitating. It was obvious that I was needed. There were a hundred invisible jobs, the kind of thing that I do at home without thinking, but which enable all the other things. I did far more dish washing than writing and I’m okay with that because I was helping create something larger. I was doing the jobs that needed to be done so that the retreat could exist. Thins like retreats are always a group creation and my role was quiet but critical. Then, before I was done, my time was up. My early departure arrived.
I wanted to stay, so very much. There were needs at home and needs at the retreat. I pondered changing my ticket and figuring out child care via long distance. I weighed my choices. And I didn’t know the right answer. Perhaps there was no right answer, nor wrong one. I conferred with Howard and with the kids at home. Brandon, Dan, and Mary all understood and supported whatever choice I made. I left. I am sad that I had to choose between these things, that there was not some way to rearrange and allow me to be the professional, reliable, helper that I wanted to be. I’m even sadder because it seems like I always have to choose because things land on top of each other. It feels arbitrary and unfair, because everything would fit just fine if only they would land in different weeks.
So my role this past week both was and was not what I had hoped for. The retreat was excellent and exhausting. I was just beginning to feel part of it when I had to leave. Most of it can be summed up by me doing the job that was in front of me because it was the job that needed doing, even if there was a different job I would have preferred.
I’ll be home soon doing more of the same, only different.
2 thoughts on “Doing the Job that Needs to be Done”
So much of your life resonates with me. I can’t tell you how much I appreciate reading your thoughts. I, too, spend most of my time in support positions–for my husband, for my kids–and that requires me to forgo a lot of personal time. I’m forever wishing I had just a few more minutes to write or read instead of cleaning up another mess. Sometimes I really resent giving up me time just so I can be there, not do anything special, just be present for my family. But that’s how life is. There are jobs that need doing and some of us give up our own desires in order to take care of things that need to be done.
I don’t mind being essential when it is obvious that I am adding something particularly me, but it is definitely hard to give up my things to do work that could easily be accomplished by anyone with hands.
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