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Archive for August 30th, 2010

One common aftereffect of child abuse is having an “all or nothing” mentality. I do not know why child abuse causes this aftereffect, but there is no question that I struggle with this myself and see this thinking in my offline friends who were abused as children.

Here is a recent example of mine … I always dreamed of volunteering in my child’s classroom. One thing led to another, and before I knew it, I was one of the head PTA (Parent-Teacher Association) leaders at my kid’s school. I was spending over 10 hours a week (and sometimes much more) doing volunteer work for my son’s school.

While there is nothing wrong with being a PTA volunteer, everything in life needs to happen in moderation. I think we can agree that devoting that much time as a volunteer is hardly “moderation.”

So, when we transferred my son to a private school in March for his special needs (ADHD and learning disabilities), I decided not to volunteer at his school at all. The only thing that got me off the out-of-control volunteer merry-go-round was transferring schools, and I was not going to hop back on again. So, I did nothing whatsoever with my son’s new school for the rest of the school year.

School has just started back, and the PFA (Parent-Faculty Association) sent out a request for volunteers as part of the back-to-school package. One need they have listed is processing the Box Tops for Education (BTFE), which one of my good friends has done for years. The job involves sorting through the Box Tops that have been submitted, throwing away the expired ones, and placing the rest in groups of 50 to send in to the BTFE two or three times a year. My friend says that it takes her four hours for each shipment (for a much larger school), which boils down to 12 hours a year.

I have an interest in doing this because I love the idea of a school earning money for what is essentially garbage (cutouts from used boxes). My friend’s school earned over $1,200 in one year! However, just the thought of volunteering for this one assignment triggered me, kicking off intense anxiety. I really wrestled with why this was bothering me so much, and then it hit me … I still have not learned that my choice to volunteer in a school is not an “all or nothing” commitment. Because of my past experiences volunteering with a school, churches, etc., I believe that taking on a 12-hour-a-year task is the same thing as a 12-hour-a-week commitment, and that simply is not true. So, I have decided to volunteer for this job in large part to “force” myself to break out of this “all or nothing” mentality.

I am not going into this naïvely. I am painfully aware of my own history of saying yes to more responsibilities when I should be saying no. I am also well aware of how those in charge of PTA’s zero in on anyone willing to help out. So, my response for any further volunteer requests will be, “I am sorry, but I am already coordinating the Box Tops for the school.”

As silly as it sounds, I am nervous about taking this step. My history tells me that I cannot handle moderation, but my healing spirit tells me that I can do anything with my life that I want to do. I don’t want to feel like I cannot ever do anything “a little bit” because then I will miss out on many wonderful opportunities that I only want “a little bit” of. Wish me luck!

Photo credit: Google.com

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