As some of my regular readers know, this has been my year of learning how to draw lines in the sand – both personally and professionally. It hasn’t been easy.
First I had to admit that I had a problem, that saying yes every time anyone asked me to do something for them wasn’t healthy, fulfilling or enjoyable – no matter how strong the initial rush of gratitude was from them. In fact this habit was highly depleting.
Then I had to identify the problem and start taking steps to correct it. It turns out the problem went well beyond not having any lines in the sand – I didn’t even have any sand in which to draw my lines.
So, I got some sand, and with the help of my best friend and most trusted partner (my amazing husband), I began to draw some lines in it. I set some limits, raised my standards, and cleaned out my address books.
I am still new at this, so any time I have to make a decision that will affect not just me, but our family as well – I check in. I have not flexed my own “gut” enough to be able to trust it – my gut is spineless, it will still always say yes.
Case in point. This morning Anderson Cooper’s people called me. Yes, THAT Anderson Cooper.
And it turns out they really were calling for me, not some other Banned Thoughts Thinker.
Free plane ticket, hotel in New York, and a chance to finally, finally meet one of my heroes in person. “YES!” came gushing out of my mouth before I actually thought any of it through – leaving my glorious new office, abandoning my clients who have been so incredibly patient while I ignored them to prep for my writing conference, leaving my husband AGAIN, and our children AGAIN to go dashing off to put us into the spotlight AGAIN – only this time on the national level.
I spent 30 minutes on the phone with Anderson’s assistant talking about – and agreeing to – a whole range of things. None of it really sunk in, I was going to be flown to New York to meet my hero – nothing else mattered. I don’t think it really even registered that I was going to be live on national television, in front of a hostile audience, talking about and defending my parenting style – and my children’s rights – to the world.
When I finally got off the phone, I called my husband, nearly bursting at the seams, I was so excited. I was going to go to New York. I was going to meet my idol.
I felt my husband’s reaction even before the words made it down the phone line. Panic.
See, we had played with this fire before. Small, local, manageable fire. And we still got burned. And when we had the chance to rebut, we took it – and got burned again. I swore I was done, I had learned my lesson – the media is not there to help us spread our messages of love and peace and well-being – they are there to use us to start another fight.
My husband tried to reign in his emotions. But it was too much, too fast. I needed an answer, they were booking my ticket while we talked.
“I’ll always support you. If this is something you need to do, I’ll support you. But I hope you’ll say no.”
I was crushed, but oddly empowered at the same time. My inner demon wrestled with this new double-edged sword.
Four phone calls, three counter offers and some begging and pleading from Anderson’s people (No, I’m not really that important, that’s almost the whole point – I don’t even want to be that important.) and I finally said no. Unequivocally, no.
And then the real truth slipped out – they didn’t really want me there to stand up with and for my hero – compatriots championing for children’s rights – no. They wanted me there to stoke the fires, fuel the “debate” and feed into the war raging around what it means to be a good parent. They needed someone to stand up with my idol, because she’s already in the spotlight, and allow themselves to become the new target of fear and rage.
No thank you.
I would have jumped into this fire – leaping in on auto-pilot – before I even realized what I was doing. I would have flown straight into the sun, Icarus style, and gotten burned to ashes by the national outrage, but the one thing I have, my superpower – is a partner who knows when to let me go, and when to stop me and say what I always say to my children when they are about to jump off a cliff of no return, “Do you think that’s a good idea?”
The reason this works so well, with my children, and with adults, and with myself is that it’s not someone telling you not to do something, and it’s not even someone telling you they think it’s a bad idea, it’s someone slowing you down enough and getting you off that roller coaster of adrenaline and endorphines and serotonin long enough to THINK.
Is what you’re about to do a good idea?
Being a tool for the modern media machine spitting out fear and starting fights? Nope, not a good idea. Not even if it means a free trip to New York and 5 minutes with my hero.