This week I did something I have never done before – I wrote to a conference organizer to, with my deepest apologies, back out of an in-person event at which I was scheduled to speak.
In the “before times” the event, which is a month from now, wouldn’t have given me any second thoughts. I love teaching and the presentations were ones I had given several times before, so prep time was minimal. And while I’m a homebody, more often in the office than traveling to clients, I do enjoy the opportunity speaking provides to visit places I might never otherwise go.
The organizer even gave me an out when the conference, which had been rescheduled several times was finally booked for late August, as she knew my son was heading to college. But of course, I said yes. (Anyone else start hearing the tune of “I’m just a girl who can’t say no“?)
I said yes, because, looking at it from a distance it seemed it would be fine. Maybe a bit crazy but fine.
Until I looked at my calendar and quietly cracked.
I cracked because I realized, with our son away, our daughter working and our family owning a seasonal business, I had not scheduled any time off.
I cracked because I realized that, with our son coming home, our daughter’s job ending, and the season slowing down, there was exactly one week when everyone would be home for both back-to-school preparations and family-time before our son leaves and school starts again.
I cracked because in the middle of that one precious week I was scheduled to leave for two days to speak at said conference.
And, I’ll admit, I cracked because I realized I wasn’t as ready to travel – particularly flying – as I thought I would be. The thought of leaving my slowly expanding bubble, flying, staying in a hotel, socializing in a conference room, this it turns out is where the damage has done for me over the past year and I’m just starting to realize that it’s going to take some time for those wounds to heal.
I honestly don’t know if I will be able to fly this year. And a new, deadly super-contagious variant running around the country isn’t helping.
Sitting there, contemplating the cracks, I knew the right thing to do. The thing I would, and have, told my daughter when she tries to take on too much – something has got to give. And given the choices before me, the thing that had to give was not my family, it was this one event.
So I stopped second-guessing myself and sent my apologies. And it was with great relief that I received a kind and understanding response from the conference organizer who is also a mom with two kids in college. (Pro tip – if an experienced working mom suggests you might not have time and gives you an out – Take it.)
Now here I am. I’m not sure I feel proud – I would be prouder of myself if I had said no initially – but I am feeling grateful. Lighter. A bit sad. And wanting to share this with anyone who cares to hear it, and because I need to remind myself…
It’s okay to say no. It’s okay to change your mind. It’s okay to take time off. To skip the laundry and ride your bike instead. To take small steps outside your bubble and step back when it becomes too much. To sing, cry, sleep or scream. And to give yourself time to heal.
It’s been one hell of a year.