Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Treading lightly lest toes are nearby

Sometimes there are things I want to write about but don't write about because there are other people involved and some of those people may read my blog. There are also things I don't write about as a rule, because there are other people involved and some of those people may not want certain information about them all over the internet for all ten of my readers to read.

For instance, I don't blog about work. Because that's a good way to get fired.

I also don't blog much about my marriage. Sure, I'll mention my husband in posts and even wax poetic about how wonderful he is, but if we have a problem, it's not going to be addressed here.

My kids get less privacy, but only because they don't need as much. Also, their antics are cute. But if there's something they don't want other people reading about, I respect their wishes.

So what's left? I blog a lot about church and my involvement in music. Most of the time, those are the two parts of my life that are rewarding and pleasant. I get a lot of positive attention in both places. I feel valued and valuable. Those two worlds play extremely important roles in determining my quality of life.

And right now one of those places is not very healthy and it's breaking my heart. The heartache is bleeding over into other areas, because, although I'm generally good at compartmentalizing aspects of my life, I can't always turn off a bad mood like a light switch. I spent Friday evening and most of Saturday in quite a funk because other people's actions and words had me first irritated, then frustrated, then incensed. Other people share my concerns, but that doesn't really make me feel better. It might make me feel worse. Honestly, the whole situation makes me scared. Afraid that something so precious and rewarding might disappear.

Which begs a question (or two or three).

At what point does one leave a volunteer commitment? I was a fortunate child in that my mother stayed home until I was a teenager. But by "stayed home" I don't mean stayed home. I mean she did not pursue paid employment. She was an active volunteer in our church and at the Arkansas Arts Center. And she said that the best thing about volunteer work was that if she was dissatisfied with the situation, she could leave.

I can't say I'm dissatisfied. I'm still getting a lot of what I need from this commitment. But I'm seeing a dramatic decrease in involved people, and a steep increase in sniping and unpleasantness. (None of this, by the way, is even remotely directed at me.) And what was once joyful is now, well, not, and a few people (whom I like and respect) have behaved badly.

So what's the next move? People share my concern that the organization is in danger. Danger of imploding. Danger of fizzling. Danger of dissolving.

And if it goes away, what will I do? It's become a part of my identity, of who I am and what I do. When that is stripped away, what happens?

Melodramatic much? Existential crisis brought on by non-profit woes?

Well, maybe. In our culture, for better or worse, we are defined by what we do. I have two jobs, two kids, a husband, two dogs, and two non-profit groups in which I'm an active volunteer. Those roles make up much of the fabric of my life. Removing any one of them would leave a void. Sure, I can patch it with another fabric, but it won't be the same. And (until last week) I've been quite comfortable with the fabric as it was.

I expect that something will happen, that the concerns will be addressed, in the next few weeks. I just need to remember that I wasn't part of the problem before, and I don't need to start being part of it now.

edited to add: I have mentioned some of my concerns to leadership, and I expect they will be addressed. Also, things were much better yesterday evening. I'm taking it one day at a time and every time I check my inbox and see nothing, I'm delighted.


alan said...

Another great thing about a volunteer commitment is that getting fired is a rarity. If this is something you care about, then you should say something. It's not your job to fix it, but if you care, you should care enough to offer constructive criticism at the very least. Does that make sense?

Will said...

Alan's right. Since you care about it, stand up for it. Put your thoughts on the table. What's the worst that could happen? You can do it.

Good luck--

a stay at home Dad