I was a frantic intern to an impossible boss. The demands and requests were downright oppressive as I tried to navigate a way to success. The word he used most often was “should”. He repeated it ad nauseam, reminding me often of where I stood and how far I had yet to go. The “Should-er” was relentless but it motivated me onward, guilt-ridden and people pleasing, afraid of what might happen if I “didn’t”. My boss’s voice was also loud and obtrusive, I couldn’t hear reason over it or the voices of those most precious to me when they softly whispered, “say no…we need you more…”.
“You should do it or they won’t like you,” he would declare.
“I love it when people like me,” I would respond. And I’d answer yes one more time.
“You should volunteer! Who will do it if you don’t?”
“You’re right, there’s noone else, so please send me,” I dutifully replied.
“You should blow this task out of the water. Be amazing! You don’t want them to think you’re incompetent,” he barked.
“Oh, I’m very competent. I’ll prove it! I can be counted on!” I promised, hand held high.
“While you’re at it, you should be silent about what you need. Eventually you’ll forget about that anyway. But you’ll be fine. Carry on.”
“As you wish…”
The first time I said no to my boss felt like certain destruction. Things were bound to fall apart if I told him I couldn’t, I just knew it. But a forgotten small voice was calling me somewhere else, toward open space and choices and at the end of me, I declined his request for once and I flinched as the sure punishment came my way. I opened my squinted eyes as I moved toward the quiet, ignoring his calls and to my surprise, a growing distance made him smaller and smaller. And the further away from him I got, the less I wanted to work for him. He was a slave driving menace that could not be pleased and would never approve. I could never do enough for the “Should-er” and the crazy thing is…I created him. My boss was only in my mind, a rogue part of my conscience, still trying to prove something to the collective “they” and I was his dutiful intern for a very long time. Always the pleaser, not willing to let him, or anyone down for fear of being disappointing.
This fall I have taken some time to build what my good friend calls margin into my life. Margin being the buffer before the edge of things. The extra space that catches me when life spills over the lines. The breathing room that comes from saying no to the imaginary boss. I’ve cut out some of the unnecessary so I have more than just a few crumbs of patience for my family during the witching hours and bed time. So I have some leeway to be still and dream again through changing Autumn and the Advent of something much better that is upon us now. I thought I’d be writing away about all of this and all that I’ve learned in this sacred hush and newfound haven.
But I think I’ve just been enjoying the silence.