I first wrote this in 2002, and nothing seems to have changed since then.
As a typical American in any state, you are probably so enmeshed, willingly and unwillingly, in such a multitude of activities that you may as well be caught in a spider's web. Just try to make an independent move without setting off eight alarms at once.
Yet a number of unwelcome events can befall you when you have not learned to say No. To illustrate this, a mortuary once ran a public service announcement in the newspaper. It was entitled "Ten Ways to an Early Grave."
As I recall, and my memory is not perfect, these ways include:
1. Accept all invitations to meetings, banquets, committees, and all requests for volunteer or family projects.
2. Scramble up that career ladder so you get there ahead of everyone else, even if it means 10-12 hours of sitting behind a desk every day.
3. Extend that workday by commuting ridiculous distances.
4. Regard fishing, golf, bowling, tennis, as a waste of time and money.
5. Consider gardening and housework to be menial chores that are beneath you (unless you've damaged your back from stress, accidents or other frantic pursuits and simply cannot do them).
6. Fight daily to keep up with the Everhards, who are trying to keep up with the Smiths, who are trying to keep up with the Lincolns.
7. Flaunt the possessions you have, instead of maintaining a low profile.
8. Believe it's poor policy to take all the vacation allowed you.
9. Delegate some other family member to attend your children's school events.
10. Refuse to become involved in anything that helps other people but doesn't directly benefit you financially.
Even if death does not arrive in response to your attitude toward life, other severe, often life-threatening health problems can develop from allowing yourself to take on too much, or to do too many of the wrong things.
It is highly desirable to be a charitable individual who cares about your family, your neighbors, your friends, your community, your religious activities, and about humanity in general. It is so true that no man or woman is an island. As events of the past year have shown, this kind of caring brings out the very best in all of us.
But it is quite another matter to be run ragged every day because you've always allowed yourself to be taken advantage of, and other people know that by now.
© 2002 Shirley Ann Parker Reprinted from The Corner Desk, March 2002
Shirley Ann Parker is a full-time technical writer and author. She was born and raised in England, but has lived in the US since the '60s. She looks at life here through the eyes of an immigrant/citizen, who has lived in Pennsylvania, Michigan, Illinois, Minnesota, Utah, and California. Read more of her writing at http://www.shirleyannparker.com or learn about her other artistic interests at http://www.cafeshops.com/topazcoveplus Her short story collection, Discoveries: A Journey Through Life is available from http://www.buybooksontheweb.com The often humorous stories about the joys and frustrations of family and friendship are suitable for all ages. Some of them introduce magical realism.