Saturday, January 28, 2006

High Demand

After receiving a fourth request to be a visiting lecturer in a class, I decided I needed to take stock of all of my pending requests, and was astonished. I'm in rather high demand! (relative, of course, to my own perceptions, shaped as they are by my almost hermit-like inclinations).

Not only are there four separate requests to visit and speak in others' classes, there was a note from one of my advisees, a phone message from his mother, several other requests to participate in several projects; a member of my department continues to leave things in my mailbox on campus to sign (I keep slipping them instead into the box of the interim Chair); a request to serve as external reviewer for another philosophy department -- and a summons to jury duty!

This morning, a bit stressed by another deadline I face (well, I missed it yesterday because I had too many meetings -- having grouped a bunch of them together to minimize my need to appear on campus more than necessary), I finally had a spell of panic. It looked like this:

"My sabbatical is flying by and I've hardly gotten anything done because of all these other demands on my time!!!"

Deep breath.

At first I almost wanted to chastise myself. After all, during the semester I tend to take on requests such as these and handle them along with teaching a full load of courses, etc. etc. etc. So, I should be able to handle all of this now, and still have plenty of time for my research!

But that (of course) didn't allay the panic.

I took another deep breath. Then I asked myself: why not just say no to everything I've not already said "yes" to? (Except the jury duty -- sigh! That one's not negotiable: "all excuses aside...," the summons says.) Why not just give myself the contemplative space I so desperately need, unapologetically? Why not simply write back to everyone and say, "Sorry, I'm on sabbatical"?

Then I started to feel better.

I can wrap up the things I have already committed to (speaking at a conference; writing some letters of recommendation; helping write a grant proposal; helping co-write an article), and not take on anything else unless my heart leaps for joy at the thought and I have the sense that it will inspire me and lift my soul.

This is what I need!

Am I allowed to do this?

How does one discern when requests from others are calls from God -- or when it is okay to decline those requests?


  1. You are asking important questions about discernment and what is in "right order"...

    I also hear the intersection between the pulls of the secular world ("Can you give a guest lecture?") and the pull of the original commitment you made in taking sabbatical ("I am taking contemplative space for myself").

    That intersection can be, for some, a form of living in Cross--a concept which is explained in an article by Friend Patricia McBee.

    I wish you well on this part of your journey.

    Liz, The Good Raised Up

  2. Liz,

    Thank you so much for these encouraging words, and for the wonderful reference to Patricia McBee's article -- just what I need!