Friday, June 26, 2009

Why Not?

So Phil only wants to coach home games. The screaming heads are screaming, predictably. "Who does he think he is?" (Uh, PHIL JACKSON ???) "No one has ever done that." "It can't be done." "What about continuity?" Phil, being Phil, didn't rise to the bait. It's being considered, talked about, looked at. Yawn.

I mean, really. What's the worst that could happen? He wants it, the Lakers refuse, and he retires with 10 championship rings and his angioplasties, hip replacements and gout. He'd be happy to do it, but walking away wouldn't be the worst thing in the world.

I feel his pain.

After 3 phone calls, 5 email threads, and an in-person plea, I agreed to create the monthly newsletter for The Happy Ladies Club (actual name disguised to protect the guilty). Though open to everyone, the membership roster skews towards an older, technologically challenged demographic. One-third of the newsletters are printed and snail-mailed to members who don't do email. Finding someone with the requisite computer skills to guide the newsletter from submissions to publication was no mean feat in this age cohort. Reluctantly, I said I would take it on, and "Please, send me the job description."

I should've asked to see it before I said "Yes". It seems that newsletter editor is the one and only job of the VP of Communications. And VP's attend Board Meetings. Monthly board meetings. Lengthy monthly board meetings with no time limits on agenda items. It's my worst nightmare come true.

G'ma always laughed at my inability to sit through a meeting. From elementary school and Brownies, Girl Scouts and Leader Corps to adulthood and NCL, patient conferences, soccer leagues and PTA's the vanity exercises that called themselves meetings drove me crazy. 45 minutes on how to put the volley-ball nets into the gym closet (Leader Corps). Taking attendance when there were 5 of us and everyone could see who was there and who was not (Girl Scouts). Reading aloud every gain in Range of Motion and Strength - all of which was already charted and known to the other therapists (hospitals). I attended every local School Board Meeting while we lived in Marin, but I had to bring my knitting with me to stay sane. I could go on, but my pulse is racing.

Just get to the point. Say something original. Solve a problem or raise a problem but don't talk for the sake of hearing your own voice. I have other things to do with my life. And I have a hard time covering my impatience. I'll ask the question no one else wants to ask, just to move things along. I'll solve the problem and offer my suggestion just to be finished. I know there's a process involved. I'm just not very good with the patience piece required to be a good board member.

So, after reading the job description and noting that Board Meetings were mandatory, I called my Happy Ladies Club recruiter and said that I'd still do the newsletter but that I wouldn't be attending Board Meetings. Said that I'd promised myself when we moved to Arizona that I would never attend another Board Meeting again. I'd do the grunt work, eg create the newsletter, but I wouldn't go to a meeting and talk about it. Everything I needed to do the job was sent on-line and manipulated on-line, and personal contact wasn't necessary. Told her that if this was a problem, I totally understood and I'd withdraw my name from consideration as newsletter editor with no hard feelings. I was happy to be the lackey of a"real" board-meeting-attending VP of Communications, if they knew someone who wanted a Board position. But, I insisted, there was no way that I was going to be a regular attendee at Board Meetings.

No, it wasn't that I physically couldn't attend. No, I didn't have full-time employment or a disabled family member requiring 24/7 care. My reason was simple - I don't like board meetings. I'm not good at them. And I really don't like them.

Her silence was deafening (is that like jumbo shrimp?). I responded in kind. She finally said she'd work on it and hung up. The back and forth that went on between Nominating Committee members, Board Members and friends of them both went on for nearly a month. I received emails and phone calls from people I didn't know who tried to convince me that I had to/needed to/was expected to/wanted to attend these meetings. I listened politely, repeated that I thought the job could be done quite well my way, that I knew it was unusual but it was the only way I would do the newsletter, and that I wouldn't be insulted if they found someone else to do the job. Really. No worries.

But if you want me, these are my terms. Like Phil, what's the worst that could happen? I don't have the responsibility of putting out 12 monthly newsletters. I would survive, I'm sure.

Unable to find another member willing to edit the newsletter (or unwilling to begin the search again... I don't really know why....) the powers-that-be agreed to my terms and, so far, my lack of attendance hasn't hampered my ability to publish.

What's been interesting has been the responses of the members who are aware of the situation (a far greater number than I would have guessed, but that's women's organizations for you). They fall squarely into two camps. Half are absolutely furious with my wanton disregard for the policies and procedures of the organization and think I'm a spoiled brat who has to have everything her own way and "who does she think she is?????" The other half want to know where I found the inner strength to say no and to stick to my guns under pressure.

I'm sure this says something profound about women and rigidity and acquiescence and pleasing behaviors and the greater good. I just go back to the advice I was given on my 50th birthday on Mt. Tamalpais - No one can make you do something you don't want to do - you're old enough to say "No".

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