There's a part of me that still feels like I was whining (I wasn't) or that thinks "Oh, I shouldn't have made a fuss about it" (I should have) but I am slowly dampening those thoughts and realizing that what I said really did need to be said.
This was hard to do for several reason. I'm the kind of person who commits and when I'm committed, I'm committed. When I start a project, I start it knowing that I'm going to do it well and I want to finish it. I want to see it through. So when a large project probably isn't going to end for a while, I tend to work over, above, and beyond what is require just to make sure that the job gets done and that it's quality work. Most of the time, that's OK. But sometimes, it's not.
I finally got time with the person I needed to talk to, albeit using somewhat-hushed tones in the hallway, attempting to not be overheard in a rather public place, and was able to politely but firmly get my point across. Through the listening ears and gentle patience of my husband and another great friend, I was able to find the courage I needed and learned a few things in the process.
Here's a summary of the things I've figured out so far:
Just because you're faced with imminent unemployment does not mean you have to say "yes" to everything that comes your way. It's OK to say "no, thank you" when it isn't something you want to do or is something that doesn't feel right. It's also OK to gently remind people when a project that they are trying to give you isn't your project to do. When it's not part of your job, it's just not a part of your job. If you want to help out, fine. But no one should make you feel bad if you decide you don't have the time or inclination to help.
I also learned (thanks, Chris!) that it's OK to withhold your gifts/talents/abilities/skills when you feel that people are taking advantage of them. Sometimes people do this without realizing it and it isn't until they are faced with the possibility of moving forward without you that they realize the value you hold - and then are willing to actually treat your skills with the respect and value they deserve. When you provide a service and not a tangible product, it's really up to you to maintain the value of that service. You can't necessarily slap a monetary price on it - but you can limit what you are willing to tolerate and/or put conditions on that service.
I also learned that if you don't speak your piece, that piece can haunt you. I could have easily turned down the project and simply said I was no longer available. But that would have left me frustrated with things left unsaid, my boss annoyed and confused, and potentially frustrated other people in the process. If you can speak your mind in a respectful fashion, remaining honest and true to yourself, you shouldn't feel bad about what you're saying.
There's a balance in there somewhere, between those feelings of obligation and valuing yourself and your work. Self-respect without arrogance. And I'm working on finding it.