The Power of No

Random crop circles in our yard...just for fun

Random crop circles in our yard…just for fun

Some people are born speaking the word “no.” It rolls off their toddler tongues before you can finish your sentence. These are the children who know what they want and plan to get it without negotiations. I was not that child. While I in no way possess a people-pleasing personality, I was raised to be accommodating when at all possible. When I go out of my way for others it’s not because I am deeply thoughtful but because I’ve been taught it’s the right thing to do. As a result of upbringing, I often add just one more item to my already long to-do list because someone asks nicely. Consequently, my life is a non-stop blur of frenetic activity. Whirling dervish? Guilty as charged.

Last night I sat down and took a sobering look at our family calendar for the next 9 days. On March 20th at an unreasonably early hour we will be boarding a plane…destination Kauai. Between now and that moment when we’re checked in at the gate awaiting our boarding call, I have about a gazillion things to do. Yes. It is a first world problem, but it’s my first world problem and so it matters to me just the same. As I went over the calendar and my to-do list on my iPhone last night, hubby caught me shaking my head.

“What’s wrong?” he inquired.

“So much to do between now and the 20th.”

“It will all be fine,” he reassured.

“Oh…I know it will.” I don’t doubt my ability to accomplish things, just my excitement about doing them.

“Aren’t you excited about the trip?” he asked.

“Not really, no. I will be excited when we’re sitting at the gate and not a minute before. I’m still trying to figure out how I’m going to fit in a well check for Joe and a trip to the vet for Ruby. The next week is packed.”

“You always stress and it always gets done,” he said.

“It always gets done because I always stress and push myself through every last detail,” I retorted.

Today, staring down the barrel of an ungodly busy weekend, I started packing for the boys and I. I dug through last summer’s clothes, which have been stored for their long, Colorado winter’s nap, and put together Hawaii-friendly outfits. I located sunscreen, snorkeling gear, and rash guards. I dragged suitcases up from the basement and began assessing what might fit where. Then, in the midst of this busy-ness, I got an email that added another layer to my stress. It was a request for yet another social visit in our already overbooked weekend. Between hair cuts for all of us, two birthday parties, a social event at the boys’ school, brunch at my mom’s, dinner with our Wine Gang (which we are hosting), and a couple book reports the boys need to have completed before we leave (not to mention packing and preparing our house for the puppy caretaker), I cringed at the idea of attempting to fit in even one more quick thing.

Being unaccustomed to disappointing people, though, I scoured our plans looking for wiggle room for the requested, short get together either Saturday or Sunday afternoon. I weighed the costs of not honoring this request against the stress it would add to an already overbooked weekend. Then, I did something I rarely do. I went against my usual habit. I said no even though it’s very likely that the persons whom I turned down will be hurt by my refusal. But even those of us who strive to be amicable and accommodating have a breaking point.

If there’s one good thing that is coming right along with the sags, bags, spots, and wrinkles of middle age, it’s gumption. I’m no longer under the impression that I have to do things to please people. I understand that there are some people who will never be pleased, no matter what kind of back bend I contort myself into for their benefit.  I’m learning that sometimes it’s not just okay to say no. It’s downright necessary. While I do feel a bit bad for shutting out this latest request, I know it was the right thing to do. This weekend will still be crazy busy, but at least it might prove I’m not insane.

7 comments

  1. I totally understand and your post could not have come at a better time. I am practicing prioritizing and it’s encouraging to read someone else’s experience with saying “no” as well! Enjoy your vacation!

  2. “No” is necessary to save your sanity. One person’s convenience only brings turmoil to your life. Glad you stood your ground 🙂

  3. It may have served a different purpose back in the ’80s (or was it ’90s), but it’s still very much advisable: JUST SAY NO. If people can’t understand why you’re saying no, it’s really their problem already. In the first place, they are asking for a favor, in a way. You don’t ask for favors and grumble if thinks don’t go your way…Hope you have a wonderful, RELAXING vacation! 🙂

  4. Good for you! It gets easier every time you do it – and those few who walk away because you’re no longer willing to be their 24/7 Social Security aren’t missed, either…. 🙂

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