Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Blog this!

My life has escalated from full, past busy, zipping right up to frantic. Everything happens at once, it seems, and that pesky little limitation of 24 hours in a day is a real pain. Not only is it not possible to do everything, I've decided I simply don't want to.

I want to write when I feel the need, not because I'm fast running out of time or ideas or both. I want to eat only when hungry, not because the big hand and the little hand are both on the twelve. I want to exercise because I love it, not because I'm flabby and out of shape. And I want to say no to things I don't want to do (or can't do) without being judged.

I learned how to say no about fifteen years ago. However, the people I say no to have not necessarily learned how to accept it. I recall being asked for the umpteenth time to join the church choir and commit my Thursday evenings and Sunday mornings to rehearsals and services. I was taking night classes, working days full-time and being a parent of a school-age child, with all the accompanying activities. I told the choir director that I declined her invitation because I had decided to go back to school at night. When she began pushing, suggesting that I could find a way to fit another four hours or so of activities per week in my schedule, I'm afraid I snapped. I turned to her and said sharply, "Thanks so much for supporting my decision!"

She didn't deserve my tone or my sneering words, especially in front of others (although, honestly, she didn't have to keep pushing me in front of others, either). But don't try to guilt me or make light of something I've spent a lot of time thinking about!

Self-help books and classes tell us to put ourselves and our families first; women are told to take time for themselves in order to reenergize for their families. We're told that we're no good at saying no and that we should practice saying no, for our own good. But does anyone teach the rest of the world to accept our no?

When I say no, I can do it in several different ways. I can say it bluntly, without even thinking about it. I can agonize over it, then spend time trying to get the other person to understand why. Or I can say no, with or without explanation, then walk away with my head held high and move on with my life.

The second hardest thing, it seems, is to say "No, I'm not able to (or I'm not going to) do that." I feel I should explain my reasons: the scheduling conflicts, my own needs, etc. The hardest thing is to avoid saying "I'm sorry" when I say no. I've learned, instead, to say "thanks." "Thanks for asking me, but I really have no interest in professional wrestling tickets." "Thank you for thinking of me, but I'm not able to bake 18 dozen cookies tonight for the football team." "No, I've already committed my limited resources to another charity, but I appreciate you asking and I wish you success."

My husband will read this and tell me I really don't know how to say no. Here's what he doesn't understand: he looks at the things I agree to do and thinks these are the things I should say no to, but I said yes to those things because they are the ones I really want to do. I've already said no to everything else.

Maybe I could say no to more things, but my goal is not to sit around each night surfing for reruns of CSI. My goal is to fill my life with the things I love and enjoy doing. I guess I'm pretty successful after all. How other people take my saying no is really their problem, not mine.