Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Saying NO!

We all learn how to say NO! at a very early age. Seems to me the rumour is that the terrible twos are all about NO! even when the answer really is yes.

We learn to say NO! when someone tries to touch us in a way we don't like.

We learn to say NO! when a stranger offers us candy.

We learn to say NO! to drugs.

But somewhere along the line, someone forgot to teach most of us to say NO! to things that we don't have the time, inclination, or skills to do. I'm not talking about daily tasks at work or home that aren't enjoyable like the filing or cleaning the bathroom or making the bed or buying the groceries. I'm talking about extra things like volunteer work, babysitting the neighbours' pets, house, and garden when the go on vacation, cancelling all your plans the moment your friend has a huge crisis in her life, something that happens on a bi-weekly basis.

That's not to say that I don't think it's a wonderful thing to volunteer your time and skills, help out neighbours, or be supportive of a friend, but there comes a time when you have to say enough is enough.

I discovered about a year ago that I was three years late in realizing that time had already come and gone. I was in deep. I floundered for a few months because I wasn't sure how to approach the problem and then it hit me. I just had to say NO!

But first I had to figure out what I wanted to still say yes to and what I really need to say NO! to...that meant making a list (and we all know I like lists!).

I figured out that I needed time to look after myself - that included eating properly, which meant shopping properly, sleeping well and long enough, exercising, spending time with family and friends (I've heard laughter is very good for you) and making sure I had time for myself to do things like think, read, write, knit, take insanely large amount of pictures or whatever.

I also wanted to stay involved in Guiding because I liked it - I enjoyed what I was doing, I enjoyed giving my time to an organization that is important to me, and I enjoyed working with the women on the various committees I was on.

Then there was school...I didn't want to stop when I had taken so many of the classes needed to finish my certificate (yeah, it's still not done).

So what to go? First I decided that I could only be out for school or Guiding three times a week at most - one or two was totally ideal. Then I had to make sure to get my 20 minutes a day of is a motivator, so is company, so I joined Stacey's gym. Then there had to be time to sleep, shop for food, cook, eat, do homework, prepare for Guiding stuff, see Alex, visit with my family and friends.

So I made some more rules (rules are kind of like lists).

  • If I wasn't enjoying it, it would go. That didn't mean I'd abandon a project in midstream, it meant if I really didn't enjoy that project I wouldn't do it again.
  • If something was already planned for a particular night - even if it was a cup of tea and a good book, nothing else could take priority...unless it was important, like a friend in crisis or needing to celebrate (thankfully, the friend with the weekly crisis isn't mine, but I have a lot of friends who do have a weekly-crisis-friend of their very own). People are very happy to let you have other plans that you made prior to their request.
  • If my three nights of school and Guiding were used up, too bad. Exceptions were occasionally made for things like camp or big weekend events.
  • If an event took a lot of planning, it counted towards one of those nights.
  • If something was booked, it went on the calendar. Alex and I invested in three coloured pens so that at a glance we know if it's a me event, an Alex event, or a both of us event.
  • Biggest rule of all - SAY NO! if you don't have time. Because sometimes I didn't have time; sometimes work was really busy or a big event with lots of planning was coming up or I hadn't had a good night's sleep in weeks or something else needed my time. And that's okay.
The new system worked pretty well. Last fall I was taking two classes, so I only had one "Guiding" night free, so I had to be careful how I used it, but I got everything done that needed to be done.

The biggest thing was practicing saying NO! It's not easy to say and when you say it people will try to talk you out of it, but I stuck with it. It's easier to say every time I say it and I certainly don't answer NO! to every request and question. Then I'd be pretty boring and no one would ever want to talk to me again.

Then the big fall of 2006 happened and forced me to reevaluate again. Saying NO! wasn't a luxury, it was a priority. I had to be more careful about food not because of its nutritional impact on me, but because of its physical impact. I couldn't life a pot full of water to make pasta. Things that were heavy were off the cooking list. For a while, if I was alone, I couldn't cook things in the oven, only on the stove top, because I couldn't bend that way or lift the pan out of the oven. Exercise became a two to three hour a day commitment.

Saying NO! is hard. I said NO! pretty forcefully and resigned from almost every Guiding position I had. I wasn't necessarily ready to give up all of it, but I knew I couldn't do the job the way it should be done. My evenings are free mostly now and it's a forgotten luxury.

And the best part is, now that I've said NO! I can say yes more often to things like helping out at events or unit meetings or being there for that friend with the weekly crisis.

I guess NO! isn't always negative. Too bad they don't teach you that in school and you have to wait to learn it from life.

1 comment:

  1. Oh I hear you BIG time! I think this is one of those life's lessons that your parents, your teachers and peers aren't allowed to teach you for some reason..... maybe just so you can have the satisfaction of dicovering it yourself ;)