No I Can't. (And No, I'm Not Busy Then)
One of my favorite things about having a new baby is the built in perfectly good reason to say "NO" to absolutely any request coming my way. Alas, I no longer have a new baby at home. When I speak to mom's groups I remind them of this gift. (It makes me want to rent a baby sometimes.) In life I f you are any kind of a nice person, many requests will come your way...can you say 'no' when you need to?
Many people want to please others and struggle to say 'No' when asked to do something they simply do not want to do. They are worried they will hurt someone's feelings or miss out on something. They worry people will see them negatively if they aren't helpful, perfectly compliant and agreeable at all times. These gentle, sweet people then get asked to do everything, every time. Nice people struggle to do all the things and have little time left for themselves. This is rarely a problem for me and I will tell you why: I don't know how much time I have left. I am not exactly dying, but each of us has a limited time allowed on Earth. Comedian Mark Maron did this bit where he humorously reminds himself "I don't know how much time I have" when confronted with daily choices. It reminds him to spend whatever time he has wisely. Do you know how much time you have left?
If we think about it for even one moment, we may just gasp with the speed of our lives. Anything can happen and we cannot assume our days are endless. I choose to spend my time on the things that matter to me. On occasion, I do need to take my turn volunteering with a ginormous Girl Scout troop of 19 screaming 4th graders. Sometimes I'll be a good church lady cleaning up after all the fun is over even though I am not quite old enough. While I will help here and there, I try to limit agreeing to things that make me grouchy and unpleasant to be around.
Here is a list of things I choose NOT to do:
1. I don't work on my days off. I work at a church and I love my job, but I am fairly careful to work only the part time hours I am paid for. I am challenged to do the work I'd like to do in the timeframe I have, but working part time suits our family. While I do check email on days off, I may save replies for my next work day. Guarding my time away from work does require some planning. Sometimes I make someone unhappy, but I continue to navigate it all.
2. I don't volunteer for things I really do not want to do. I used to volunteer with Girl Scouts but honestly those 19 screaming girls, precious as they may be, is not a good healthy place for me. I do choose to volunteer at our church by leading the weekly Valpo Modern Moms group and a few other things from time to time. I like to encourage women, and most of my volunteering involves women. I think everyone lives their best life only when volunteering somewhere regularly.
3. I don't say yes unless it is a "Hell Yes!". This keeps me from hemming and hawing. For example, I rarely have or attend home parties to sell things. (Lula Roe Clothes & Color Street Nails are two exceptions!!!) I buy from any little kid, every time.(Unless they cannot tell me what they are selling or why. I remain a sales trainer at heart. I see you, first graders! Smile! Eye Contact! Believe in yourself and your thang you want me to buy!)
4. I do not allow myself to make long excuses or reasons. I simply say "No thanks!" or "Oh, I cannot make that." The more you practice this, the easier it gets.
5. I do not pack my (or my families') schedule full of all the good things. Some people can do all the things, but I do not want to. I feel strained and stressed trying to get to all my places already, so I purposely leave space in my calendar. I take naps. I read books. I while away an afternoon with a friend or two, often on impulse at the last minute (because I do not already have my day filled up). These events add more life to my days and I treasure them. My husband and I guard our kid's time too. They are only in a few events or activities at any given moment, and we talk with them about how they want to spend their time. Sometimes we turn something down just because we have not had a day to just sit around the house together.
6. I limit screen time. If I sit in a chair with my phone and a book, I will never read the book, even though I find more value in the book. I have lots of wonderful people in my life and sometimes I still want to be alone. I use most Fridays as a Screen Free Sabbath where my computer and cellphone are actually turned off most of the day. (We do have a landline). After I pick my kids up from school, my phone automatically goes to Do not Disturb from 3:30 to 8pm. I can look to see if there is a message, but I won't be interrupted from family time. We do homework, read, cuddle, make dinner....it is great.
Could you say 'no' more often? Would saying 'no' make your life better? Talk with your loved ones and really think about what adds pleasure to your life and what maybe could go away. We always think we'll do this or that someday...let's live our best life TODAY. Choosing how I spend my time helps me enjoy it all more and slow my days down. I need to have slower days because I don't know how much time I have left. Do you?