There was a time in my life when I was really bad at saying no. I was in college, was single (for the most part), and seemed an easy target if something needed to be done. As I got accepted into my school program and began seriously dating Joe, I got pretty bogged down with school, work, social life, and church. My preferred method was avoidance, and I closely monitored my phone calls so that I could conveniently not answer when people were seeking me to do things. My brother finally said, “Listen. You just need to say NO.”
And I listened. I declined just about everything anyone asked me to do. No, I will not teach Sunday school. No, I do not want to log extra hours in the lab at school. No, I do not want to take more time at work. No, I can’t babysit your three children for two dollars an hour. Instead of worrying about feelings and awkward conversations, I worried about myself and my priorities.
Guess what happened? I was suddenly free to focus on things that were important to me: hanging out with my family, planning my wedding, doing well in my classes. This “No” word was so freeing.
At some point (and I can’t for the life of me remember when it happened), I slipped back into being overly agreeable. Being already obligated to my own two children, 90 English students, and sponsoring two extracurricular activities, I took on a variety of other tasks that left me constantly on the go. My family and I no longer had even a single night a week to spend together. In the hustle and bustle of meeting all the demands we’d (I’d?) agreed to, we lost the ability to rest and enjoy each other.
Well, it’s now summer, and some of those demands have been relaxed, allowing me to rest and reflect. With my first full week of summer under my belt, I feel like I’ve had plenty of time to think about priorities, and I’ve decided it’s time to re-learn the skill of saying no.
I will say no. I will say no to things I don’t want to do, even if I’m worried it will offend someone. I will say no to things that will take time away from being a good wife and mother. I will say no to things that will be boring. I will say no to things that I cannot be my best at. I will say no to things that aren’t my style or scene. I will say no, no, no. Because, in saying no, I am saying yes to a few things that really matter to me: my sweet kiddos (who are growing up before my eyes), my relationship with my husband, my funny family, my constantly changing and demanding career, and my favorite hobbies – especially reading good books and posting my thoughts on here for my 5 or 6 loyal readers.
Saying no is a skill, and it’s one that I’m prepared to begin using again.