Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Saying NO

This is a re-post from last year because a) I need the reminder and b) um newborn...tired brain, and I'm super behind on life stuff right now. 

Far too many women in America are becoming sick with exhaustion and stress as they try to do things that can't- or shouldn't- be done.
- Judith Warner

I've said it many times before, I am an over committed volunteer. I have very little ability to say no. I consider it my most major fault. It leaves me stressed and tired as i try to live up to my high expectations and the those that I perceive of all the things I have committed too.

When we moved I vowed to myself to get involved with my sons school as well as only surrounding myself with positive influences and experiences. Life is to short to waste time on emotional vampires or to things and people that do not make you happy. Yet a mere 10 mo later I found my self overwhelmed with back to school, back to playgroups, and moms clubs, and committees, events, articles to write. It was too much.

While I was dragging my feet to yet another evening meeting my husband asked, why are you going if you don't want to?

The only answer was I had to, I said I would.

He understood. He's German, he can't even take a sick day, while genuinely sick, without feeling guilty and working the whole day anyway at home. We follow through on things we say we are going to do despite our personal desire to curl up on a couch and sleep. However I decided I really needed to make this change. I needed to do what I vowed to do and not continue adding brussel sprouts to my plate leaving no room from what I really desired, chocolate cake.

So I sat through the meeting and I contributed and I took notes, but I didn't volunteer, not once. I never spoke up and I NEVER made eye contact with anyone looking for volunteers. I knew if I made eye contact I would fold and be stuck with yet another task I didn't have the time or desire to do. I thought I was in the clear, we were on the last item, I was fidgeting, I wanted to go home I zoned out a bit. Then it came:

Well Melissa could you head this up? You've done it before, you have the experience.

Crap! The direct request. I looked up, bit my lip, tried desperately tried not to look terrified, shocked, appalled, pissed. A neutral face is not easy to achieve. Then I opened my mouth and prayed that my mouth and mind would work together and I very quickly (I am surprise anyone understood it as English) said.

No,Ireallycan'ttakeonanythingmorerightnow. I'm sorry.

My heart fluttered and raced. I swore the whole table sat stunned for what seemed like and eternity and than it was over. Someone else jumped up to volunteer and the meeting ended and we all went our separate ways. I felt powerful, relived and free. I wanted to celebrate.

The next morning I was starting to worry there would be repercussions. I opened my e-mail to see one from the person who had done the asking. Crap, here it comes, the hard sell are you sure you can't do it. Sweaty palms, heart racing, i wasn't sure I could say no again. I closed my eyes, clicked open. It wasn't a request for me to do something. It was a little note that said:

"I really respect you for saying no to the whole helping with the ..... I know that you often take on so much and just wanted to give you some positive feedback for setting your limits!"

Wow! To say it made my day was an understatement. I could say no and people would still like me, respect me even, it was amazing, empowering! It encouraged me to keep up with setting limits. In fact just this morning I said no again to writing a piece for a newsletter that would be due 4 days from the day I was asked to write it. I don't write well under pressure. Sure I sat on Sunday and wrote a weeks worth of posts, but that's different, I wanted to do that I didn't have to do that.

It feels good to have time to do what I want to do, to not feel like I always have to do something for other people. I am going to keep limiting the things that drain me and try to do more things that lift me up, especially this holiday season. The holidays have always been stressful and hard for me and I am trying to make that better by not trying so hard to please everyone and do everything. I have learned that it's okay, and people will still Ike and respect you. It was one of those hard lessons, but the reward is so worth it!


Galit Breen said...

I, too, have no freakin idea how to say no. Therefore? I love this. Excellent newborn-repost choice!

swonderful said...

yes, yes! when they pass around the volunteer sheet at clark's school, i don't even glance at it before sending it on. i just can't right now. that's all there is to it. xo

Hyacynth said...

Amen, sister. Great thoughts. Holding onto them. And standing my ground.

Gretchen said...

Yay! That is awesome. I could totally take some lessons from this. I need to say "NO" more often but all I find myself doing is finding ways to make it all work. And it still doesn't! DAMNIT!!!

Nicoolmama said...

I did this in a much smaller way, while signing up for preschool jobs at my son's school.

and opted for the easiest, simplest job. and felt so.good.after!!!

it's amazing how i want to play supermom, superwoman, yet forget about my own needs in that mix.