Thursday, May 23, 2013

Saying No is Really a Way of Saying Yes

I've learned the art of saying no from a good friend.    It's not easy to learn, as women tend to be quite prideful in saying how busy they are; we post it on Facebook, we gripe to fellow moms in the stands at our kids' baseball games; we complain to our husbands.  Being busy has become glorified, in a twisted sort of way. 

As my father taught me long ago, being busy doesn't equal productivity.

How's your busyness resume?   How often are you home vs. running around like a "chicken with their head cut off"?    How much free time do your children have?   How's your weight?  Your mental health?  Your nutrition?   Is your home fairly tidy/clean, or is it in perpetual state of disaster?     How do you feel when you get into bed each night and get up each morning?  How's your children's moods?  How's your marriage?  Your friendships?   Are you taking time to communicate with God?  

Are you happy?  Is it well with your soul?

I've been thinking a lot about these things lately.   My children are 4.5, 2.5, and 4 months.   My oldest is a year away from preparing to be in kindergarten.  This might mean homework.   And a desire to be in an after school activity.    And more birthday parties.     And then, just a few years behind her is child #2 and then child #3.   

I have to make sure I'm taking deep breaths just typing this...because I fear becoming a parent whose week is consumed/dominated by children's activities.    Will I get sucked in?  And if yes, will I make it out?

I was reading a magazine article the other day that profiled a few women who had made significant changes in their lives.  One women said that her big change was saying no---a lot, loudly, and without regret.    Her goal was to be mentally present with her family.  Saying yes to every opportunity (grand or rather undesirable) meant her mind would be elsewhere.

Personally, I struggle greatly with being somewhere else.    It's partially my creative mind.  I'm always thinking of another book idea, another article to write, something I forgot, something I need to still accomplish that day, the laundry that needs to be moved from the washer to the drier, the friend I haven't talked to in ages.    And then, of course, there's the new business.   And deeper questions like what I need to be doing to improve my marriage, how I'm going to find a reliable sitter for my children, if I should go back to teaching in the fall or not, how to get my blood sugars under even tighter control...

So, now I'm thinking about what areas of my life need more focus, and what needs to be let go and/or being told "no."

Some helpful books to get you started, ones I'm the midst of, include The Mission of Motherhood, Desperate, and Out of the Spin Cycle.

So onto that obligation stuff.   Everyone seems to want a piece of you.    And it starts, hands down, with your children.  They are NEEEEEDDDDYYYYY.    Any mom can testify that by about six at night, you are touched out.    Because whether you work or stay at home with your kids, you've been touched by them A LOT in the minutes you've been with them.    Then your church wants you to join another Bible study or serve on a ministry team.  And you need to sit down with your husband and pay bills.  And your boss has just demanded that you pick up the pace and get your projects you can take on more projects.   And your child's teacher needs you do a few projects.    Can you join the PTA?, begs one of your friends who is desperate for some help.    Fund raise for that club your kid is in!   The list is a mile-long.

Is it fair to say no?   Is it ok to say no?   How will you feel if you say no?   What will you do with time you are given when you say no? 

(Think about it....are you saying yes out of fear of what others will think, of what you will think about yourself, out of fear of what you will do if you have a few spare minutes every day?   What's holding you back from saying no?)

Right now, I'm the minority:  somewhat by default and somewhat by choice.   For one, I've been getting pretty good at saying no, even when the opportunity is something I'd really like to seize.   For another, my kids are not quite at the age where things are getting crazy.

So, how do you know when it's ok to say no?
  • Is the opportunity worth the trade-off?  What will you have to give up in order to give your time, money, and effort toward the opportunity?   (Be honest with yourself and realistic).
  • Is the opportunity something that appeals to you?  (It is NOT selfish to give your few yeses to what you truly have a heart for.  God gave each person gifts and talents and inclinations to be used for His glory.  If you are taking time to do that which isn't appealing to your gifts, you are giving up on what God might be having you do instead)
  • What are your priorities?   Make a list.  Yep.  Do it.  On a piece of paper.    Does the opportunity fall in line with your list?
  • What will this opportunity teach my children and spouse?   Yes, they may not be present at whatever it is you say yes to, but they will learn that X leaves mom tired/hungry/moody/deprived or it leaves mom energized/thankful/blessed/nourished.  
  • Is the opportunity something you are using to look good to others?  Are you thinking of saying yes in order to not hurt someone else's feelings or to avoid the confrontation of saying no?  Are you saying yes in order to pridefully proclaim that you are sooooo busy with yet another activity?
How to say no:
  • First, it's ok to tell the asker that you'll need a few days/weeks to think about the opportunity.   Let the person know you'll get back to him/her by X date.
  • Second, revisit the above questions. 
  • Third, when you decide to say no, do not feel that you must justify/explain.   It's fine to simply say with confidence and kindness, "Thanks for thinking of me.   I'm saying no this time."     If you ramble on about your reasoning, it gives the person the opportunity to express dismay/anger/hurt feelings and question your motives or ask you to justify/validate.     There is no need for this and only creates the drama you wished to avoid.  If you think you might consider a similar opportunity in the future, it's fine to say, "Keep in mind the next time you need someone."
We don't need to fill every moment of our lives with something.    The best things happen spontaneously, without calendars or cell phones or adults barking out directions or instructions.

Carpe Diem.   It happens intentionally.

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