Sometimes Mondays
Unraveling, or . . . You Can't Always Get What You Want

About Saying No

"You can be a good person with a kind heart and still say no."

All my life, I have managed to get myself into things I had no business getting myself into. Things that actually made me miserable and anxious and stressed.

Would you serve. . . 
We're looking for a co-chair. . . 
Can you help. . . 
Will you sew. . . 
Can we count on you . . . 
Would you adopt . . .
Can you just look at this . . . 

Every time, I should have said NO.  Nicely.  Firmly.  With a smile.

But I didn't.  

And every time I ended up feeling bad and resentful.  I dreaded the task I'd committed to doing, and couldn't wait for whatever it was to be finished.  A drain on my time and my energy -- and a stumbling block to my doing things I actually wanted to be doing.


In my year of focus, I've decided it's time for me to really think about what I want to be doing.  Which means I need to avoid getting sucked into those things I don't want to be doing.

But this is so much harder than it sounds.  Because it's usually nice people - people we like and generally want to support - asking us to do the things we really don't want to do.  So there is a sense of obligation there.  And that not-wanting-to-disappoint thing.  And it's awkward to say no.  It's just easier to say yes, y'know?  (Just this once, you tell yourself.)  

This year, one of my goals is to learn to say no -- without feeling bad about it.

I need to be in the driver's seat of my own life.  I need to focus on the things I'm really interested and excited about.  I really need to get comfortable saying no.  I need to remind myself . . . if I can't say Hell Yeah about something, I need to say NO.

Last week, I was invited to a kick-off meeting for a very cool initiative launching here in Michigan.  The invitation sounded like a chance to learn more about the initiative, and possibly get involved in some way.  I'm very interested in voting rights, generally, so I wanted to learn more, and when I told Tom where I was going, he decided to come along.

It didn't take long for us to understand that the meeting was not quite what we thought it was going to be.  Instead of learning about the initiative and being presented with ways we might choose to get involved, it turned out to be recruitment and training for a petition drive.

Uh-oh.  I was uncomfortable right away.  My introvert alarm bells were in emergency-perimeters-have-been-breached mode.  Because asking strangers to sign a petition is a bridge too far when it comes to my personal comfort zone.  I sat there in the meeting, feeling completely pressured and mentally thinking through how I could get signatures on a petition without actually ringing any doorbells, wondering what Tom was thinking . . .  and sort of wanting to throw up.

This was definitely not a Hell Yeah thing for me.  But it clearly was for everyone else in the room!  (Pressure.  Pressure.  Pressure.)  The alarm bells in my head kept going off -- but I felt trapped; like . . . I knew I'd be going home with a clipboard and a set of petitions and a pit in my stomach.

But then Tom leaned over and said, "Is this what you thought this meeting was going to be?"

And something clicked.
Because it wasn't.  
And I didn't want to do this -- and neither did Tom.
This was not a Hell Yeah for either of us!

I took a deep breath, raised my hand, and asked if there were other ways for people to get involved.

Why, no, they said.
Right now we just need signatures, they said.

And I said . . . No.  
I'm sorry, I said.
We can't do this right now, I said. 

And then we left.

I was polite and I was nice.  We were pretty conspicuous and it felt a little weird to leave.  But we didn't come home with petitions -- and that was what really mattered.

I said no.  
(And I'm still a nice person!)