The Word “No”

photo (32)Reading Anne Lamott this morning, one of my favorite writers, I came across something that connected deeply with me: ‘“. . . the word “No” is a complete sentence.”’ (AARP Dec/Jan)

I was going to glance through the magazine and then file it away in the trash can, but as I flipped through its pages I kept tearing some out, to keep, to read later, which I sometimes end up never doing or doing it months later. But her words immediately drew me in.

The gist of what she was saying is that with age comes the power to say “No.” You learn to value yourself and more importantly, your time as well as your capabilities.

When I was younger and torn in different directions, I found myself unable to say no to the extra shift, to the extra committee, to the management position, to driving a gaggle of kids to the mall, to the theater, or to having my house become grand central. There was always some new kid hanging around.

I longed for the days of an empty nest, of retiring, of spending my time reading, writing, or doing nothing at all. Back then it seemed those longed-for days would never arrive, but now those days are here and thanks to RA, I have learned how to say no.

No to the request for a quilt for the Christmas Tai Chi raffle. If there’s anything I love more than quilting it’s giving them away. But I was recovering from an illness and dealing with the stress of the holidays. It had to be no.

No to the short-notice invite from my son to take me to brunch. It was Sunday morning; my husband was out on his road bike. I was cozy in bed reading and tired from a night out. As much as I love spending time with my children, I knew I needed to recoup. It had to be no.

No to housework duties when I feel a flare coming on. This one I especially feel no guilt for. What is that saying, a woman’s work is never done? It sure feels like it and I’ve done enough of it. Now I have to take care of me and enjoy life. So when that feeling hails, I answer by battening down the hatches. I stop. And say no.

Conversely, I have learned how to say yes. Yes to my family taking over some duties for a bit. Yes to my daughter making dinner not quite my way. Yes to my husband vacuuming not quite the way I’d like. Yes to the coffee and bagel that pops up at my bedside the mornings I don’t feel so hot.

And yes to the things I really want to do. Like agreeing to accompany my husband on a business trip and extending it so that we can visit St. Augustine, Florida. I’ve wanted to go there for years, to experience the history of it. He tells me he’s made it his goal to fulfill my bucket list regarding travel, and so we leave in a few hours. It should be crisp and cool and beautiful.

6 thoughts on “The Word “No”

  1. J.G. Chayko

    I am still in the process of learning how to say “no”. I’m not quite there, I still agree to things even when I’m not feeling my best; funny, I have learned to be selfish in my writing time in order to get things done, but somehow haven’t applied that idea to my everyday life, especially during those days when I’ve got my hands full with RA. Thank you for this insightful post and for reminding me it’s okay to say “no”. Have a fabulous trip 🙂

    1. Irma Post author

      Thanks, J. I will share more of my trip in upcoming posts. It was wonderful. And I salute you for setting aside a writing time. That’s one thing I am not strict about and I should be. One thing to work on this year!

  2. Kim

    I’ve always been a “yes” person, until February 2014, when things all went south. I’ve learned to say “no” most of the time, when I know that whatever I’m saying “no” to, has the ability to compromise my health. I don’t like saying “no” but such is life… Hope you are enjoying Florida. I am a tad jealous. We are bracing for a serious ice storm 😛

    1. Irma Post author

      Hi, Kim. Hope the storm is not so severe. I have memories of my years up north. Don’t miss them. I need sun and warmth and here in So. Florida, I get that in handfuls!. But it was nice to go north for the weekend. Stay warm!

  3. Carla Kienast

    I used to teach a stress management class for women and one of the greatest stressors is the inability to say “no.” It’s hard the first few times. Then you realize the amount of freedom that saying no can give you. It’s very empowering and an important part of a personal arsenal whether you’re dealing with a chronic disease or not. Great post. Thanks, Irma!

    1. Irma Post author

      Isn’t that true. The very act of saying no causes even more stress. But once you get to a certain point, you realize that you have to “pay” yourself first, before you can share the bounty of your time and energy with others.


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