Last spring, in the midst of crying over magazine piles and having visitors for 8 weekends straight, I informed James that next year would my year of saying no. It wasn’t that any one individual thing was bad, or that I wanted to change any one thing, but there was just too much. Next year was going to be different. I would start, for the first time in my 26 over-committing-extroverted-people-pleasing years, to say no to things. To commitments that I didn’t have time for, to visitors that we were honestly too stressed or busy to host, to extra obligations I took on because I was worried others wouldn’t do them.
But next year, I told him, next year I would start saying no. Before I go on, I need to insert that “years” for me are still based on the academic calendar, where the year picks up in August with book lists and syllabi and winds down in June with overdue library fees and student evaluations. July exists as an Elysian paradise outside of time. August is for resolutions and resets, not January when it is cold and depressing and all you want to do is skip the gym, forego early rising, and eat nothing but mac n’ cheese. From a box. The Velveeta brand.
But I digress. Last year we took on too much, and in a moment of tears and the waves of everything overwhelming me, I declared that next year I would start saying no.
And then July lulled me out of my resolve with long Parisian days and more pastries than any human should consume in a month, before I came home to an empty apartment and a seemingly free schedule.
And now we are one month in to my year of no and I have been saying yes to everything. It starts slowly, yes to awesome commitments like a weekend here and a weekend there. Yes to meetings with friends and responsibilities. Yes to photography things over the coming months and ecstatic yesses to the people who mention they are coming to DC. So when some colleagues asked when we could grab brunch soon, I had to sheepishly admit that I was busy every weekend in September. That’s a problem.
I don’t want this to be one of those obnoxious posts where people complain about being busy, which is kind of a backhanded way of announcing “I am important and in demand.” I am complaining about having poor judgement and lacking self-control. That is what busyness is. (Unless you are a parent, and then busyness is trying to keep other people alive and purposeful and you are not getting any judgement from my corner.) It’s a lack of judgement to discern what needs to be done, what I should do, what I want to do, and lacking the control to say no to other things. The power to understand that just because something is good, doesn’t mean I need to do it.
So as we roll into September, I’m trying to get my year of no back on track. I said no to a big commitment this week, but more importantly I’m trying to say more little no’s. Maybe it will be no to writing blog posts sometimes. No to buying clothes I don’t need or want. No to trying to squeeze in two commitments on the same night. No to crammed schedules. No to excess.
Which means that then I have room for glorious resounding yesses, ones that I can indulge in without the aftertaste of stress and burden. Quiet yesses, spontaneous yesses, solitary yesses.
Here’s to saying no.