The Year of Saying No.

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.

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25 Responses to The Year of Saying No.

  1. Eddie says:

    Hannah, I’m one of those people, one of the ones that found you when the soulmate post went viral. I still follow you, both because I like your writing and because I think you say very worthwhile things.

    This post is definitely one of those worthwhile things.

    Would you have any objection to me sharing this with my friends on Facebook?

  2. abby hummel says:

    these two posts were immediately following yours in my rss feed this morning. maybe i need to take it as a hint myself.

  3. simplykira says:

    This is such a fantastic post!! Well said. Cheers to “no” and the only best “yes”s

  4. Jess says:

    I love this. I also struggle with saying yes to everything. I find myself having coffee dates with people I don’t really care to spend my time with or I take on tasks that I should have to do nor do I want to do. Over this past year, I’ve learned to be a little bit more selfish with my time. I found that when I was saying yes to everything, making time for everyone and everything, I was left feeling empty and exhausted. I obviously still love people and jump at any chance to spend time with loved ones, but I’ve learned that alone time is crucial to me being both healthy and happy. The first few times I said no, simply because I didn’t want to do the thing I was being asked to, I felt like a jerk, but I’ve been finding that I’m better for it.

  5. amyvanhuisen says:

    Such a wise young woman! I think we all struggle with this at some point–or points–along the journey. I love your last few sentences…and you’re right on about the “little no’s” being the way to the opportunity for a wide variety of yeses. We have to leave margin in our lives for those things that can’t be planned for but ought not to be missed! Have fun saying no to say yes!

  6. Chandra Lynn says:

    “No” has become one of my favorite words over the last several years. I perfected it after having a child. He taught me well!

  7. Good for you!! I am very big on honoring my commitments and that makes me very selective about what I commit to in general. Buuuut…this fall I nearly overcommitted and I remember how stressful that is. So I nod along to all you say and thanks for the reminder for myself!

  8. Haylie says:

    A) Totally agree.

    B) Ironically, my pandora station (which is currently set on Irish music) was playing a song called “Wild Rover” by Luke Kelly- the chorus of which includes the following phrase:
    “And it’s no, nay, never
    No, nay, never, no more…”
    Granted, he’s talking about not playing the wild rover any more… but still… very fitting, yes?

  9. I totally relate! Just looked at my planner for September and every weekend is full. I was just about to blog about this! Haha I totally laughed when you referred to yourself as an “extroverted, people pleaser,” because that’s me too!

  10. Laura says:

    Oh my goodness, this is so me. We are busy all of September as well, and October is already half-full too. You are right when you say that it is poor judgment to say yes to EVERYTHING. I need to be better at saying yes and no to the right things… do you know how to distinguish which is which?! At 26 I sure don’t, and I’m not sure when I will!

  11. Pingback: Last weekend. | The Art in Life

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