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Wednesday, October 20, 2010

I said NO.

Today, I did something rather out of the ordinary for me. I said NO Not to my kids, but to someone who asked me to do something. The word no is not a routine part of my vocabulary, unless it comes in a sentence such as, "No, it's all right. I'll do it."

NO is not an easy word for a people-pleasing first-born like me. I want people to like me. I want to help. NO does not lend itself to either of those things. I can remember one of the first times in my adult life that I had to force myself to say no.

Charlie was just over 3 months old. I was in the very ugly grip of severe postpartum depression. I had invited a dozen or so moms and their kids over for a Halloween party, but I just was not up to all the cleaning and cooking and socializing the event would require. The woman who ran the PPD support group  somehow got it through my head that no was not a negative word, that saying no in that situation was actually a positive move for my own sanity.

So I called the moms I'd invited to let them know I was canceling the party. Do you know what? Not one of them threw a hissy fit. Not one of them stopped being friendly to me. And several of them, after hearing about what I was going through, shared their own postpartum struggles with me or offered to help by watching the kids for a few hours or bringing over a meal.

It was my first real experience with the power of NO. It was not, however, the beginning of a close relationship. I still have troubling declining requests. I was asked to serve on the PTO at school. I tried to say NO -- really, I did. But I ended up saying yes, just to something smaller.

Besides wanting people to like me and not wanting to disappoint them, there is another reason NO is such a hard word to form on my lips. In addition to being a people-pleasing first-born, I am an affirmation-craving Leo. I like to be needed and wanted -- it flatters me.

So when the American Heart Association people -- those who were so good to me last year during the Better U effort -- called and asked if I would be willing to chair the Better U committee this year, I was flattered. They asked ME! Sure, there was an instant red flag going off in my gut, but it was such an honor to be asked. However, I have learned a few things in the years since that not-to-be-thrown Halloween party, so I said "maybe."

I asked what was involved, what did the time commitment look like? They offered to come to my office to talk to me about it. "Sure," I said. "Let's talk."

Three of the AHA staff from Indianapolis came to my office. We talked about last year's experience, what was good, what I might do differently. Then they explained what they had in mind for this year, letting me know that much of the structure of the program would be up to me and my committee. As I sat  across from the three of them at my desk, my head -- that's the part that craves the limelight and loves to be in charge -- was saying "yes, yes, yes!" But to be truthful, my heart and my gut -- the parts that have been feeling so overwhelmed with the jobs of wife, mother and communications manager, were saying, "Whoa! Slow down a minute."

I told the heart folks that I would think it over, that I was leaning toward yes, but I needed to take some time to consider it. And I did. And as much as I wanted to say yes -- as much as I wanted to run the show and make this great thing happen -- I knew that saying yes to this project would be saying NO to my family, my work, even this blog.

So, in the end, I thanked the Heart Association folks for thinking of me and giving me the opportunity to consider taking this project on, but I felt the need to decline. I said NO. And once the word was out there, those parts of me that are guided by the truth of who I am -- my heart and my gut -- those parts said, "Yes...yes...thank you for saying NO."


Amy's Mom said...

Congratulations for being offered the Chairmanship but even more for thinking about it first, and then saying NO. With the busyness and craziness of the holiday season coming up, You would have been exhausted by Jan 1!.

Nate's Mom said...

Way to go Amy! I know the pain and pressure of being the people pleasing first born. I love this post, I could have almost written it myself.

Sheri in CA

kbiermom said...

Good for you! And good for many others, too. I'm finding myself stretched thin lately by saying yes to too many things. I find my attention to my kids is much too rushed these days :/

I'm especially impressed at the way you went about your decision -- you didn't just stew about it internally for a while, and then give them a guilt-ridden "oh I wish I could, but I just can't...". Which probably would have left you vulnerable to the next thing that you shouldn't say yes to. Instead, you gave them and yourself a realistic assessment of your own current capacity. Awesome.

Anonymous said...

I have found that if one says yes to something but really does not want to do it, they are denying the person who DOES have the heart for it the chance to volunteer for that job. Why not let the person with the passion for it have the job - there is always someone else ready to say yes!!

Amy said...

Dear mystery commenter -- very good perspective. Thanks so much for the insight.