Last night my friend reminded me: “No is the first word we learn and the first we forget.” So simple. Like the life I am trying to craft for myself in the midst of more, faster, bigger. Though not necessarily better. Turns out she and I share an intention to open more space in our lives for our personal writing. It also turns out we share a life orientation to service, stepping up and in to leadership. Not necessarily because we choose to but because there is a need that chooses us.
Which is where NO comes in. Another wise mentor has told me, more than once: “Just because you CAN do something doesn’t mean you NEED to.” This can be a challenging concept to someone with multiple interests, a deep reserve of goodwill and curiosity, boundless creativity and a desire to jump in when needed. Equally challenging is taking a moment to step back, reflect and ask: “Is this how I really want to spend my time? Is this going to serve my best interests and therefore those of the call to which I am responding?”
For some, this fine line of discernment runs the risk of sounding self-absorbed, reluctant, or possibly lazy. However, there comes a time when a simple “NO!” may be the best service you can perform. In setting the boundary on too much, you get to live with enough. And enough is the abundance required for a truly giving life – one that gives first to the self and secondly, to others. A lesson gratefully learned in a circle of wise wording women.
Sarah, I love that you’ve arrived at this conclusion. I do say “no” a lot more these days, and probably because I’m too old to bother if people like me, but it’s still a trap isn’t it. (especially when it involves my children)
A trap on so many counts!!! Yay for older age that allows us to gain perspective – AND the ability to (sometimes!) remember to put ourselves first. Imagine how it would have been different all these years . . .
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One of the things that always seems to surprise people is what I was first taught by my grandmother when I was about four. She said ‘If you can’t say ‘no’ you have never really said ‘yes’. ‘Yes’ is a choice, and when it is a choice it is truly generous, otherwise it slides into obligation, or apprehension, and does not fully ‘give’. Living by that is not always easy. It comes more easily to women but it is not common, or commonly understood. This is a really valuable debate.
Phillippa, I love your grandmother! I’ve not heard that particular saying before, and yet it makes all the sense in the world. Wise woman, she. Thanks so much for sharing that powerful perspective.
What an important reminder for us all!
Thanks to you, I’ve been practicing a lot lately! Thanks for stopping by.
That’s a hard one for women. I’m learning to say no better since I’m older, but i do so like helping people; we all do. hmmmmm.
So much of life is paradox, yes? I only wish we had greater compassion and understanding for that in our country; less of the either/or and more of the both/and. Thanks for your comment!
we may have to be in a crucible together to come to that state