There are times when we have to let people down. Maybe your name has been on the volunteer list for years, but which is worse, feeling resentful as you do the job, or letting someone else step up to the plate? Perhaps the task would be skipped or reinvented for the month. Who would judge us harshly for our human frailty?
It seems I am the one who judges myself harshly for my human frailty. I have a hard time saying "No." I want to help everyone improve their writing, publish their book, get into the MFA program of their choice, deal with their recent bipolar disorder diagnosis, or figure out how to spell "trivial." Inevitably my desire to help so many people at the same time leaves me overextended. Recently I said I didn't have the energy or time to do something I'd promised I would do, but when no one could take my place, I caved in and did it after all. Don't be like me. Stick to your guns. Say, "No!" Preserve your mental and physical health. You are worthy of such basic kindness.
I am worthy of this, too, which is why from this very moment, "No," will flow from my mouth like saliva while I sleep. I said "No" to drugs in the eighties, and endlessly to my parents when I was two, so I'm just going to say no to everything. No, no, no, no, no, no, no! Oh, even typing that is fun. And then, I'll do the work I can and make some people happy. But not everyone, because as I should know by now, it is impossible to make everyone happy all of the time.
Okay, given how much I love what I do, I'm probably not going to say "No" to much that has anything to do with writing or friends who need help spelling a word. But next time I'm exhausted and say I can't do something, I'm not going to back down. I'm going to remember that my refusal is a courageous act of self-care. I invite you to follow my lead.
To further bolster your newfound confidence saying
"No," I leave you with the words of the infinitely wise band,
"They Might be Giants," and their song, "No!" from their
album titled, "No!"
No is no
No is always no
If they say no, it means a thousand times no
No plus no equals no
All nos lead to no no no
Finger pointing, eyebrows low
Mouth in the shape of the letter O
Pardon me, no!
Excuse me, no!
May I stay?
Can I go?
No, no, no
Rachel Kobin has over twenty years of experience writing in a variety of professional settings. She founded The Philadelphia Writers Workshop in 2011. Though normally found leading creative writing workshops at The Resiliency Center, she currently provides them via video conferencing. She works with writers privately as a coach and editor to help them make their final drafts as brilliant as their original ideas.