No.

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Was there ever a bigger “no” than the “no” Prince relayed to Warner Bros. by writing “SLAVE” across his cheek?

I’m giddy with delight over June’s theme. Unlike the rather challenging months — January’s month of fasting and April’s changing my name to a symbol come to mind — this one feels like a piece of cake. For an entire month, I am saying yes to “no.” What could be easier than uttering a tiny, two-letter word? In the month of June, I am vowing to say “no” to anything that I don’t want to do. My goal is that June will see me saying “no” to all sorts of requests, and in the process, I will make sure that the things that I eventually say “yes” to the right things for the right reasons.

As I contemplated the tremendous excitement of a month of finally doing only what I wanted (and wondering if some sort of mommy police will come and apprehend me if I don’t adhere to the millions of unwritten rules about what moms can and can’t do), I couldn’t help but reflect on Shonda Rimes’ fabulous book, “Year of Yes.” Unlike me, Rimes doesn’t seem to have much problem saying no. Maybe that’s the difference between having an entire night of network television devoted to your shows, and … well, being an average person like me. Rimes, an introvert, spent a year forcing herself to say yes to speaking at graduations and attending glamorous parties. (I, on the other hand, would have been dressed up and out the door as fast as you can say “Little Red Corvette.”).

I am Laura, and I have a “yes” problem. I can’t not say yes. How’s that for a double negative? Worse, I have a dreadful habit of turning myself into a veritable pretzel in an effort to accommodate everyone in my vicinity, and then inwardly seething in knotted-up, pretzel-like anger. The fact that I am an introvert means that my proclivity for people-pleasing and yes-saying burns me out. I need down time and quiet to hang out alone in my mind, which is my happy place. But yet, I can’t seem to stop myself from accepting invitations — even if they mess up my schedule — and taking on unnecessary amounts of responsibility and work — even if it messes with my own ability to achieve my goals.

The picture I paint of myself is not a flattering one, I fear, but it’s June, it’s month six of living like Prince, and you all have seen so much of me that I figure, if you haven’t run away screaming yet, this true confession won’t scare you off, either.

The prospect of saying “no” to something had me giddy with delight on June 1. And on June 2. Then, June 3 rolled around and I actually had to say “no” to something, and I very nearly blew the entire month with one three-letter word beginning with “y-e” and ending with “s.”

Robin, one of the sweetest people you’ll ever meet, asked me if I would like her to set up an interview with Ingrid Chavez so that I could write a story about Chavez for the PRN Alumni Foundation website as part of their series, “Stories from the Park.” Now, merely weeks ago, I had specifically asked to be connected with Chavez, as I would love to tell her story. But in the meantime, I had submitted two other stories for publication by PRN Alumni. Coupled with Living Like Prince, it was a lot, and I needed a short breather to focus on this project and my paying job and oh yes, my family, before taking on another story. I had overpromised.

I needed to say no.

My stomach felt tight and all sorts of unhealthy thoughts rushed through my mind, as I gripped my cell phone and formulated a response. I mentally berated myself for having suggested that I would like to do the interview and was now reneging. What kind of flaky person selfishly causes this kind of inconvenience? What if I hurt Robin’s feelings? I was stuffed in the middle of a shame and guilt sandwich, and what I wanted to do more than anything was stuff my face with giant handfuls of kettle corn from the Costco-sized bag I had purchased the day before (another bad decision, more shame, and guilt). Robin texted a perfectly kind and reasoned response of “I can assign it to someone else if you prefer,” and I texted her that I would appreciate that, and then felt enormous waves of FOMO coming over me. Now I wouldn’t get to interview Ingrid Chavez! What kind of fool am I!

Living in my head is not a walk in the park.

But then Robin texted something that brought the death spiral of thoughts in my brain to a screeching halt: “I understand! Thanks for sharing your talent with us.”

Relief washed over me like the proverbial purple rain. Robin had been gracious and kind, and I had managed my first “no.” I felt a joyful confidence! Like a stubborn two-year-old, I couldn’t wait to try my next “no”!

2 thoughts on “No.

  1. Erica Louise

    Hi Laura,

    Sorry for such a personal, TMI answer, but I can really relate to so much of what you’re saying here…introvert, eager to please, etc. There was a gradual change in me, after I wrote about Prince and my alter egos. I started to do many things differently, including not continuing to choose words so excruciatingly carefully in order to please. I had to stop pushing stuff under, and start sometimes responding to people in ways that stood up for some of my more unpopular beliefs.

    Most important is how this meant standing up for some things I think are important, rather than being more of a silent bystander. It also put more true self out there, but at the same time, it allowed me to learn more about others. If a person is afraid to ask, due to not wanting a question to be in any way unpleasing, an opportunity to learn is lost.

    I want to thank you for your continued correspondence as I’ve ventured into saying “no,” and into saying other words that I wouldn’t have been able to get out before I wrote about this whole alter ego thing. THANK YOU for YOUR kind and patient responses. Thank you for being OK with some of this.

    An example would be the thoughts I left on the blog entry where you shared your fantastic Pathways article. One of the things you talked about in that article was putting, as Prince might put it, your “plus sign” vibes out into the world. Thank you again for your kindness.

    Your blog had been making me think, and I’d had your earlier entry on Jung and an ardent follower of Jung on my mind. I responded with something that came out of a question…one of those curiosities that until recently, I’d been afraid to reference. Right after leaving the comment, I had those feelings you describe so well in this entry. Had there been kettle corn around, I would have grabbed handfuls.

    Then time passed, and I came to see that my words didn’t make the sky fall. Ha!
    That I’d even imagined such an outcome exaggerates my own importance and catastrophe-causing power…but that’s a separate issue, so I’ll get back to your thought-provoking blog entry.

    Jung suggested that people benefit from belief systems, like Christianity, that connect to archetypes. His suggestion contained the idea that many belief systems can serve this important purpose.

    Christians, as I understand it, believe that eventually accepting one truth about a particular savior, as opposed to believing something different about that truth via through other archetype-evoking belief systems, is crucial for salvation.

    My question is, since not being saved is a terrible fate, how do Christians square Jung’s embrace and advocacy of people continuing on (and not necessarily ever turning away from) not only Christian paths, but also different archetype-evoking paths? As Christians don’t want good people not to be saved (double negatives, indeed!), don’t they need to hope, contrary (it seems) to Jung, that people *eventually* change path to Christian acceptance of Savior?

  2. Erica Louise

    Oh, and work burnout from operating as if I don’t know how to say the word “no.” Bet there are many here who, like me, find that very familiar and relatable. Thank you for writing about it, Laura!

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