June is my month of “no” and if ever I needed a wake-up call about how different my lifestyle is from that of a rock star like Prince, this is it. “Duh,” you might say, and rightfully so. Yet, while this isn’t headline news, I never expected that a month of saying no would throw me into an existential crisis, either.
My initial giddy enthusiasm over imagining how happy I would be refusing projects and turning down invitations has not materialized — far from it! I expected to be tossing out “no’s” like candy in a Fourth of July parade. Instead, it’s brought all of my people-pleaser tendencies to the surface and made me face just how much of my life I allow to be dictated by others. It’s like an episode of “Scared Straight,” only without the juvenile delinquents.
I do not label myself a people pleaser with pride. No! (There’s that word again). I don’t think being a people pleaser is a good trait, but I also think a lot of us are this way. This month has thrown into stark relief how much I allow my agenda to be dictated by other’s needs.
Let’s break down my day yesterday as a random sample of my life. I’m going to rate each event of my day on a scale of one to ten, with ten being a staunch, well-played, saying “no” event, and zero being a total people-pleaser move.
5:45 a.m. Wake Up
I woke up not because I chose to wake up. I woke up because the dog started whining, which was imminently going to turn into barking, which would have woken up the entire household. Essentially my day started being dictated by a canine. Way to set the tone!
Saying “no” rating: ZERO (I should give myself negative points but I’m afraid that I will never dig out of that hole if I do).
7:45 a.m. Get Two Boys Up and Go to Dentist
Here’s the thing: I need to see the dentist too, but I canceled my own appointment so my son could get to his ACT test prep class by 10 a.m. While my mothering score might be satisfactory, my self-preservation/dental hygiene score is a big zero.
Saying “no” rating: ZERO again. At least I’m consistent!
10:00 a.m. Work for 3.5 Hours
Rationale: I’m torn on this one, but I’m going to give myself a few points here. I wrote a blog post, but the blog post I wrote was not for my own blog but rather, for a paying client. I desperately needed to write for my own blog because I’m woefully behind in keeping up the pace, but I also need to make sure I’m putting in sufficient hours on my paying work, for which I have a contract. Still, among the things I did during this work time was talk to my media coach who’s helping me get publicity for “Living Like Prince,” so that moved the ball down the field.
Saying “no” rating: FIVE POINTS.
1:30 p.m. Take Dog to Park
Here I go again, doing something for someone else, in this case, a canine family member. Still, the walk was good for me too. I needed to get up from my laptop and move. Plus, the boys were playing soccer in the nearby fields and it was fun watching them.
Saying “no” rating: FIVE POINTS.
2:00 p.m. Dear Friend texts me with a request to write a story on someone from the Prince community.
True confession: Before my brain could intervene with a “no,” my fingers typed “Sure!” WTF? Do I have no presence of mind?
Saying “no” rating: ZERO POINTS
3:00 p.m. Take son to the orthodontist
No further commentary needed. This is mom life at its finest!
Saying “no” rating: ZERO POINTS.
5:00 p.m. Spend the evening with visiting family, make dinner, sit on the back porch and enjoy wine and conversation.
Saying “no” rating: TEN POINTS
The day ended on a huge up note, for which I am rewarding myself the full 10 points.
DAILY “SAYING NO” RATING: 20 points of a possible 70.
Twenty points out of seventy sounds pretty lame, but let’s consider the upside. I may not be scoring perfect 10’s, but I am taking baby steps outside my comfort zone and into a new way of life where I instinctively protect my energy and my time. And that, for a suburban mom like me, is a huge stride forward.