Portrait of Prince by Artist Jimmi Toro
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”!