I have a very dear friend, whom I’ll call “Suzette” (because that is her name, after all) who gave me much to think about recently. Since I haven’t pontificated in a long time, I figured this was a good tangent to go on.
Suzette was having a bit of a bad time when she came to visit a couple of weeks ago. Without going into the details, she said she came to see me because she knew I wouldn’t “hand her a line” about her concerns and that I would cut straight to it, so to speak, and give her the truth. Who knew? I’m apparently an honest person despite all my years of practicing to be the penultimate sniveling, conniving weasel. (Ask my siblings — they will confirm the characterization). I credit my husband with delivering the proper relationship training, but that is for another blog.
During our visit, my delightful “Sister Suze” at one point said, “Well, when someone asks you to do something for them, you should never say ‘No’: you just DO IT.”
I guffawed. (Hey, I’m honest — I never claimed to have developed any tact.)
“Since WHEN?,” I nearly shouted, “who told you THAT?” Suzette paused. “I don’t know,” she said, “it’s just something I believe — that you’re never supposed to tell anyone ‘No’.”
Although the words flew out of my mouth before I was aware they were leaving my lips, I knew once they were out, that my friend and I had vastly different belief systems and that my beliefs were relatively new to me. I had, much like Suzette, been raised to put others first, be respectful and above all, to do what I was told. There is merit to such an upbringing, but I think something got lost in translation or the carry-over to adulthood became twisted. Suzette and I discussed the matter further after I apologized for my outburst. She and I came to the understanding about something she read in her daily devotional earlier that day. She read what I now call The Great Unsaid. The Great Unsaid is the fact that that we have every right and are even obliged to say no, when what is being asked of us is detrimental to our own physical and emotional well being. It’s not that we should turn down every request for help or favors, but sometimes enough is too much. We forget that — or rather, no one ever said it to us in the first place.
Today’s middle-aged American women were conditioned by the past generation in a most contradictory way. Although we came of age during or shortly after the Feminine Revolution when women began entering the professional workforce, it was a time when women were not necessarily to have it all, but rather to DO it all. This was best embodied in a smarmy and annoyingly catchy perfume commercial jingle from the 1970‘s that went, “I can bring home the bacon…fry it up in a pan…and never never never never let you forget YOURE the MAN…‘cause I’m a woooooman: Enjoli.”
WHAT THE HELL KIND OF MESSAGE IS THAT? Okay, go into the workforce if ya wanna, woman, but don’t forget to have my dinner on the table when I get home!
No wonder Suzette thinks she’s never supposed to say no. Hopefully, I can disavow her (and you, reader) of that notion.
I propose that we learn to and practice saying no from time to time. Here are some guidelines to consider, should you decide take up the cause:
Say NO when there is simply not enough time to take care of everything you have already planned for your day/week/month. (Note: author is completely guilty of over-packing her schedule like a piece of luggage after a Disney vacation)
Say NO when you are already exhausted and truly need to rest
Say NO when your financial means dictate that you can’t afford to buy another roll of wrapping paper, set of costume jewelry, or cookware
Say NO to “takers.” We all have takers in our lives. You know who they are. Not only can you say no to them, you should change your number and address if necessary to avoid being drained by them like a sink full of dirty dish water.
I also propose we remember to say YES, too, but to keep some perspective in mind:
Say YES out of love and genuine kindness instead of obligation
Say YES to help build or strengthen relationships you WANT to build and strengthen
Say YES when the request is in line with your moral, religious and ethical beliefs
Say YES when there is emotional benefit for you as well as the person you are assisting
Say YES because you WANT to and you have the time, energy and means to help.
Okay everyone, got it? Good. There will be a test!
You said what?…no test? What do you mean, “NO”?
Good, you’re catching on!