Some things are really easy to say no to.
For example, I have no desire to run a marathon. And despite how wonderful my running friends say that running is, I just don’t enjoy it. I love a good brisk walk in the evening but that’s about as far as it goes. So I am not in any way tempted to say yes to fun runs, boot camps, even yoga retreats. It is very easy for me to say no to those.
I used to feel very bad about saying no to party plan parties. You know, those sales parties for makeup or lingerie or linen or tupperware or cleaning products or… the list goes on and on. My good friends would ring me or send me a message telling me about this wonderful new product that they were having a party for. Actually, that’s not strictly true. More often they would ring or send a message to tell me that they really didn’t care about the sales, they just needed bums on seats, and they were going to provide yummy food (and in some cases, alcohol) and we could listen to the little sales spiel and then spend the rest of the time enjoying ourselves and just hanging out, and could I please come?
I would be torn. I was glad that the person thought of me. And I really understood the terror of booking a party-plan party and having no-one show up. And I wanted to be their friend and be there for them. And sometimes I even believed in the philosophy of the product that they were selling. But I really didn’t want to go.
In the end, I decided that these parties were not the best use of my time. I didn’t have the money to spend on them and I didn’t and don’t need more stuff. Especially stuff that I had to be talked into buying. And as much as I loved my friends and was flattered by them thinking of me, there was never time to just chat and hang out at these parties. Or at least, never time to get into the deep conversations that I like to have. Only time for small talk which I personally find exhausting.
So I am happy for others to have party-plan parties, but whenever I am asked now, the answer is always no. And it doesn’t hurt me much to say it.
However, some things are much harder to say no to.
This year I found that I had to say no to a part-time job.
The job involved working after-hours as a tutor in a small business that tutors primary and high school students in literacy and maths. It’s an excellent business, the tutors do excellent work, and it’s something I totally, whole-heartedly believe in. There is also a huge need for tutors – there is always a waiting list for the business. And tutoring is something I can do. I know enough maths and science to tutor people through high school and beyond, and I could probably do high school English at a pinch.
But it was not the right thing for me to be doing.
Each week as the time came for me to begin tutoring, or as emails relating to the job came into my inbox, or as I would think about the next staff meeting, my gut would knot up, my stress levels would rise.
But when I thought about saying no, about quitting, I couldn’t justify it. This job was only a very part-time job. I had made a commitment to keep tutoring until the end of the year, and I keep my commitments. I couldn’t think of any good reason to turn the work down, except that I wanted more time for writing, more time to do the thing I knew was my thing. And that keeping on going felt all wrong.
In the end, after much conversation, my boss made it easy for me and arranged things so I could bow out gracefully. I’m very grateful to her. And I’m sure it was the right thing to do. But it wasn’t easy – the job was such a worthy cause, the work was worthwhile.
There is no shortage of worthwhile things to do – worthy causes to give time to. But somehow we need to weed them out because we cannot do everything. We just can’t.
I’m going to explore this idea a bit more in the next few blog posts. For now I want to encourage you to listen to your gut. Maybe it’s time to say goodbye to a worthy activity that is just not right for you right now. Maybe you’ve looked at your schedule, your activities, and you’ve prioritised like I suggested in the ping-pong ball post and there are very worthy things that don’t fit. If that is the case, you don’t need to do it all.
If you need someone’s permission to drop that worthy thing, I give you permission. It’s ok to say no.
It might be time to have that hard conversation with someone so that your life is simplified and you are more able to do the things on top of your list. My experience is that it is worth it. Hard, yes, but worth it.
How about you? Have you said no to a very worthy thing? Have you had your gut say no when your head said yes? How did it work out for you? I’d love to hear in the comments.
This post is part of a series I am writing about what I have learned about saying no. I’d love to have you join me on this journey. If you want to make sure you never miss a post, you can sign up on WordPress and the post will be sent to your email address every week without fail.
You’ll notice some special art in this series. If you want to see more of it you can find the artist on instagram @deteor42
If you would like to hear more about my writing journey as it comes to the pointy end with my first novel (a cosy mystery), please drop me a line on firstname.lastname@example.org and I’ll add you to my newsletter list. The newsletters are more writing focussed – what I’m doing with my writing, and what I’m reading myself. I look forward to hearing from you.