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  • Writer's pictureEve Bernfeld

Five Things I’m Saying NO to So That I Can Say YES to What I Want

Photo by Kai Pilger on Unsplash.

Lately, after a year and a half of dormancy, opportunities have started coming my way—things that elicit, as my friend Melissa would say, a “whole body Yes!” Book project? Yes! Once a month women’s group? Yes! Theatre workshop? Yes! But this really can’t go on forever. My time and energy are not boundless, and I’m getting to the point where something’s got to give.

What can I say NO to?

This is a question I’ve been asking myself repeatedly the last few weeks. And finally the seeds are beginning to sprout. Plan a conference? No thank you! That’s a big relief. But mostly I’ve realized I can say no to a lot of little things that clog up my life and cause me added stress and emotional labor. Here are some ideas, from least to most radical:

1. Checking my email all day long. I confess I’ve grown to hate email. It bogs me down, whether it’s something that needs to be answered or begs to be deleted. And yet, that doesn’t stop me from opening it on my phone multiple times throughout the day. So how about this: email twice a day. Period. (or at least semi-colon)

2. Ditto texts. If you happen to have emailed or texted me lately, you may have gotten a new response: can I call you to discuss this?

3. Evening phone calls. Okay, this sort of conflicts with the above. But I’ve realized I’m better off leaving my phone at home when I go on that evening walk to clear my head. Another thing this allows me to say whole-body-yes to? Sometimes one of my kids wants to come.

4. Explaining. “No, I can’t go to that meeting.” End of chat. What a lot of emotional labor I would save for myself and the person I’m talking to if I left off the long explanation of why I can’t do this or that thing. My husband may be in the ER, or not, but I don’t need to share the story of why I’m bailing. I don’t need your permission. This one is super hard.

5. Apologizing. Related to the above. A simple apology is nice. But it’s a slippery slope. Years ago I had a student who arrived 10 minutes late for her lesson. Every. Week. And every week she would profusely apologize and tell me all about the traffic. It got exhausting. And the experience made me realize the apology was for her benefit, not mine. I am sure I have done the same thing—offered over-the-top apologies that are unconsciously aimed, not at expressing respect, but instead demanding absolution so that I can feel better. Also? Maybe I don’t’ need to apologize for every little thing. See above. “No, I can’t go to that meeting.” So much nicer than, “I’m so, so sorry I can’t make the meeting! It’s just that my kid has a bloody nose and my husband isn’t home yet with the car and I don’t have any clean clothes to wear and now I’ve burned dinner taking so long with this unnecessary explanation/apology. Sorry!!!” This one is super hard too.

Your turn. What might you say No to, so that you can say Yes to more of the delicious stuff?

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