Sunday, 15 January 2012

Word of the Day: No

This post is a bit of a rant, so proceed at your own risk.

Learning new things is part of evolution. We go from being helpless babies, to learning to standing on our own two feet, to growing into ourselves (or at least, versions of ourselves), to becoming adults with a whole mixed bag of responsibilities. When we allow ourselves to learn about who we are and about the world around us, we inadvertently become better as human beings. At least that's my take on it.

Part of my personal evolution (besides the obvious natural progression), is an effort to train myself in certain aspects. For instance, I had to learn to focus on tasks. When I was younger, I would spend a lot of time taking on various responsibilities, and could only dedicate small amounts of myself to each of them. I would bite off more than I could chew. I didn't think this was very productive, nor was it fair to the tasks I had taken on. As a result, I had to learn to manage time better in order to focus on these tasks. It's not a skill I came wired with. I had to train myself.

Lately, I've been working on something I've struggled with my entire life: Learning to say one simple word more often—No.

I can't tell you the number of times that word has haunted me. It has lived in the bottom of my throat; at the tip of my tongue; I've felt it roll from my brain to my mouth, and I've even breathed it out. Silently. But, for the life of me, I've very rarely been able to let this simple, two-lettered word move past my lips.

And I'm not sure why. More often than not, I let myself get talked into doing things I don't want to do. I end up spending more time focusing on other people's problems instead of my own, and I constantly worry about what people will think, should I choose to say no. And as a result of all this, most people have come to expect me to say 'yes' to things... all the time. Even when I don't feel like it. And I think that's no one's fault but my own.

So I've been making a conscious effort. You know, to say 'no' to things more often? It's been tough, I tell you, but so worth it. At first I was wracked with guilt. And for what? I'm not too sure. Catholic guilt (if it exists), perhaps? I would say no to things, then spend time coming up with explanations as to why I said it. Then I'd feel guilty. Surely "so and so" deserved to know why I wouldn't be her wing woman that Friday night?

But the truth of the matter is that saying no is a right. At least I'm fortunate enough to live in a country where that's the case. I have to remind myself that I can do it. Should do it more often. Shouldn't feel guilty when I do do it.

A confession? I've had to practice saying this word in front of the mirror. And it's worked. Saying this word (more than I used to, anyway), has freed up so much time for my own pursuits. And the sad reality is that it's upset quite a few people. But I wonder — should I care that I've upset people who are OK with me putting them ahead of myself all the time? I don't think so. At least I don't think so anymore.

So yes. If you hear me say no, please don't take it personally. If I do it, I probably mean it. It has taken a lot of effort on my part, and I probably won't change my mind.

Time is precious, and I'm (finally) learning to appreciate mine.


Images courtesy of Google Images


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