I know some people who are not good at saying “no” to things. As a result, they find themselves over-scheduled, over-committed, and spread thin.
I am not one of those people. I don’t like to have a full calendar or a busy schedule. To that end, I say “no” to social engagements and requests to be involved all the time. “No” comes fairly easily to me.
I am particularly good at saying “no” to my children. For me it is, in fact, almost a knee-jerk reaction to most every request that is lobbed in my direction.
“Can I have my own iPhone?”
“Can I invite 47 eight year-olds plus all of our neighbors and their cats to my birthday party?”
“Can I have waffles with maple syrup and whipped cream and sprinkles and candy on top for breakfast?”
Can I have my own You Tube channel?
The requests are never-ending, I can hardly keep up. I could probably just have a tape recorder (do those even exist anymore? How old am I anyway?) parked in a corner of the kitchen with my voice saying “NO” at 6 minute intervals. I would likely intercept a few requests that way and save myself some headaches. Or perhaps I would have an uninterrupted shower from time to time? Hmmmm.
The thing I am realizing is that, though I may be the master of the “no”, I need to also be better at saying “yes”.
I was sitting on the couch on a quiet Saturday afternoon last weekend, book in hand, with the sun shining in the window and my favorite quilt on my legs. My favorite weekend posture was interrupted by my little guy who came in and said, “Want to go out and play in the leaves with me mom?” I had a second where I felt the “no” rising up, my knee-jerk reaction, with all of the attached excuses. I had just sat down. I had been doing chores all day. I hadn’t been feeling well. I wanted to read my book.
Then I looked at him. How much longer will this kid want to play in the leaves with his mom? How many more golden autumn days will I be able to do this with him before he starts preferring his friends over me, or gets a girlfriend, or goes off to college?
So I said yes. And look what happened:
We had fun, we connected, and we made memories. I am so glad that I didn’t succumb to my knee-jerk reaction of “no”. Instead I stepped into the discomfort of the “yes”. It wasn’t uncomfortable once I got there, but making the transition from “no” to “yes” always involves a little discomfort for me, a little stretching, like working out some stiff muscles when you get out of bed in the morning. Your bed is warm and cozy, and you want to stay put under your covers. But when you do haul yourself out of bed, there is coffee waiting, and the sun is shining, and you decide that it’s good that you got out of bed, because there are some fun things and some important things coming your way that day.
The last month or so I have been getting ready to make a change. I am in transition. I made some personal realizations that I had to say “no” to some things and some people that I really cared about, in order to say “yes” more often to my people at home. And perhaps more importantly, in order to say “yes” to me, and what I really need right now. It is not a very graceful transition for me. There have been a lot of worries, tension, tooth-grinding, and a few sleepless nights. A lot of concern about what other people will think or feel, fear of letting people down, and fear of the unknown. I have been afraid to come out of my comfy bed, so to speak. The stretch from the “no” which keeps me where I am, to the “yes” of moving forward, demands discomfort.
And then there’s autumn. Autumn is just out there, doing her thing, bursting into color, making her transition in the most glorious, beautiful way possible, with no concern over what people think about summer making its exit and giving way to a long, cold winter.
Autumn is such a show-off.
Most of the transitions that I make in my life look a lot less like the beauty and grace of autumn, and a lot more like the bitterness of February giving way to the unpredictability of March. I have always thought that March was the most hideous month, all slushy and mucky and dreary. There will be a day here or there with a break in the weather, giving some hope that spring is coming, only to snow again, covering up the progress that the warm sun had made. Once the snow finally melts and the ground has thawed, we look around only to see that the grass is brown, the gardens are a mess, and there is a lot of work to do. That sounds a lot more like my transitions.
So, me and autumn are going to do this transition thing together. She is going to remind me that it is possible to move from one thing to the next with beauty and grace, and that even the most beautiful changes leave a big pile of leaves to rake up at the end. Transitions are always labor-intensive in some way.
Just like I’m learning to say “yes” to my kids, I’m learning to say “yes” to change. Let the leaves fall where they may.
“As uncertain as I was as I pushed forward, I felt right in my pushing, as if the effort itself meant something.” ~Cheryl Strayed