I Told Someone No.

It felt great.

Not that I can’t say no or haven’t said no (even when I should have said yes, which is a bad thing). It’s just, since I graduated in December I’ve felt like–I have all the time in the world I should do everything I can to help because I can, really. And when I’m busy during the school year, my biggest feeling of guilt is not being able to do more for other people in the little time that I do have. So I’ve been saying yes all the time.

Last week I had a sort of breakdown. I have about a month left of summer and I felt like, Wait! I haven’t really done anything that I had planned to do. I was going to paint all these pictures, write all these stories, submit them for publication, read all these books and plays, figure out that guitar, get in really good shape, plan for teaching in the fall, redecorate my home, cook all this food, and just relax every once in a while before my graduate program begins. You know?

With the exception of getting into really good shape (you know, the 100% oxygen level*), I hadn’t done a lot.

So when this guy I volunteer for called and asked if I could sub for him for the next couple of weeks, my initial reaction was, Alright, fine. He’s called me three times today–I would feel awkward saying no.

But I was at my real work so I didn’t call back until later, after I had some time to think about it.

I didn’t really have an excuse not to help other than I just needed more time for myself. How do you explain that to someone? My time is more important to me than your time is important to me right now. Ha! True, though. I need time to do the things I love and need to be happy, especially right now. Is that bad?

I felt tempted to yell, NO! because I was feeling so big and bold and powerful. But then I remembered I wasn’t mad at him. So I just said, “Hi, I got your message and although I want to help you, I have too much I’m working on right now and won’t be able to.” I said this to his phone, because he didn’t answer. Baby steps . . .

I was nervous for the reaction. Because I’ve got this thing where I always want to do the right thing, but sometimes I’m not sure what exactly the right thing is, especially when it comes to the murky area of what’s right for me vs. what’s right for you (most the time, I believe in doing what’s right for you). So I waited. And while I waited, I slowly started feeling really good. Most the time, what I want is to help in any way I can–I believe in that. Too many people say no way too often and way too easily. But sometimes I’ve got to put away time for just me because I’ve got all these passions and talents and interests that I don’t want going to waste and that shouldn’t go to waste. At least I think so.

SO . . .

It turns out the guy figured everything out. My no didn’t kill him. If it would have, then I would have said yes (YES, that would have been the right thing to do). But he was okay and that night, I worked on a painting I started in March. Over the next two days, in between other commitments, I finished it.

I’m not a good painter, but I like it because I made it. And when Ryan saw it, he said he liked it too and that he was proud of me.





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