A friend shared something very poignant with me a few months ago. The sentiment was familiar then, but in a season where my time and energy were so wildly out of my control, it did not resonate as much as it has today. I don’t remember exactly what the meme on the iPhone’s screen saver said, but it went something like, ‘just because you are unhappy with my NO, does not mean it should have been a YES’.
I’ve been saying yes most of my life, even when people weren’t asking something of me. In high school I decided the bookstore needed to be renovated so we could raise more funds for our marketing club, so I spent 2 weeks of my summer painting, ordering new displays and creating an inventory system. In college, I made myself the honorary workhorse for a work-abroad program, creating beautiful presentations with expensive shiny colored prints and spiral binding. These were totally unnecessary if not overtly dramatic ways to hide my feelings of inferiority.
If high school and college were no match for the unending subpar use of my talents, becoming a mother was bound to halt my over exuberance. I am embarrassed to say, no. Neither the rowdy 10 year-old boy, nor the curious 7 year-old girl, with all of their young needs, could curtail this need-beast. Schools are not known for caring much about the individuality of it’s students let alone the neurosis of it’s parents. Once the smell of overachievement comes wafting through the doors, YOU are on the menu.
So, for years, I have said yes. I have feigned important on boards of directors, fundraising committees, volunteer hordes and party troupes. I have shelved my creativity, my innate need to take care of myself, and so easily let go of my dreams. I cannot find anyone to blame for this blatant disregard for my own life except, well, myself; which is such a pity really, not being able to hold someone ELSE in contempt.
The saddest part, maybe even more so than losing years of probable genius and modulating creations (I am a Leo, this is how we conjecture), is the fact that my energy and time has not produced some magnificent impact on the world or those who reside in it. I have not cured diseases or affected the hunger problem. If anything, I have created the illusion of waves in a sea that was already both full of life and full of enough oscillations to create it’s own tide.
So I am left wondering what could I have done with those tiny moments that add up to an overwhelming portion of my life. If I had remained true to my creative forces, if I had followed the little murmurs in the back of my mind instead of the amygdala response to my fear of being rejected, I could have made better choices for myself.
I digress; volunteerism and supporting reparations to challenges that we see as unjust or unacceptable is just as crucial to a human existence as creativity, but neither on its own allows one to thrive. We must be true to the divine within us before we can present and share our divinity with the world. Whereas to revel in our own exquisiteness without wielding it to some greater common good is a travesty not only for the creator, but for the created and all of creation. In tandem, being aware of our internal capacities and allowing them to flourish outside of ourselves, this is how great change can occur.
So where does that leave us? Well, I said no to 4 people in the past week and it was excruciating. It felt hard and uncomfortable and even a tad ill-fated but it was worth every awkward moment. I am writing this blog post now, feeling every bit of my insular cortex thriving, having carved this time out the universe’s infinite space. When I feel the cold shoulder of judgement or the snide glance of disapproval, whether it’s actually present or not, I can sit still and confident that just because someone doesn’t like my saying yes to myself, doesn’t mean that it should have been a no.
Saying no allows me to sit in the courtyard of our gorgeous stone-walled library on a Monday morning, breathing in the cool post-rain breeze and sipping my spectacular coffee. I am free to do what I love, to walk to “work” at 10:00 am after having fueled my children and taxied them to school. These choices are not made available to me only for the sake of my boundary setting, but because we have designed the life we want and have worked very hard to create it. We were undoubtedly born with privileges, but silver spoons were not one. We have optimized our privileges, the tools at our disposal and the determination in our minds; and maximized the time we have been gifted to CREATE freedom. And you can too.
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