2015: The Sparkling Possibilities of “The Year of No”

The time period from mid-November to mid-January is always a particularly challenging time for me. Perhaps for you, too, Gentle Reader? I suppose it is for anybody. I think that time span mirrors the busyness and intenseness of harvest time for me, but without the sunshine and the fresh veg from the garden to bolster one’s energy and spirits and mental health, and with the added element of colds and flus that plague most of us during the winter, not to mention the harshness of our usual winter weather here. Catch all that? All the work without many of the perks.

So, if you will picture it: it’s very cold, we are hauling wood and water and feed, trying to keep up with household chores and responsibilities, preparing for several Christmas celebrations, trying to keep the bills paid and the pets alive and the children fed, and taking a few moments every day or two to pamper feet that have gotten too cold while slogging away at daily chores (I soak mine in the hottest water I can stand, with epsom salts, for as long as I can stand, and then I pull on wool socks and go to bed). Never mind laundry and dishes and the need to feed everybody several times per day. That’s all in the daily mix, too.

ALSO we are starting our homeschool drama year during this time, holding auditions, answering questions and emails, organizing schedules and practicing music and designing set. All of this, I love.

Here we're working with the guys last year, on a new song.

Here we’re working with the guys last year, on a new song.

And, well. Of course I don’t want to drop my blog and my writing during this time, so I get up extra-early to get my writing done before the rest of the day begins. My mind is whirling with creative ideas. I wake up thinking about them.

*Phew* It’s a lot.

I was feeling exhausted and spent one day when our college daughter, Bethany, was home for Christmas break. The weather was milder than usual that day, and she and I stole out for a quick walk before dinner. She had just finished a punishing semester at college, had just gotten well from a bad case of the flu, and we both were struggling with exhaustion. We faced the cold wind, and we trudged along on our gravel road, breathing deeply, trying to muster up a bit of energy to finish the day.

Truth is, we were both dreading the next couple of months, trying to figure out a way, you know, to get out of some things that we were feeling like we needed to do, but didn’t want to do. You undoubtedly have these things in your life, too: obligations that either have been thrust upon you and you’ve accepted (perhaps in a weakened state) or responsibilities that you signed up for at one time, but no longer care to keep up. Yet there are good people expecting things out of you . . . you hate to disappoint them . . . you just hate to say No.

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Bethie told me about a chapel speaker at college who shared something with the students one day. She must have been a people pleaser, herself, and I’m sure it was the people pleasers in the audience who were listening to her intently on this day. (The kids in chapel that day that were dozing, I’m sure, never have trouble saying “no” when they need to.) The speaker said that statistics show that only a tiny percentage of the people you know will attend your funeral when you die. Only a small percentage of those folks will cry at your funeral. And only a smaller percentage of them will actually trek out to the graveyard to see you buried.

I simplified the whole message, of course, from what Bethie told me, but as she finished telling me this, I was struck with one thought: why was I working so hard to please people who wouldn’t even show up at my funeral, and then regularly saying no to the people who would be there, crying their eyes out, and who would make the trip out to the graveyard to see my coffin laid into the ground?

Did I think that I was going to disappoint these folks? Was I going to ruin their day if I just said no? Why does it matter so much to me to please everybody? My eyes filled up with tears. What was more important: how busy I could be, how much I could accomplish, or nurturing the relationships with the folks I loved the best?

I really was tired.

I thought of little Mack and how I’d brushed him off that very morning, when he asked if I could sit down on the living room floor and play marbles with him. I was too busy. I had big plans for the day (I always do), the momentum was already driving me, and I put him off. I said maybe later. But then I didn’t get back to him. Little Mack loves me enormously, I know this is true. He’d be at my funeral, no question, crying his little eyes out. (God forbid.)

This guy got new spy glasses for Christmas.

This guy got new spy glasses for Christmas.

I thought of my folks, who regularly remind me to stop by and visit, and how long it had been since I had stopped by to visit for more than just a few minutes. When was the last time I had them over for dinner? I couldn’t even remember it. Yikes. You know that they’d trek out to the graveyard to see me buried.

When was the last time Bryan and I had taken the time to go out for dinner, just the two of us? I couldn’t remember that, either. I was–too–busy.

Yeah, I was keeping up with lots of stuff, but letting my relationships with the people who meant the most to me fall through the cracks. I was taking them for granted. Boo. Boo.

I just felt like bawling. “I’ve got to start saying no,” I said to my daughter, weakly. And I knew that it was true. I was trying to do too much, and I knew it. I could tell it in my body–my sagging shoulders and my regularly-interrupted sleep were a dead giveaway. I could tell it in my spirit–although I had all the kids (and grandkids!) coming home in a few days, I only felt exhaustion, when I should be feeling intense excitement and joy. Bethie was on the same page.We were both bone tired.

(By the way, I rallied. We had a lovely few days together, seasonal weariness notwithstanding!)

Here's the whole kit-n-kaboodle of us.

Here’s the whole kit-n-kaboodle of us.

Right then, we both listed a couple of obligations that we really wanted to say no to, but that we didn’t feel like we could. We both bolstered each other up in these decisions.

“Let’s make 2015 The Year of ‘No’,” I said with a (weak) laugh.

It sounds so counter-intuitive, doesn’t it? Our culture encourages Yes. A constant message is if somebody asks you to do something, you say Yes. Want to succeed? Say Yes. Want to go places, to make a difference, to live life fully? Say Yes. Do it. Stretch. Burn the midnight oil. Succeed, succeed, reach for the stars! There’s absolutely Nothing You Cannot Do!

Only thing is, that attitude has caused many of us to crash and burn. I’d been saying yes to everybody and every opportunity for too long. My schedule has always, always, been o’erbusy. I think in America, for the most part, the busier we are, the prouder we are of ourselves. We brag about how busy we are, about how little sleep we can get by on. Even if we work ourselves until we’re exhausted and spent and grumpy. I’m stealing my daughter’s twitter line from her blog post on The Year of No. Which I hope you make the time to read.

So, there’s the problem. But what–pray tell?–is the answer.

Truth is, I’m not sure what The Year of No looks like yet. But with God’s guidance, I intend to figure it out. I’m going to take it day by day (not worrying about tomorrow, but just taking our troubles one day at a time, is a Jesus-thing) and moment by moment. Decision by decision.

–Matt. 6:34

Here’s what I’m going to do, for starters:

  • I’m going to say “no” to the clutter in our house that is time-consuming and depressing (more on that later). It’ll take awhile . . .
  • I’m going to work on asking for help more often, giving others an opportunity to say Yes to me–ironic, ain’t it? 😉 Effective, thoughtful delegation is the idea here. For example, for years in our theatre program, for example, people have urged me to tell them how they can help, yet it always seems easier to just do it myself: but it’s really not, in many instances.
  • I’m going to read this book, that Bethie recommended. “The Best Yes” by Lysa Terkeurst.
  • I’m going to pray for wisdom and insight in this matter, every day.
  • I’m going to relish the possibilities of the time that will be available to me, if I have the courage to re-claim my schedule. If I have the courage to say No. And you know, I do.

 

“The Best Yes: Making Wise Decisions in the Midst of Endless Demands” by Lysa Terkeurst

A couple more thoughts:

  • I’m not the only one struggling with burn-out and overwhelm. One of my favorite bloggers, the Nester, took a break after she realized that she was lacking in energy and creativity.
  • Here’s something you can do, if you’re struggling with the same thing: you can sign up for this free course on how to regain your creativity: Sign up for this creative course to jump-start your creativity.

That’s it, Gentle Reader. I hope this post encourages you. I hope you join me in The Year of No. I’d love it if you shared this post with some of the handy sharing buttons you see at the end of this post!

*hugs* and Thank you for reading!

19 thoughts on “2015: The Sparkling Possibilities of “The Year of No”

  1. Terry

    What a wonderful time of sharing you had with you daughter. Reflecting on our lives can give us great insight, and a new path to change. I see you have found your path and I wish you much strength and support as you go through the ups and downs of trying to be true to yourself. “Just say no” is important for all of us, it is too easy to fall into the ‘yes’ trap and get burdened down. Glad you had a lovely family get together, such a beautiful family.

  2. Diane Boyko Achatz

    I read the post this morning and tried to comment 3 times, but my internet connection was not cooperative. I’m sure it’s due to the weather…again.

    I think you and your daughter had a very thought provoking walk, and it sounds like a great bonding experience. The tie-in to what I heard on Joel Osteen’s program this morning is something I want to tell you about. As you know, women especially, seem to have a “yes” gene that compels them to be agreeable, even when being agreeable will cause them discomfort. (There’s a whole new topic for you to address). Joel talked about how important it is for those of us who are/or can be “invisible but invaluable”. Not everyone can be the leader, not everyone wants that responsibility; but every good leader has followers. They are the people who uplift and push the leader toward the desired destiny. They are the people who work tirelessly behind the scenes to help bring events together and to help “get the word out”. This is another good reason to say “no” every so often: Whenever you say “yes” to an offer of help, you give that person the chance to be your invisible and invaluable force pushing you toward your destiny. This, in turn, can offer you the chance to say “yes” to the opportunity to push someone else along to their destiny. It’s a beautiful thing!

  3. Lisa Mallis

    A wise coach once told me, “every small no protects your big yes”. You post today has reminded me of this. All those obligations are taking away from your “big yes” – your family and loved ones! I look forward to reading about your year of no!

  4. Christine Gallagher

    I just love this post, I found myself in so many parts of your story and I find that I need to say no more often as well and this just put it into perspective for me. Your daughter taught you something great and it’s even greater that your sharing it as well so thank you. I often find myself telling the ones I love the most no and being so busy trying to do for others who as you said will not be there in the end. It’s time for a change , thanks so much for sharing your story.

  5. Jenn

    As a mom with kids with special needs, it feels like I have 10 sometimes. So, I can sympathize with you.
    I learned to say no and only do the things I know will benefit my children and me in some way – emotionally, spiritually or financially.

    Sometimes, I’m still tempted to do more, but I quickly remember the overwhelm.

    1. dramamamafive Post author

      Jenn, God bless you. I know how tight your time must be, and how important it has to be for you to keep some margin in your life, by saying no to things that are not really important.

  6. Joan Harrington

    Hi Amy,

    Loved your post today! As I was reading, I was thinking that yes I too need to make 2015 the year for saying “NO”, as I tend to say “YES” way too often as well 🙂

    Great pictures btw, always enjoy reading your posts, they always make me smile, and loved the pic of you and your family 🙂

    Thank you for always sharing your “life” with us readers!

    Hugs,
    Joan

  7. Jan

    You touched a topic close to my heart, making in time for what really matters. 7 years ago, I lost my niece, Jessica in an automobile accident. She was just beginning her Senior year of high school. My sons were in 13 and 15, at the time. In that instant, my life changed. What became crystal clear was how important family is and how we take life for granted. A month after we lost Jessica, my son received his Driver’s license. Still reeling from loss of Jessica, I had to accept that my son could walk out that door and never see him alive, again. That was out of my control, but well within God’s – always has been. With that acceptance came the desire to make the moments count and have no regrets. I never fail to let my family know how much I love them. I take the opportunity to spend quality time with my family when it presents it’s self. When they leave, it’s with a hug, kiss and an earnest “I love you”. I make time to visit my parents at least once a week, even if it’s for an hour. Dad just turned 80 this past summer. Both my parents are in good health and I am so grateful for that but I know I won’t have them forever. When that time comes to say good bye, it will be with no regrets, no missed opportunities or words not spoken.
    “No” isn’t so hard for me to say anymore. I know where I want to invest my time.

    1. dramamamafive Post author

      Jan,
      How encouraging this is to me. I’ve seen others go through tragic events, and then come out of them completely changed and with different priorities. Thank you for writing this down. This is where I am, too. I’m trying to learn to say “no” so there will be no regrets about the relationships and the things that are most important.

  8. Chef William Chaney

    For most of my life I lived a life somewhat like the one you are living. Couldn’t say no to my career, had to fly somewhere for two weeks at a time, month after month..tried to cram 36 hours of living into a 24 hour day, day after day, year after year..And my wife, working even harder, trying to raise the family, cramming even more hours into her day…getting up in the middle of the night to clean the house, prepare food for the family then working two jobs to keep up with expenses to pay for items we didn’t need…..
    Now it is Mexico, where we spent 6 months last year and have came back to sell our home and return to Mexico to stay starting next month…Our biggest joy is that we can be very active in our church work, we can spend hours visiting friends and family without once looking at a watch or clock and A roster is our alarm clock….and “Keep it simple” is our motto. Will anyone come to my funeral other than my wife and perhaps her brothers and sisters………..I don’t know, and because I will be dead, I’m not going to let it bother me…..
    The sooner one starts saying no, the easier it will become. Once you have mastered it, can can say no to both small things and those that appear to be not so small, the sooner you can start to enjoy the limited amount of time we have in this life.
    Oh ya, one more thing, all I want on my tombstone “He Lived”

  9. Pete Kowpak

    Amy,
    After reading your post and pondering all the responses that the people who read your blogs it seems to me that it all boils down to one thing, what, who and why you do for are the ones that are the most important things in your life. Learning to say no to anyone outside of this close knit group of “the most important people in your life” just may be the hardest thing in life to come to terms with. Constantly thinking about “well if I don’t do for this person means they will not do for me” will achieve to constant doubting in yourself of what you can or can’t do. This leads to a lower self esteem and the realization that you can only rely on one person, and that is yourself. I have had to come to terms that my abilities are diminishing the older that I get and all the people that I have helped in the past aren’t there for me, so saying no when I need their help has been very hurtful and spiteful. Do I regret helping people when they needed it? Certainly not, because I know that God will never forget what I have done, and I will receive tenfold what I have done for those that I have done for, this helps to keep my mind from “going in circles”. Well, enough ramblings from a tired, disabled old man who thinks he has seen and experienced more than most people, when in fact that he hasn’t, but has come to realize that there is only one human that he can truly depend on, and that is hisself. My apologies in advance if I have gone off the subject a tad bit, have a blessed day.

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