If you can’t say no, what does your yes mean?
My life before suffering an AFE was busy. I was a wife, mom, held a part-time job as an education director, spoke nationally, was on boards and committees, attended gala’s and conferences, and volunteered for organizations. When I suffered the amniotic fluid embolism, I was given strict instruction from my doctors to do nothing but sit on a couch and rest. For this girl who never sat still, I wondered if I would go stir crazy. Because I was more interested in surviving, I did as my doctors said and found that life in relaxation mode offered me FREEDOM! So much freedom, I was even able to write my book.
It made me realize that maybe the way I was living before wasn’t really living. I was so stressed and busy all the time. And maybe before the AFE is when I was merely surviving—just trying to get through each busy day without having a mental, emotional, or spiritual breakdown. And as I say this, I know this is how most of us live—jumping from one thing to another—waking up sometimes wishing the day was over before it began.
This time last year, I was free to just be with my family without feeling the guilt of not doing all the things I somehow throughout the years signed myself up for. All of which were great and noble endeavors, but ones that consumed my time and energy. While I was sick, I had the perfect excuse of recovery and felt the freedom to just say no.
What I realized is that I (like all of you) am an unrepeatable person to my family but a repeatable person on boards, committees, speaking , etc. I used to think I had to say yes to everything for fear that no one else could do it—whatever “it” was at the time, but when I had to say no, people moved on to asking others to take my spot, and the truth is I was elated! I felt free—free to just be with my family and even though we often did nothing, it was something special to us. And for every time I said no, there was a bigger yes to those who matter the most, those who need to see my face and hear my voice—my family.
As life has become busy again, I am trying my hardest to pace myself and allow myself to say no even when things seem so appealing. When I see my weekends begin to get busy with speaking, book-signings, birthday parties, bridal and baby showers, I block out weekends where I give myself permission to not make any plans so that Doug, Brady, Ella and I can be together without having to rush off to several different events. It gets harder and harder to schedule family time, but I know that this is the joy of being alive—that in the clarity of my perspective sitting on a couch last year recovering, there was nothing I wanted more than to be with my husband, see my children grow, and spend time with my extended family and friends.
Saturday, Doug was watching the football game on mute while Brady, Doug and I sang at the top of our lungs any song with hand motions—the Itsy Bitsy Spider, MmmAhh Went the Little Green Frog, If You’re Happy and You Know It, etc. This we were doing solely to entertain little Ella who was walking around clapping and yelling out of true excitement and joy. Her joy was contagious because Brady was laughing so hard he could hardly catch his breath. Doug and I were giggling and smiling just basking in this moment hoping this would be one of those moments our children might remember when they think back to family life.
It’s funny that when I really was in survival mode last year that it was the time I was truly living the most—cherishing every moment. Now that I am not in survival mode, there have been weeks that I say, “I can’t wait for this busy week to be over,” doing whatever I can to survive it. You would think after dying and coming back to the land of the living that I wouldn’t want any week to just pass, and the truth is I don’t. I want to live them to their fullest, but I find myself overwhelmed and overloaded. Saturday with the children was a reminder that the only way my life will get less busy is if I make it that way. I am in control, and for every no I have to say to trim back on all my activities, it is just a bigger yes to Doug, Brady and Ella.
Whether you are involved in several activities, running children from soccer game to dance, working, volunteering, etc, give yourself permission to cut things out of your life, and when you worry that no one can take your place, realize that the only people you are unrepeatable to are your family and friends. Let’s live each day making time—and I mean real quality time to spend with those we love and make everything secondary to that. We must give ourselves permission to live fully, be silly with the people we love, relax without hesitation or guilt and say no even to things that sound really good, but take up too much of our precious time. Time is what we have been given. Whether you live through tomorrow or to be one hundred, in the grand scheme of things, life will be short and once it is gone, it’s gone. Every moment that passes we will never get back, so let’s make every day count. Who are the people in your life who need you to say no so that your able to give them the bigger yes—the “yes” of your time and energy?
Note: Reprinted on Life Site News on October 5, 2011