I keep a pretty detailed bullet journal. For those of you who don't know what that is, it's basically a little notebook I carry around with me 24/7, and it's a combination of a calendar, a to-do list and a journal (if you're interested, I can do a post explaining how I use it!). Last week, on a day I found myself particularly frustrated with some of my interpersonal relationships, I wrote, "Stop saying 'yes' to things — and people — you don't like" on that day's page in the journal.
I've mentioned before that I recently started going to therapy. One of the things my therapist Sarah and I discussed just before the holidays is my apparent discomfort with the word "no." I was talking to her about a recent spat I had with some friends after I bailed on lunch plans we'd made because I was feeling really overwhelmed with all the things I needed to get done that day, and I simply had to wipe my calendar. We got into a bit of an argument afterward, which left me feeling really bad — and sad — the entire rest of the day. This led Sarah to ask me why I felt like I'd needed to say yes to these lunch plans in the first place, when I knew I had so many things to do that day and was probably going to end up canceling the plans. I didn't have an answer for her.
I think a lot of people are afraid of the word "no." We don't like to say it and we don't like to hear it. We plan our lives around avoiding it. Many of us would rather lie to our friends or make excuses for why we can't do something instead of just telling the truth. We're afraid of disappointing people. I also think we're afraid of disappointing ourselves. Saying "no" to something means we're admitting maybe we aren't the people we pretend to be on social media. We're not necessarily the fun-loving, spontaneous, mysterious creatures who have dozens of friends and never get tired of hanging out with them.
One thing Sarah always mentions is self awareness. If I was self aware enough to know I wasn't prepared for that lunch with those friends, then it was healthy for me to be honest with myself and them about not being able to make it. If I had gone, I would have probably expended the very little energy I had on that gathering, and it would've thrown me off for days, maybe even all week. And I knew that, so I said no. It ended poorly and led to a disagreement, but I'm still glad I did it.
And that's the thing about "no." It's not a negative word. It can be a really positive, freeing one. It can mean that you're being honest with yourself and the people you love. It can mean you're taking care of yourself, which is something so few of us actually take time to do.
Recently, I invited my friend Vicki to a Christmas party I was throwing at my apartment. She lives in Dallas, and I'm in Austin. She messaged me after she got the Facebook invite, saying that she would come to my party, but she had just read Shonda Rhimes "Year of Yes" and she decided to have her "Year of No." I laughed, but I'm with her. I haven't read the book yet, but a "year of yes" sounds exhausting. So here's to 2017, the Year of No.