One of my friends didn’t like the title of this blog.
“I’m working on saying “no” more,” she said. “I think I say yes too often, and I end up doing things I’m not passionate about.”
We were on the playground, our kids leaning back on a tire swing, lolling crazily from one side to another. It was SoCal weather, not cold or hot, cloudy with no chance of rain.
I thought about her critique. I opened my mouth, and then shut it. Because at first, I had no real answer. I struggle with that problem too.
The thing is, these yeses we both struggle with? They are the wrong yeses.
I’ll say yes to things that I think other people want me to do, or that are expected from “good” people, or that provide easy solutions to complicated problems. Or complicated solutions to easy problems. I’ll say yes to lovely things that just aren’t right for me.
Instead, I’m trying to say yes to the right things: the scary things, the ones that take personal discipline and awareness, the ones that no one is going to congratulate me for, the ones that are fulfilling and joyful but off the beaten path. The ones that meet real needs.
Let me give you a for instance. A few weeks ago, a friend invited me to go a Pilates class. She’s a dear person, one I’d like to get to know better. The class was down the street from my house–a five-minute walk–and the price was reasonable.
I get a lot of walking exercise, living where I do, but not a lot of exercise exercise. Pre-kids, I used to do Pilates on my own, to a video I loved, but having the time to carve out even fifteen minutes of video seemed daunting when I wasn’t getting sleep.
But things have changed, and an hour class was doable. I loved meeting my friend and exercising together. Of course, the class kicked my butt; I was sore for days afterwards.
And I thought seriously for a while about adding it to my schedule twice a week and making a priority out of getting my body back into better shape. I think it’s important to spend time and money on oneself when it’s a real need–we could fit the class in our budget of time and money.
I felt like I should do it, because our society says that “exercise” and “fitness” should be a big priority. Also, because the challenge of getting better at the class seemed exciting. I didn’t want to say “no” to something just because I wasn’t very good at it.
But then, I decided to say no anyway. Because the truth was, I didn’t like the class better than my old routine on a DVD I already owned. I liked connecting with my friend, but I’d get more out of going to coffee with her. I could have carved out that hour, but an hour would have meant giving up other things that are more important. Like sleep. Even though our society says exercise is more important than sleep, I don’t really agree.
The truth was, I now have time and energy to do my old Pilates routine during the day. I could even fit it into the precious minutes when the girls are playing together, leaving my minutes alone free.
And here’s the most important part. I followed through. I’m practicing Pilates every other day. The whole routine takes about fifteen minutes, start to finish. I’m already noticeably stronger, but the time commitment is low enough that it doesn’t feel onerous.
It’s the best kind of yes: it’s little, but the results are already big. It feels good to be taking better care of myself–and even better keeping my priorities straight.