Learning how to say, “no.” There is an old saying that if you want something done ask a busy person. The reason being that they know how to organize their lives and can fit any number of projects to help others.
I used to be one of those people. Always saying, “yes.”
I remember when the boys were in elementary school, the PTA president was putting together a new committee and she called me.
“Will you be on this committee? I know you’re a worker,” she said.
And of course I did say,” yes.”
In truth at that time in my life I was trying to integrate the boys and myself into a typical school environment. Since both boys have autism I wanted to show the school-parents that we were a family that didn’t just care about our own issues, but wanted to care about ALL the children. Thought it would get the boys acceptance, maybe a friend or two. But in hindsight was I wrong.
So I was the classroom mom, headed several committees in elementary and middle school, and even became a member of the executive committee of the high school PTA. I also volunteered to be a parent member, basically a guide for those with newly designated children, which on many occasions, ironically, put me at odds with the school system.
I remember one highly educated parent I knew, actually said to me that I get what I want for my children because I am part of the PTA clique that controls the schools. Not only did I never think of myself as part of a clique, my boys received what they did because they were that needy and it is the law.
Interesting how even intelligent highly educated people need some kind of conspiracy in order to explain normal reality.
Then, “yes” I got involved in a twitter based support group (organized by a woman who still has her business) and ran those twice a week. Plus I started a blogtalk radio show on special needs, was writing my autism blog, plus joining a political blogging group.
And inbetween all of this were the boys’ needs; the therapists, the social skills, the regular religion classes, the extra lessons in everything from tennis to horseback riding to piano. I remember one year I simply didn’t leave the car for hours every day running them back and forth and to and fro.
I also needed to spend time and support the hubby in his quick pace, heavily intense job.
Then I had an epiphany. I learned how to say,”no.”
The boys needed downtime after school.
Every charity didn’t need my help.
I liked the twitter sphere, but enough was enough with being a part of someone else’s dream. I decided to do start my own dream business with my own time.
I ended the radio show too.
I stayed with the political blogging group for a little while longer, but that too ended when I realized that I wasn’t having any fun. It was an unpaid situation.
Then almost four years ago my father was diagnosed with the wrong illness and all hell broke loose. Mom and dad said not to come. It wasn’t so bad. But “yes” I went to Florida after a terrible dream.
Dad died 4 days later.
Mom was left alone and she needed support. (Luckily I have two sisters who could help.)
So there was another level of care and support. Silly me thought I had years before that came about.
“Yes” the sandwich generation.
Your parents took good care of you as a child and now it was time to give back.
This is when you cannot and should not say “no.”
So there was the need for a new,”yes.”
“Yes” every few months I would travel to Florida to see how mom was really doing. Video chat doesn’t always tell the whole story. My sisters and I took turns. One of us went every month.
The boys grew up.
While they needed support, and continue to need support, it was not the same as when they were little. They are mostly independent in their daily lives, with some modicum of support. But it is not me they want for that. What grown man wants to be seen with his “mommy?” So we have an educational consultant who specializes in autism there to help them. And yes they still see therapists and doctors, but not anywhere near the run-run-run of their younger years. (PS, no they can’t go themselves. I do take them to doctor appointments. Read my autism blog if you want a fuller explanation.)
The hubby needed me to be there for him, especially after the economic meltdown. The world turned upside down and everything that had been worked for, for over three decades, disappeared seemingly overnight.
“Yes” it was gone, all gone.
Meanwhile, I had tried to start a business doing autism parent coaching. Received counseling for starting a business from SCORE. A free program through the US Department of Labor- open to anyone. They said “yes” to helping me. That was really nice. They were smart, kind, helpful, and very knowledgeable.
Then I broke my leg. Tripped down my front stoop, because I was in a rush, wasn’t thinking and was too busy saying,”yes” again to everyone.
Now I couldn’t say “yes” at the same level as before for almost 6 months while I healed and went through physical therapy. At least after 2 months I could drive, luckily I didn’t break my driving leg.
So others had to say “yes” to me for a while and those “yeses” from the boys stuck.
Meanwhile, hadn’t been to Florida to see mom for months because of the leg, so I went down to Florida for her birthday. “Yes” we would Facetime every day but it wasn’t the same thing. Couldn’t get those hugs.
“Yes” mom decided it was time to sell the house and move in with us.
We were excited she said,”yes.”
Then mom was killed in a car accident one year ago, just one week after formulating our new plans.
And another level of “yes” came into being.
Deciding “yes” mom should be left to not suffer. “Yes” hospice was the right answer.
“Yes” I am the healthcare proxy.
“Yes” I am the trustee of her Living Trust.
“Yes” I have to deal with the lawyers, the government and the bill collectors.
“Yes” the other people in the accident filed notice of claims against her.
Thankfully one of the people settled with the insurance company.
“Yes” I’ll be happy to work with the insurance company assigned lawyer in dealing with the other claimant.
And in the middle of everything I had to take care of myself too.
“Yes” I had my mammogram on time.
“Yes” do the biopsies.
“Yes” remove the seemingly funky breast tissue, even though the biopsies showed no cancer.
“Yes” I have breast cancer.
“Yes” to radiation and immunotherapy.
“Yes” to staying healthy, exercising and taking care of me.
As much as we do learn to say “no.” Life does seem to have other plans for us.
They tell you that spontaneous acting is all about saying “yes” to the situation. I think in many ways that is what we need to do when we are thrown curveballs into our lives. These ups and downs are spontaneous and we need to say “yes” to handle the situation.
But we also need to say “no” when everything that is not important, or when people try to take advantage, come along. It’s knowing just when to say “no” and “yes” that is one of life’s mysteries.