So, many of you know that I got a call a few weeks back. On a Tuesday morning. My friend,
Rosio called and asked for help. She had two 20’ something year old Ukranian women who
were here in Mexico — while they awaiting approval of their asylum paperwork to enter USA,
given their home country of the Ukraine is war-torn with an unknown future for everyone, and
particular for the younger generation.
Without even a blink, I said, “yes”.
Still not blinking, I said, “when will they arrive?” She said, “I’ll have them at your house in an
hour.” And so it began.
This got me thinking about when we say yes, and when we say no… our reasons for doing so,
and, well… how that’s working for us.
Because sometimes we say yes and sometimes we say no, and although it may not feel like
there is a rhyme or reason to it. I think there actually is BOTH rhyme and reason.
Here, let me give you a couple examples.
Example #1 goes something like this: Someone calls in a crisis and asks for your help. Your
throat gets tight because you don’t have the time nor energy to be their rescue remedy, but you
feel like you can’t say no, so you suck it up, cancel your plans (even if your plan was to do
nothing, you still and maybe especially feel disappointed)…. you grab your keys — and out the
door you go.
Or… here’s another example: you come home exhausted from work and it’s your night to cook
dinner, and all you want to do is take a hot bath. But you said you’d do it. And everyone is
depending on you to feed them.
Can you say no? I mean, really…. Can you say no?
Well you can… but you might doubt whether or not it’s the right thing to do, and you may even
doubt your right to do so. You might think that by saying no to your family, you are somehow
putting yourself above others.
I’ve got news for you :: THAT simply is not true.
It’s not true, because what you are really doing is this: You are actually sharing the platform of
priority between yourself and those you love by saying no. Not always — and it takes some
practice saying no to navigate your way, but the truth is that sometimes saying no to something
little and short-term is saying yes to having an open heart, more energy, clear vision and
emotional availability to those or that which you love — in the long run.
But the flip side — Exhaustion? Resentment? Fatigue? Nobody wins if your “yes” leads you to
any of these.
One of my favorite authors, the late John O’Donahue says — and I paraphrase here, so please
forgive me, that emotional maturity is one’s ability to hold two seemingly opposing perspectives
at the same time — and to hold both of them as truths: I’ll say it differently: to be able to hold
“both / and” and to know that both are actually true — and both can be true, THIS is emotional maturity. As if to say, I am saying no now, because it always me to say a bigger (and better) yes later.
So let’s say you decide to say no… to the crisis (especially if it’s minor), or to dinner.
Let’s be clear, shall we?
No is a complete sentence.
And it’s much more effective when it isn’t tethered to a whole bunch of shame and blame and “I
always”, “you never”. All that is essentially nonsense.
No, and a plan for the future: A conscious, adult, emotionally mature plan for a) repaying the
debt if your “no” puts your responsibility on someone else and b) negotiating terms for how to
create wiggle room around the “no” in the future and c) creative thinking for the future so there
are less let downs and more full-body yes moments (This is possible, by the way.)
Another thing, I probably should tell you. This saying no business might be hard at first. You
might feel like (or it might actually be true) that you are letting someone down. And that is
hard. And it doesn’t feel good, especially when the ones who feel let down are people we care
deeply about. But, part of getting right with our truth is knowing that life is dynamic and that
sometimes a hard no might be necessary. It’s like putting on the brakes while careening
downhill. It might leave some marks and create some smoke, and even smell, but it’s gotta be
done — because the alternative is not a sustainable option.
Here’s the thing. If you want to make room for living the life you are hungry to be living…the life
that TRULY longs to live through you… you’ve got to make space for it: Packing your schedule
totally tight isn’t sustainable, and quite frankly, it isn’t honest.
So, I’m going to lay this out, bullet point style…. to keep it simple and easy-is to implement.
Learn to say no. Say no to the little things. The things that aren’t life or death. The things that
might feel like a crisis to another but likely aren’t going to even be remembered as a blip in
one’s life five years from now.
Take responsibility for your choice. Say something like, “I understand that it’s my night to
make dinner, and it’s important that I keep my commitments and that we share the load of this
family, and tonight, I am sorry, but I am completely exhausted, and I am asking for your support
— can we trade nights? or might you gift me this night so I can take a bath and go to bed?” You
invite someone else into the conversation, but not the decision. The decision is no — and so
you take your no, and you head toward the bathtub. (because you love yourself this much.)
Make a plan for how to mitigate the problem in the future :: that might mean you re-organize
and re-prioritize your schedule, or if it’s a family or work thing, you involve those who are
affected also. But either way, you notice your patterns and you consciously put in place
mechanisms (and space) so there is room for flexibility, helping each other out, and… for saying
Know that it’s not always going to be easy to say No. No isn’t easy because it most often
means that someone important to us (or whose opinion of us is important) may feel let down.
No is hard at first, but when you see that saying no to the less-important-in-the-long-run-things
frees your energy, time and resources up for you to say yes to the big-hearted-and-better things in life, you’ll find that the end result is actually more generous and leads you to being more
emotional availability, open-hearted and clear in the future.
Fill YOUR well. Some say “put your oxygen mask on first”, while others say things like “self-
care isn’t selfish”. Whatever the language is — get right with the truth that when your well is full,
you give from a completely different place than when you give from a place of exhaustion, need,
shame, guilt or desire to be loved or seen as worthy in the eyes of another. When you FILL
your well, you give what is already abundant in you, and overflowing from you. Then, when you
are full, the same sort of situation may arise — the situation where you said no before — and
perhaps it is even the exact same ask from the exact same person, but this time your whole
body yes is, well… a real “YES”… not a resentful, hesitant, frustrated, exhausted yes.
Sister, when you give for the sake of giving… you drop your agenda. You STOP expecting
someone to appreciate what you do for them, and/or do something for you in return. You give
purely for the sake of giving. THIS is unconditional love (and it’s actually the only that IS love…
everything else is a farce). And it is pure magic — because THIS kind of giving also FILLS the
well. It literally feels like some sort of magic trick.
But that’s how love is.
So — here’s the deal. All these big names: Glennon Doyle. Tara Brach. Deepak Chopra.
Gabby Bernstein. Mark Hyman. Elizabeth Gilbert. Jay Shetty. Martha Beck. Oprah. Lewis
Howell. Katie Couric. :: They are ALL going to tell you the same thing.
You gotta say no from time to time.
And you gotta get right with saying no.
Because THEN when the big ask comes knocking at your door…. you are gonna know it without
even a blink, and you’re going to feel a whole body YES — backed by a whole lot more energy,
clarity, direction, and love… all overflowing for you to give.
This is when everyone wins.
So, back to my Ukrainian angels. They were here with me for a while — and during their time
they received asylum… and so they have since continued on their journey. And I am certain
that my ability to say yes with zero hesitation, zero thought, and clear knowing — not for a
second wondering how I’d do it all, or how long they’d be in my care, or any of that — was truly
and completely related to my previous practice of No, and my inner knowing that, a) I have a
right to say no, and b) that my learning how to navigate a good “no” set me up for being able to
answer the knock at the door with my arms and heart wide open.
For more on learning to when to say NO, listen to this week’s podcast ::HERE::, and be sure to grab my Healthy Daily Routine Checklist below.