I’m a yes-woman. Saying no doesn’t come naturally to me. You might think that is the cornerstone of every problem that has haunted my life from alcohol and drugs to men to religions to perpetual weight struggles. And you might be right about most of those things. “Just say no” cure for alcoholism and addiction is the exception.
I suspect that Chuck C was right when he said that alcoholism is like pregnancy. You aren’t more pregnant in the 1st day than the 180th. It just shows more by then. People can tell by looking that you are going to have a baby. Same way with alcoholism, I think. I was born an alcoholic; by the time I was 40, it was visible to the naked eye that I am an alkie. Saying no wouldn’t have stopped that debacle.
But the inability to say no has created havoc and wrecked plans, sidetracking my life in little and big ways. “Stop and smell the roses” was a key phrases in my early adulthood. It’s a great idea if you stop, smell, and get back to work. That’s the part that I ignored. Get back to work. I’m not saying I’m a slacker. I’m not. I’ve stayed employed and employable for most of my life.
I’m saying that when the work required no to distraction and yes to self-discipline, when I didn’t get immediate gratification from doing the work, I stopped, smelled roses, rolled in the clover, and went in search for more roses. That derailed the college career. The good thing is that it resulted in my finding work that supports me today in body, mind and spirit. Although God made applesauce out of my sour apples, I’ve not summoned the self-restraint to finish school.
My meandering from a life plan has made it difficult for me to maintain lasting relationships. When the going got tough, I got going in the opposite direction. Saying yes without regard to the long-term impacted my life in ways that still create shock waves. Bless John Russo’s heart for staying the distance as my friend and husband through a marriage when it would have been cheaper and easier to take the kids and run.
Saying yes when a considered no would be better is a daily problem. When asked to help with time or money, I leap right in. You would think that’s a good thing and it often is. It’s when I have that “look at me, look at me” attitude that there are hidden costs. After I expressed that doing and running exhausted me, a good friend asked me if there might be ego involved in my personal rescue campaign. How insulting was that?! Ego? Ego!?! How dare she? I was appalled!
There was ego involved.
It was easier for me to act as a banker and chauffeur than ask someone else to help or just say no. I was the hero, the Lone Ranger. When I looked at it that way, it changed the way I heard requests for help. It doesn’t mean that I refuse requests for help unilaterally, but I don’t pull on the cape and tights, rip off the glasses, and sweep in as Super Margaret. When I help, I am doing so because I want to help, not because of appearance or control.
GE told me once I am passive aggressive. I was horribly insulted internally when I heard those words, smiled outwardly at her honesty, and pointedly ignored her for the next few hours. That’s my picture next to the definition of passive aggressive. My MO is to say yes when I want to say no but don’t want to look bad and then to snipe and act obnoxious while granting the request. That’s the hidden cost of my money loans or gracious help when I don’t reflect on whether I’m doing MY will or God’s.
I started asking God first before saying yes when I found that I was changing churches, civic organizations and AA groups because I had over-extended my time and energy. I used to say I was asking God, but that was to make me look good. I love appearances more than reality.
It was after I recognized I was dumping the whole banana split rather than stepping aside or asking for assistance, that I began determining if I was going for God’s will or making Magnanimous Me look great. And since I sound like God’s helpful ventriloquist when I’m intoning God’s will, I usually cross check with my best friend who has watched the I’m melting routine when I bankrupted my energy.
I attempt to say “yes” to those things that are important to me: my family and close friends who are my extended family. A text from my older grand-daughters is like getting a peppermint candy when my mouth is dry. Seeing a FB message from any one of the people I love makes me smile and hits my reset button. Seeing GE’s name on an incoming call makes me loudly shush anyone who’s trying to talk. There’s a deep wellspring of joy that bubbles up when I am with the people I love. Why would I deny myself the pleasure of their company? That would be crazy, wouldn’t it? But I have done that when I am a human doing and not a human being.
That’s when it’s a good time to stop, step away from the YES, and smell some roses.