Before the pandemic, I was away from home five nights out of seven. I was busy attending networking, volunteer, or social events, or maybe teaching a class, or giving a reading or presentation. My days were full, as well. Too full. Even before the lockdown, I could feel myself wearing out, but I loved everything I was doing and I believed it was all important, and it was.
Then the pandemic came along, and we were all forced to slow down. I hated that. There were days I’d stare out the window wishing I could get back out in the world. But then I started to get used to my slower pace and to see the value in having more time to myself. I still didn’t like it, but I could appreciate it.
Now that things are opening up, I’m starting to get the invites again, not just to events but also to take part in projects or do more volunteer work. The other day, I was telling my husband some of the things I was considering but wasn’t sure I had the energy to do. He said, “Don’t do it. Don’t jump back into the yes mess.”
Though my first reaction any time my husband opens his mouth is to chuckle at his funny turns of phrase, this time his words really hit home. As normal as it felt pre-pandemic to be so busy, so productive, so needed and appreciated, I’d reach the end of each day drained and yet feeling like I hadn’t done enough. What if I could now develop the strength to resist my do-it-all nature and actually learn to say no more often?
So, I did. I said no to three things last week. And then what? I had to say no to the twinge of guilt I felt in doing so. And no to my fear of boredom and my over-developed sense of obligation and my desire to always, always support my friends and the causes I care about.
“Say ‘no’ more,” the experts tell us, as if it’s as easy as just hitting delete on that e-mail invitation. Maybe it is for some people, but it never has been for me. No one ever taught me how to delete the negative self-talk that comes from feeling like if I don’t attend that networking event, I’m hurting my business; and if I don’t attend that fundraiser, I’m letting the organizers down; and if I don’t attend the party, I’m disappointing my friends.
It’s going to take a while before I get comfortable with saying “no,” but being uncomfortable is how we grow. So, I’ll keep practicing until I find the balance that works for me and my business. A balance that allows me to fill my vessel enough to do some good, but not so much it’s too heavy to carry.
Teresa R. Funke
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