Help! Note to self: I need to really learn to say “no”.
I am the type of person that says “yes” to a lot of things, asks, and favors. I have been working on learning to say “no.” My workload just can’t take much more. I am like one of those Jenga games waiting for that final piece to topple it over. I am cognizant of this state of being and have been working on it this past year.
Yesterday, I was at a meeting where the people were all sorts of bat sh&t insane. Their demands were ludicrous and they had no idea how they were coming off as tyrants. They all argued with each other and took unnecessary pot shots at each other. I sat there wondering why I was subjecting myself to this environment. I was a volunteer. We all were at this meeting. Yet, the workload expectations were no appropriately aligned. Because I often volunteered to help up with many past tasks, they kept looking at me in this meeting whenever there was a new task. At times, I was seething inside. Although, I managed to maintain a calm exterior disposition.
See, the thing is I’m a nice person. Modest as well. I kid. Well, not really. People come to me because I am nice, smart and competent. It’s not their fault that others are not this way and most obviously they do not know what is on my plate. You can’t blame people for asking. I can, however, blame myself for saying “yes”. I own that situation. Yet, I have been learning to say “no.” I am just not very good at it yet.
Because I had prepared myself beforehand, I said “no” twice at this meeting. It was great. I said it forcefully and with conviction. I would not be swayed. When someone else then agreed to help out, the lady next to me said “oh that is great! Now you don’t have that on your plate.” I turned to her and for the group to hear and said “It was never on my plate. That was your fantasy.” Another lady at the end of the table looked at me smiling and nodding. She knew I had, had enough and looked proud of my new state of being.
I did well the rest of the meeting. I did not take on any more projects. The problem came afterwards once the meeting was over. A really nice individual who is working hard to help women in Africa overcome barriers healthcare access asked if I could be on the board of her organization. I hesitated and then said “yes.” Internally, I was shaking my head at myself. I wondered what had I just done? I went back to my office and I agreed to talk with someone over their career options. I did, however, schedule it at a time that I would be walking from one place to another in the city. New Yorkers have learned to use walking time as meeting time as well. It is sad that we fill up every moment of our lives in this way. Since I was seven years old I have absolutely enjoyed walking the streets of New York. Nowadays, sadly, those walks are filled with useless, annoying, or intense conversations. I no longer truly focus on the side streets of New York where you are bound to find all sorts of odd people, places and things.
Once I got home, I took a lovely bath where I caught up with emails. A new colleague and potential collaborator sent me a request to help review some research grant applications in what is ostensibly my area of expertise. I sighed, closed my emails and rested. At 4am, when I could no longer sleep, I read my emails and agreed to be a reviewer. I did come to an agreement with myself over my morning cup of coffee. For every “yes” there has to also be a “no.”
That is progress!