“No.” Jelly Bean, 9 months old, said her very first word a few days ago! It was very clear (and very much a product of having three older brothers who like to scream that word incessantly) – said in the context of me taking away the graham cracker she was powdering the floor with. You do not get between that girl and her food. She was still her pleasant adorable self but a steely look came into her eye as she said it again, this time with more force. “NO.” And then she spitup blueberries down the front of her clean dress.
I could learn a few things from Little Sister. And not just how to barf with class. I’m terrible at saying no. It’s the curse of the people pleaser – if someone deigns to ask you to do something for them, you say yes and thank them for the privilege. If I were perfect at this, I would be sainted by now and Mother Theresa and I would be swapping tips over whatever it is people drink in heaven. As you should know by now though, I am a case study of Imperfect.
My problem is that I often say “yes” when I know I should say “no” and then passive-aggressively take it out on the asker. Consider my ex-boyfriend Julian. He wanted to get married. I wanted to be 19 and unencumbered. So when the time came to move him into the “ex” category, did I just (wo)man up and tell him no, I would not marry him? Of course not! I made up an elaborate lie about how my dad (I’m sorry dad!) had gotten cancer (I’m sorry cancer sufferers!) and I had to drop out of school to go home to Chicago (I’m sorry Windy City!) to care for him. I even managed to eke out a few tears as I explained why our love could never be.
The lie worked brilliantly for about a week. Until he called to ask my roommate for a forwarding address to which he could send a card and she said, “Charlotte’s right here. Why don’t you ask her yourself?” and handed me the phone. Um, awkward. Talk about the worst way ever to break up with someone. A simple no would have been better all around.
Fortunately I’m thirteen years past that atrocity and can laugh about it now. (Hopefully he’s somewhere laughing about it too and not throwing darts at my face.) But I still have a ridiculously hard time saying no. So you will be very proud of me when I tell you that I got an e-mail to try out a super duper cool new fitness gadget that tracks your calories and energy expended and sleep patterns and everything… and I turned it down. While it made me sad to turn my back on a cutting edge fitness gadget, I knew in my heart of hearts that using it would undo all the hard work I’ve done these past few months. I’ve finally broken that cycle of tracking every bit of food in and every drop of sweat out. And I can’t go back to that again and keep my sanity.
I said no.
It didn’t feel good. I’m one of those chronic second-guessers. When I’m bored waiting in lines, for fun I’ll go over all my past mistakes and try out different scenarios until I find one that would have been better or until my number at the pharmacy comes up. And so the second after I sent the e-mail I panicked. What if it turns out to be the next IT thing and I missed the boat? What if all the other cool bloggers try it out and rave about it and I look lame and out of touch? What if it would have given me the body of my dreams??
But then today I felt good about it. Because saying no to this one thing is actually saying yes to taking care of myself. Yes to listening to and trusting my body. Yes to eating ice cream, sometimes. Yes to skipping a workout, sometimes.
Possibly related to the Yes: This morning I stepped on the scale and it was up two pounds. Instead of my usual closet-crying and day of mourning routine, I looked in the mirror and thought, “It’s wrong. I feel awesome. I look great!”
Do you have a hard time saying no too? What do you say no to in order to say yes to your health? Anyone else ever broke up with an ex in a really cruel way?