When I was in Seminary, a wise man who's job it was to help us to have good life/work/school balance gave me some advice. He told me to quit things that weren't life giving. He told me to say no, sometimes. He gave me permission to not always do everything. As a professional extrovert and recovering people pleaser, this was a hard thing for me to learn. I felt like I had to say yes to in order to maintain my popularity and friends and status as an ENFP (personality type by Myers-Briggs, which I embody to a T), etc, and that saying no would send me into a tailspin where I would inevitably be alone in my apartment with nothing to do, ever again. Never mind that I was doing too many things and having trouble keeping up with everything - it was more important to be busy and well-liked. He helped me realize I was saying yes to all the things at the expense of quite a few very important things. Like my sanity. Like my close relationships. Like my day planner which was tired of the abuse of overbooking. So I started taking stock of what was life-giving for me, and started saying no to what wasn't.
It was glorious. Saying no was hard in the way that lets you know it's the right thing. Saying no gave me space to dig into what I really wanted instead of running late and leaving early because I had 4 other things to do that day, too. It was a practice that has also helped me to prioritize my husband and daughter, now that they are a reality of my life balance too. Though once I thought it impossible, I got pretty good at saying no, at cutting back when I needed to, at knowing when I needed to slow down.
In that season of life, saying no was what I didn't know how to do. It's what I needed to learn. It was so helpful and freeing to understand that I didn't have to do all the things. But here's the trick - now that I'm good at saying no, now that I have a life that's manageable and time for the things I think are important, it's time to re-learn how to say yes. It's time to take what I know about things that are life-giving and remember to embrace them when the opportunity arises. It is just as important to say yes as it is to say no. The balance is the trick - and there will be times when the scale is off, and I'll have to remedy it when it happens. But the yes is as important as the no. If not more so. While it is important to say no to things that are not life-giving, it is perhaps more crucial to learn to say yes to what is.
And so, I am saying yes, with caution, to things that I discern will give me life. There are big things - like marriage, mom-ing, and job opportunities. There are big-ish things, like applying to blog on a bi-monthly deadline at Denver Metro Mom's Blog, and as such, allowing lots more people than I am used to read my inner workings and family details. There are smaller things, like asking my husband to cover for me for 43 minutes while I take a free online calligraphy class. There are also very minor things, like knowing when I need to replace binge-watching Law & Order: SVU or endlessly scanning my phone with reading a novel, listening to music, or writing. And sometimes, it means saying no to all of those things altogether so I can say yes to reading a book, "doing art," playing at the park, or singing a duet with the munchkin. Life. Give it to me.
Say no. Also, say yes. Do the delicate little dance that is balancing life, work, husband, home, child, personal sanity. Take a couple steps forward and a couple steps back. Start over when you have to. Fill your life so that your life fills you.