I was completely terrified to say no.
Why? Because I found a lot of my value in compliments like, “Wow! You did such a great job! You are so reliable. Thanks for showing up! I really needed help and you came.” And on and on it goes.
The hard part is that these people didn’t see what was really going on in my life. In order to do those things, I was compromising my own health, my family, my husband, my sleep, my eating and just plain old fashioned fun.
I was so busy that I lost touch with what really mattered.
You know, like FOOD. Because apparently that was just an inconvenience. Not nearly as important as all the commitments I had made. (Come to think of it… I may have been in a perpetual state of hangry…) Not to mention, I rarely had time for regular life things like laundry. Ok, so I might still put off doing laundry until I’m on my last pair of underwear… but at the time, pretty much all of my priorities were really REALLY backwards.
As a result, I asked others to give beyond what was reasonable. The standards I held for myself were crazy high and my expectations for other people went right along with it. If you weren’t willing to push through the exhaustion or hunger, you were ‘obviously’ not dedicated to the task.
I remember being so busy that my family and boyfriend (now husband) were constantly rescuing me from the chaos. I was always desperate for help, on the verge of breakdown, and running on empty. I would beg others to help.
But then, the moment would come. The moment I met that deadline and all the compliments poured forth – BOOM! So worth it! SO TOTALLY WORTH IT.
I was so terribly mistaken.
I remember this one particular time when I was panicking to find help and someone, for the first time, without apologizing, holding themselves with a sincere confidence, kindly said: “no.” I remember that sickening feeling in my gut. “But that means, I’m going to fail!”
They didn’t become worried over my worry. They didn’t feel compelled because of my stress. They didn’t even feel bad for saying no. They just so kindly said it and went on to have a good day. (how dare they!) I walked away discouraged.
Reality Check: I needed to drop the ball. I needed to stop creating situations where the people I loved had to come to my rescue. I needed to learn my limits.
One of the reasons I never pulled back is because I had always been rescued – it just never clicked that I might actually be doing too much.
I was doing WAY too much.
Over the past number of years I have slowly de-busied my life. A slow, painful and yet strangely rewarding process.
I discovered laughter.
I discovered the gift of unscheduled space in my calendar.
I discovered naps (my husband is a pro)!
I discovered un-rushed exercise.
I have time to learn how to cook!
I feel a million times better.
It started with someone saying ‘no.’ I tumbled down from my pedestal of achievements and landed in the puddle of chaos below that was my life. But it started me on a healing journey.
I believe that life is spiritual and there is a loving God who created us and wants to show us real abundant life. I had to figure out my identity, my values, and my worth was not wrapped up in all these achievements – and the value of other people wasn’t either.
I was surrounded by incredible people (like my awesome family above) who prayed with me and taught me the way of Jesus that was not caught up in busyness and compliments. The way of Jesus was purposeful work, harmony with all things, holistic health, and rest (to name a few) that led me to experience a more abundant life than I had ever had. Every day I am grateful to know Jesus and humbled that He loves me enough to help me every day.
Once I saw how upside-down my values were, I could begin to untangle them.
Once I saw how I devalued my relationships, I could begin to make amends.
Once I saw how unhealthy I was (body, mind, and soul), I could begin to find health.
Once I saw how chaotic my life really was, I could begin to seek peace.
It all started with the gift of someone simply saying “no” because they knew their values and knew the cost of the compromise.
I didn’t know this yet. I needed to see it demonstrated.
Now, I get to demonstrate this for others.
It is never fun to say “no,” especially when you can see how overwhelmed someone is. Sometimes we do step in. But, in other cases, the best thing we can do is demonstrate to that person why ‘no’ is actually a good and healthy choice.