Last year, I was on the verge of burnout and a friend sent me the most wonderful list: Justine Musk’s 25 Badass Ways to Say No.
I’ve always had a hard time rejecting requests, whether they’re from a family member, a friend, a coworker, or a total stranger. I want to be the perfect hostess, making sure everyone enjoys the time spent with me. Making sure everyone likes me.
My exhaustion last year didn’t only depend on not wanting to disappoint people. Life threw me a few hurdles: my dad’s fast onset of dementia, my mom’s reoccurrence of cancer, my husband’s shoulder injury, which although not life-threatening required caretaking duties. A person saner than me would have recognized that these events demanded less commitment elsewhere. But I barged on, over-committing myself to write a grant, organize a physics conference, join work committees and initiatives, and keep up with my regular volunteer duties in the community.
Hence the burnout.
Even when life doesn’t throw huge boulders in our paths, creative folks don’t always recognize that it’s okay to say “no.” It’s okay to set aside time to practice our art. We’re not being selfish. We’re not being entitled. We’re just doing what’s necessary to nourish that part of us that feeds our soul.
Justine’s list didn’t cure my tendency to instinctively say “yes” to any and all requests, but it I am learning to be more protective of my writing time. I’m not yet brave enough to say all the things on the list out loud, but it’s so much easier for my mouth to utter a “no” when my brain is thinking one of these:
-Life’s too short to do things I don’t love.
-My ladyballs are not that big.
-There is a person who totally kicks ass at this. I am not that person.
-The idea is bad and you must be punished.
-I no longer do things that make me want to kill myself.
-It would cause the slow withering death of my soul.
It’s easy to think that until we are published, sold our first photograph, or recorded our first song, we don’t have the right to turn down a request in favor of writing, painting, creating. But actually, we do.
Actually, we must. Read more »