Saturday, August 16, 2008

Prose: The Many Pieces of No

It’s so hard for me to say NO to family. I vacillate back and forth in my mind. If I say no, she’ll feel this or he’ll feel that. Of course I can’t know how they will feel and it takes me away from myself to even contemplate what their reaction will be.
As women, a lot of us have been raised to be of service, to put others’ needs ahead of our own, to say yes to what others want of us.
It’s like a flow. The ‘no’ stops the flow and everyone involved has to rethink the situation because they were all expecting you to say yes.
When my daughter has asked me for something and I tell her I need to think it over, she can see me agonizing about what could happen if I say no, but don’t really want to say yes.
So she’ll stop me cold and say, “If you don’t want to do it, just say no, Mom.”
The first time she did that, I was taken by surprise.
“I can handle NO…I just need an answer,” she continued.
I looked at her and said,” Okay, no you can’t have that.”
I wasn’t only trying it out, it was how I really felt.
And then suddenly I remembered all those years when she and her brothers were young. I might be busy with something and ask one of them to bring me some water, or a book, or whatever I needed from another room or outside.
Sometimes they did and other times they told me no. They were involved or didn’t feel like getting up. I let them have their “no’s”…I let them have a choice and their own decision-making process. I didn’t always like their refusal, but I respected it and hauled myself up to get what I needed.
And suddenly, here was my daughter coaching me, giving back to me the ‘no’ I had made room for with her.
“It’s alright to say no, Mom.”
And now I’m learning how as well.

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