As a little girl I was as enthralled with musical theater as I am to this very day. I remember twirling on the tall chair in my Mom’s studio, my band-aided knees swinging like windmills, singing at the top of my lungs to the soundtrack of Oklahoma. My favorite song was Ado Annie’s solo “I Cain’t Say No”. I crooned that ballad in my Mom’s studio, I chanted those catchy words while walking up our long driveway to get the mail, and I shouted it while I was feeding my horses. The chorus was always my favorite:
I’m just a girl who cain’t say no,
I’m in a terrible fix
I always say “come on, let’s go!”
Jist when I orta say nix…
Now, I may not be screaming out that song anymore. The times have changed, and I have changed with them (I only sing Wicked and Pippin soundtracks these days). Those words left an indelible mark on my mind. And now that I am in the double digits rather than the single digits, I realize that while I may not struggle with saying no to scads of men like Ado Annie (thank goodness) I still do struggle with saying no to scads of activities. For the entirety of my collegiate career I have collected responsibilities as quickly as a dog accumulates fleas. The problem is not the tasks as much as the deep rooted fear that lies at the bottom of my inability to say no.
I fear regret. I do not want to turn down activities because I am petrified of missing something great. And as my college life has sped forward my life has grown more and more insane with demands that have bowed my shoulders, dulled my eyesight, but at least given me the pride to say I was accomplished.
In the midst of this shallow accomplishment I realized that I never regretted turning down an activity, but I always regretted opportunities I passed up that involved investing in another human being.
My Mom and I went on a long walk on a dusty Midwestern road, and decided this year will be the Year of No. We just are not going to buy into the speed that our culture throws at us. We refuse to be bowed down any longer by the tyrannical monster that never lets us sleep, read a book, or take someone out for coffee.
This is the year of saying no to exhausting activities, and the year of yes to people opportunities.
I want to build time into my schedule for building a new friendship. I want to leave room on my calendar for the unexpected days when someone needs help moving or help with a paper. I want to learn the discipline of free time so when someone invites me over I can actually say yes, rather than give them a look of exhaustion, and tiredlly murmur how busy I am.
In the midst of mulling over all these thoughts I stumbled across Lysa Terkeurst’s new book The Best Yes and I read it twice over choir tour. This book has touched me profoundly, and is one of the best books I have read in a long time.
This is the year of no, friends. Who’s with me?
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