Learning to Say No
Apologies on the lack of any posts aside from Tuesday Tens lately, but life has been a little crazy lately...and more than ever, the phrase "you can do anything, but you can't do everything" has been ringing through my head.
Let me explain.
I admittedly have a bad habit: I overextend and overcommit. While I have done this for years (#doallthethings), the habit peaked during my four years in college. Between full course loads, serving on executive boards of a variety of clubs and organizations, participating as a pretty active member in a sorority, hanging out with friends, working 1-3 jobs at a time, heading out to football, baseball and basketball games and trying to fit in anywhere from 2-4 parties a weekend...well, I was slammed...and so was my anxiety and depression. So finally, senior year, I took matters in to my own hands and stepped out from a good percentage of things I was involved in - only maintaining things I was really passionate about so I could focus on applying to jobs, spending time with my friends and really exploring Nashville. While it sounds like a simple solution, it was difficult for me to step away. I wanted to please the people I worked/volunteered with (and was afraid I'd disappoint them if I needed to take a little more time to myself) and I felt like I wasn't doing enough (by whose standards, I'm not entirely sure of). At the end of the day (or year, for that matter), I was happy about my choice to pull back and really focus on the people/things that really, truly fulfilled me.
Once I graduated, I continued to keep this up, spending my days working and running. It was all fun and games until I realized how anti-social (and subsequently, really lonely) I had become. So, leading into 2016, I vowed to say "yes" to more opportunities - to get more involved in the city, to see friends more often, you name it. While I stayed true to this vow and pushed myself out of my introverted comfort zone, I maintained solo long runs and solo Friday nights to recharge, rest and get ahead on personal work.
But, over the past few months, this #domorethings vow escalated. I no longer had solo runs to relax, I filled my weekends with travel and I started calendaring more and more weeknights with social commitments, eventually eradicating my solo Friday nights (always with an excuse to myself: this is just an exception!). Well, as of the first six weeks of 2018, this habit peaked - again. I started working long hours to the point of feeling burnt out (both freelance and "9-5") and started an intensive yoga teacher training program...and all of the extra classes per week that go along with it. I also have been traveling, squeezing in hikes for my 52 Hike Challenge, volunteering half-days at the zoo, maintaining 5 AM workouts with a 4 AM wakeup time and seeing my friends more than ever with dozens of happy hours, dinners, brunches, hikes and long talks. Not to mention, I was trying to carve out an hour a day to play with Walt since I felt like I was rarely home and like I was becoming a bad pet mom. Until last night, I hadn't had a free evening after work in a few months.
Well, as the case when most bad habits really hit a breaking point, yesterday, I teetered on the edge of a breakdown. I was late to Creative Mornings and I got a random bloody nose while driving. In that moment of slamming my hands in anger against my steering wheel, it hit me that I had unknowingly reached my peak.
Well, yesterday, as I had a breakdown about being late to Creative Mornings (and subsequently getting a subsequent bloody nose while stressing about parking), it hit me that I had hit my peak. So, as I stood in line to order myself a consolation coffee after missing CM, I made another vow to myself: I'm going to re-learn how to say no...at least for a little while during yoga teacher training (I need a really actionable timeline!).
Similar to my experience in college, this solution sounds simple, but I'm already struggling with the stress and anxiety I attach to saying no. I'm upset with myself that I seem to require so much alone downtime and self-care to function and be happy and be a quality friend when so many of my friends and people around me can go, go, go without any impact to their wellbeing or ability to be a supportive, great friend. More than that, I'm nervous that my friends are going to be disappointed or mad at me when I turn down invitations with the honest excuse that I have strict plans with myself to just sleep or be alone. But, in these moments of self-doubt, I am going to remind myself that I can't be a great friend, professional, volunteer, you name it if I can't take care of my own needs - even if they seem more high-maintenance than most.
It's been about 48 hours since I made that vow to myself...and I've hiked and done a yoga class - and then kept true to my plan to write, read and catch up on some good TV. And I can already some stress receding.
So, what I'm trying to learn for the next few months - aside from saying no - is that: I can do anything, but I certainly can't do everything.