The Enlightened No

“I have spent much of my adult life saying Yes when I wanted to say No, and saying No when I wanted to say Yes. I am moving towards a new paradigm – of saying No when I want to say No, and saying Yes when I want to say Yes.”

Sounds simple right?! I have been considering why this been a monumental part of my reality for as long as I can remember. As perennial habit patterns are being brought to my awareness, laid bare, and stripped of their carapace, I am finally seeing their fatuity and futility. I lay out below some conclusions I have come to, and hope that some of you reading may possibly gain an accelerated insight from them!

Why I said Yes when I wanted to say No?

Sacred Life Principles

I hadn’t set formulated clear sacred principles and priorities for what I wanted from my life, therefore any opportunity that came my way, it made sense to just grab it. Why would I say No when I didn’t even know what I wanted myself? So I said Yes……

Yes, I would commit to the voluntary role of administrator for the community group, even though I was already quite busy. I was pleased that the group admins deemed me responsible enough to take on this role. And so, in saying Yes I was left with less time for my family, a caressed ego, and eventual resentment towards the group.

Yes, I would take the database job, even though I know I had transferable skills in other areas.

Yes, I would go shopping all day, even though shopping centers drive me crazy.

Yes, I would have a meetup, even though I was breastfeeding and exhausted.

I was the queen of saying Yes when i wanted to say No.

My emerging paradigm:

I am figuring out the absolute priorities for my life. I am making lists. I am crossing out lists. I’m making new lists. Being offered an opportunity, a job position, an invite, or a sofa inflate my ego and make me feel important, there’s no doubt about that. So I am questioning whether these offers authentically align with my life principles and priorities, and am henceforth practicing declining those offers that don’t, politely of course.

There are two things to note here. The first is that my life principles may and probably will change from year to year, decade to decade, and that’s okay! We all need different things in our lives at different times. The second is to look out… the universe will test you, all the time. No sooner will you formulate a clear principle around only working with a company that aligns with your values, than Unsustainable Inc. will give you a call offering you an amazing position with an amazing salary! This will happen, guaranteed, and it has happened to me on numerous occasions.

Pleasing People

I aspired to please people, especially my family, my teachers and my friends. Then children came along, and i strived diligently to be the perfect parent, (which doesn’t exist by the way). I said Yes to commands, demands, requests, obligations, and favours. There is no doubt that i have grown up caring profusely about what those around me think of me.

My emerging paradigm:

Man, this is a tough one. The need to please others is so ingrained in me, it’s baffling to know where to begin. I am sure it comes from a need for self-acceptance on a deeper level. Nevertheless, I am coming to terms with the fact that the only person I really need to please is myself. And through pleasing myself, the people around me get to have a happier more content Caroline in their life, so everyone wins! It isn’t pleasing yourself in a selfish uncaring way. It is to simply put yourself and your needs as a priority. Another aspect here that has allowed things to shift for me was to get curious.

“What is it in me that needs to say Yes when i want to say No?

What am i afraid of?

What will happen if i say No?”

If i say No to the kids for cinema today, will they hate me? Will they be forced to confront unpleasant uncomfortable feelings, that perhaps I don’t want to hold space for?

When I asked myself these questions, these are the answers I came up with.

By saying No, they would learn the value of patience that modern society struggles with, they would learn that life is not an Amazon store and that when you live with other people, you need to respect their needs too! It also gave them a chance to experience big feelings and gave mum a chance to practice being unfazed by those big feelings. This, in turn, could allow them to be vessels of their own feelings and not force them to shut-down, an important gift we can give our kids!

Keeping Peace

I have avoided confrontation in my life like the plague. I have chosen not to assert myself in favour of harmony and a quiet life. My sheepish diffidence was bound to breed resentment of course, and it did so in many realms of my life, from career to relationships.

My emerging paradigm:

I hypothesise that the people around you are the mirrors to your soul. They are there to show you parts of yourself that need renovating.

For example, I have a Swiss partner. He is very direct, assertive and strong-minded. Food shopping is always an interesting experience. Only yesterday we were busily creating a meal plan (in the supermarket, with two hungry kids, hee hee) and I fancied some greens in some shape or form. When I picked up a bok choi, Joel considered that it might turn the kids off their burrito bowls and that it was better to just get extra peppers. But I genuinely wanted a bok choi in that burrito bowl, and I knew if chopped up small enough, that the kids would eat it. But, I walked past my beloved bok choi.

“The cogs of resentment, victimization, and frustration began to turn. (yes over a cabbage!)”

So I got curious again. What am I afraid of? I said my partner is strong-minded, but he’s not an asshole! And so I simply stated my wish to have them in the meal, popped them in the basket and life moved on without further debate. I had made up a story that I needed to back down, to prevent any confrontation. Meanwhile, Joel just wanted to get the shopping done! So Joel served as a very important mirror here. He showed me what I needed to do at that moment, even though he was unaware of such.

Distraction from Uncomfortable Emotions

Dealing with uncomfortable emotions had always been a struggle for me. I ran away from feelings of boredom, frustration, and loneliness for years. All it took was a chance of escape, any escape and I was there. I would keep busy saying Yes to anything and everything, busying myself until those difficult feelings subsided. In reality they were being pushed further down, and were bound to keep surfacing until I dealt with them.

My emerging paradigm:

Again, I ask myself….

“What is it in me that needs to say Yes when i want to say No?

What am i afraid of?

What will happen if i say No?”

Perhaps I was afraid that I wasn’t strong enough to deal with those feelings like they would overcome me, or eat me up! I asked myself what was my real reason for feeling lonely, often despite being around people, a lot.

As Mark Twain once said,

“The worst loneliness is not to be comfortable with yourself.”

So I am going all-in with feelings of boredom or loneliness. I see brewing emotions that were once problematic as challenges, as chances for insight, for new clarity, for growth. If I am feeling like shit, and a friend wants to meet up, I figure its best to postpone the meet-up and to take a little space to welcome this emotion that has reared its melancholy head.

Of course now with children boredom doesn’t happen very often, but we have spent a rainy winter in the middle of the countryside in Northern Portugal. I had no insurance to drive a vehicle, so I had to get used to country life … with no people, nevermind friends around me for almost 4 months ( save a couple of forest school meet-ups ).

It has been one of the best times of my life.

As a 40-year-old, I had to finally face myself, deal with those feelings I have suppressed with entertainment and distraction for so much of my adult life. There was no escaping my family for coffees, walks around Tesco ( yes I did that! ).

I had the forest.

I had the garden.

I had the river.

I wandered around. I got into the river. I felt those uncomfortable emotions … of feeling trapped, of feeling lonely, of feeling fed up. I surrendered. It felt like for the first time in my life, I was allowing a bigger spectrum of emotions to surge through me. The pleasant ones I had grabbed and clutched tightly, but the unpleasant ones, well I never really knew what to do with those. But it became clear. I needed to allow those too. They were all just part of what it means to be human. And they are beautiful and show us who we are. And I spent some wonderful moments with my family.

I will never forget winter 2019. And for the record, I still have a long way to go, but I am beginning to say No when I want to say No, and Yes when I want to say Yes!

Thank you for reading x

P.S. There is of course another thing called the Enlightened Yes! That’s a post for another day, but I’ll leave you with this sketch from the wonderful Irish series Father Ted. Here Mrs Doyle won’t allow her friend to pay for her lunch because it’s polite to just say No.



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