|No, really. Guess.|
As I've mentioned before, I read a few minimalism / non-consumer / zero waste blogs, and one of the reoccurring themes I see is Saying No (caps so you know it's totally legit). The premise is that we take on way more than we can possibly do, yet somehow manage to take still more on because... um, that's just the American way, I guess. We're go-getters by nature. We love busyness. We need to learn to say no.
I totally see the point of these articles. It's ridiculous that we feel obligated to do everything at the expense of our lives and our health and our mental stability.
Since embracing minimalism, I've learned something about myself: I was a minimalist before I even knew what that was. I'm an introvert married to an introvert, which cuts out a lot of social commitments (ha!); instead of volunteering constantly at the girls' schools, I only help out during the "big" events, like book fairs and carnivals; same with the church Altar Society, expect instead of book fairs and carnivals, it's holiday bazaars and the annual rummage sale. In other words, I'm already good at saying yes to only the things I truly want to do. (Book fairs! Are fun!)
I say no to my family. A lot. Five o'clock rolls around and I am ready to come home and regroup from a day filled chores, work and general togetherness. I'd rather say yes to my iPad and my Kindle than my family and my house. I am the queen of individual, not group, endeavors.
Lately I've been paying particular attention to how I interact with my family, kind of as a Lenten thing and kind of as a way to look at things differently. Instead of saying no, I'm saying yes. Yes to (almost) everything, no matter what it is. Yes, I totally want to take a walk with you! Yes, I do want to hear what you've written today on "Cooki the Cookie Loving Cat!" Yes, let's play Legos! Barbies! Paint! Yes, we can read that stack of books! Yes, I will edit your essay! Yes, I would LOVE to play Clue! Twice! Yes, let's bake cupcakes! Yes, Skate Night would be great fun!
I won't lie, "no" is always on the tip of my tongue. I have to remind myself that I am saying yes. A breath before answering, that's the ticket.
Actually, sometimes I find myself saying yes without even using the word: Fully listening and participating in a conversation, preparing meals and snacks, even laundry. When I choose to say yes, I don't feel frustrated that I'm not doing what I want to do. Instead, I feel a patience and peace and connectedness. That sounds a little cheese and whack, I know this, but I can't figure out how else to say it.
And while my little family is the general recipient of all these yeses, it's spilled over into other areas of my life as well. That guy in the bulk section who wants to talk about his IBS even though I have to be at work in 20 minutes? Yes. The 96-year-old who wants to talk about Our Town History when I'm just there to pick up her subscription check for Abby? No problem. My buddy Lloyd who keeps calling the office to ask us to look up phone numbers for him because he can't see? Will do.
The moral of the story is that it's been an interesting experiment. It's gotten way easier now that we're on day 25 (of Lent). I feel a little shabby that I have to work so hard to, you know, pay attention to the three people I love most in the world.
P.S. Of course I have to say no sometimes (Johanna really wanted to go to the park this week, but it was cold and rainy, so yeah, wasn't feeling it). I just try to make sure it's truly worthy of a no before I open my mouth. Um, or that's the idea, anyway.