Learning to Say No

Have you ever seen or heard the acronym FOMO?  It stands for “Fear of Missing Out,” and I think it’s where this post stems from…

The key word in the title for this post is “learning”  and what a steep learning curve it is!  This has been a life long problem/process for me.  After years decades of taking on too much it is a hard habit to break.  I think the biggest problem is that I’ve often been successful at overextending myself…but we’re never too old for some much needed negative feedback.

Saying "no" can allow us to stop and take in the scenery.

Saying “no” can allow us to stop and take in the scenery. The scene is much snowier now, only a couple weeks after this photo was taken!

I’ve had warning signs over the years: As a teenager, my mother often warned me that I was “burning the candle at both ends” (For the record, I still heard this from her when we were visiting her over the last couple of weeks!).  As a graduate student, I had a little emotional breakdown when visiting my advisor–he told me that learning to say “no” was one of the most valuable lessons he ever learned and encouraged me to do the same.  As a mother I find myself feeling guilty about changing my daughter’s schedule up too much because of my own obligations, resulting in a crabby toddler.

Said crabby toddler.

Said crabby toddler.

If you didn’t notice, I missed my last post.  I was in Minnesota visiting family with Ava before the new baby arrives (only five weeks until my due date!  This pregnancy is going so quickly…).  I actually had it all set up, even almost fully written–but then both Ava and I got ravaged by a–luckily short lived–head cold.  It was my second cold/flu of the season and again, today, I’m feeling something coming on.  Ugh!

We might have stayed up too late and eaten too much candy on Halloween...but I think it was worth it?

We might have stayed up too late and eaten too much candy on Halloween…but I think it was worth it?

Why does this happen?  It’s simple.  I take on too much, expend too much energy while not sleeping enough (combination of late nights/early mornings, toddler who still doesn’t sleep through the night, and pregnancy insomnia) or eating well and it takes its toll.  I want to say that it was easier when I was younger and that I wouldn’t get sick…but in reality that’s a lie!  I had sinus infections all.the.time.  I was just more willing to keep on truckin’ even when sick.  Now that I have more than just me to look after, I am more willing to take a break and recuperate.

Always save some time for a relaxing cup of tea with loved ones.

Always save some time for a relaxing cup of tea with loved ones.

And a good laugh...

And a good laugh…

And a good cuddle...

And a good cuddle…

And a good walk in the snow.

And a good walk in the snow.

So, there are things I cannot say no to (yet)–family obligations, showing support for missions or projects that I or loved ones are passionate about, most parties/weddings/celebrations if I am geographically “close” to them, and meeting with dear people who I haven’t seen in a long time.  I have gotten better at saying no to some things, but I still hold too much guilt when I do. This list used to be much longer but I’ve culled some things: namely work-type obligations that don’t necessarily benefit me, my family or my community (sorry community, but I have sacrificed you more often these days).  These are usually the kind of obligations that I dread attending when the time comes.  I ask myself, “Why did I say yes to this?  I don’t have the time to x y z right now…”  For example, I was asked to teach a few outdoorsy programs last summer for very cool organizations in amazing locations.  My first reaction was “YES!”  But I had to hold myself back–I had to do a reality check.  I have a child that would need to be cared for.  What does this job even pay? enough to pay for childcare? How much prep would I have to do (most likely in the wee hours of the morning)?  I knew that saying yes would result in an unnecessarily stressed out me even if the gig was a good one.  I proudly said “sorry, but I can’t.  Here are a few contacts of others who may be able to do the work.”

It's good to have grandmas around to teach us about looking both ways before crossing the street.  I wish I had family in AK...but I'd be more inclined to take on little jobs here and there with "free" childcare!

It’s good to have grandmas around to teach us about looking both ways before crossing the street. I wish I had family in AK…but I’d be more inclined to take on little jobs here and there with “free” childcare!

I must say that I have always been good at saying “NO!” to pyramid scheme type opportunities.  I am proud of this as they are often enticing…especially now as a stay at home parent.  My sister-in-law and I were chatting the other day; she had recently, and seemingly regrettably, just gotten roped in to being an essential oils seller and representative.  I know some people are very happy and successful when it comes to these companies…but I also know that I would not be one of those people!  I am a terrible sales person–especially when it comes to selling to people I know and love.  This ability to say no right off the bat has proven to be useful with the precipitous rise of Facebook and other social media “friends” who are now sellers (pushers?) of almost anything imaginable!

Maybe (the steer) knows how to say no without the guilt.

Maybe (the steer) knows how to say no without the guilt.

Is looking out for numero uno selfish?  Or is saying yes to everything and not being fully present even more selfish?  Does being selfish even matter?  Who knows…all I know is that I’m tired and need to check my priorities as I fill in slots on my calendar.  This is especially true for all of us during the holidays–So many parties!  So many projects!  So much sugar!  So many sick people in confined spaces!  It’s a recipe for immunological disaster (resulting in a lazy January).

Taking time to make real, good food should be higher on my list of priorities.

Taking time to make real, good food should be higher on my list of priorities.

One great thing about having a baby due on Christmas?  I have a perfect excuse to say “no.”  Which gets me on another goal of mine: stop making excuses, even if they are the real deal.  Why do I need an excuse to say I can’t do something?

Maybe swinging in the park is more appealing than doing x y or z!

Maybe swinging in the park is more appealing than doing x y or z!

Or maybe we need some extra time to chat with some bears and pet some frogs.  Who knows what we can find with more free time?

Or maybe we need some extra time to chat with some bears and pet some frogs. Who knows what we can find with more free time?

All in all, I’ve had a great life of saying, “Yes! Yes! Yes! I may be late but I’ll be there!” But the time has come to show my children and myself that life can be great by saying, “Yes! No! We’d love to, but maybe next time!” and having some free time to enjoy with each other.

With that, I hope you find the power to turn down some things during this busy season.  We all have plenty on our plates.  With all of the downright crazy things that are going on in the world, it is a good reminder that there is more to life than just go-go-going at mach speed all the time.

 Just say no to overextending yourself!

(A message from your Rural Farmgirl)

Until next time,

Sending you peace, love and free time from AK,

Alex, the Rural Farmgirl

  1. Becky says:

    Sounds like you are on the right track to me, Alex. Your babies will be grown up before you know it so enjoy them!
    Happy turkey day!!

  2. Katie says:

    I’m currently going though my own learning curve on this front. Your post was extremely well timed for me. Our personalities seem very similar. I have a lot of guilt if I can’t do everything. But I need to force myself to let go and do for my family before others. Thank you for telling on yourself. It has helped me realize I’m making myself sick and strengthened my conviction that my current life choices need to change.

    • Alexandra Wilson says:

      Oh, good! I’m glad I could help you, and it’s great for me to know that others are struggling in similar ways. Solidarity!

  3. Marilyn Collins says:

    Ava is a beautiful child. Take it easy and enjoy your pregnancy and the upcoming holidays. Sit back with a cup of tea and a good book!

  4. Adrienne says:

    I used to teach Time Management and there are several axioms I learned: you have the same 24 hours everyone else does. The trick is to make the best use of that 24 hours. The question to be constantly asking yourself is, “What is the best use of my time RIGHT NOW?” If’s resting, cuddling, playing on a swing or cooking those healthy meals. Also, remember that when you fly, the flight attendant will tell you to put on your oxygen mask first before helping others. If you don’t take care of yourself first, you won’t be able to help anyone else. And finally, the sun will rise and set without you; the world will go on. Might as well hang around to enjoy it!

  5. Emma says:

    As someone who has historically been ruled by guilt, I so admire the ability to say “no.” I like to think I am in “yes”-recovery, slowly learning not to bite off more than I can chew. Despite your many obligations and responsibilities, you regularly accomplish more than most folks I know! Good for you for prioritizing what’s most important and sticking with it. As usual, I am redoubling my efforts to be more like you. 😉

  6. Deb Bosworth says:

    Good for you, Alex. Having children in your life has a way of slowing you down in some very good ways!!! I had a second childhood through raising and homeschooling our two children and along the way I too slowly learned to prioritize our commitments and say no more often ( minus the guilt). It takes some practice, but you’re a quick study once you’re on to something new! Motherhood is new for you… Slow down and let those babies teach you some new tricks. Along the way you will bend and swirl, weave and wobble, stretch and grow into a stronger, more centered woman with conviction and your whole family will benefit. Your mothers words remind me of what I tell our daughter all the time. She is a mover and a shaker too. Great post…Hope you feel better soon and Happy Thanksgiving. Take good care! Deb ( Beach Farmgirl )

  7. Krista says:

    I completely agree with your story but actually following through with saying no is much harder than it appears. I feel that I am experiencing some of these same issues in my life right now. With my baby due in only 3 weeks I am finding myself taking on numerous projects and trying to make my home perfectly ready (which I deep down know is completely unreasonable). I can’t seem to say no and sit down to enjoy myself. It’s a never ending battle that I have with myself. I have spoken with a few people around me who are emphasizing the importance of taking time now because everything changes once the baby is here. For the sake of both of us I hope we can take a step back and just say no!

  8. I overdo all the time. Summer is the absolute worst. But fall is a close second. It really isn’t until January when I slow down and sit still. I wasn’t like this as a kid. This has been something that has happened to me since I turned 40. I don’t understand it, but I’m not good at “no” either.

  9. Theresa Talarek King says:

    Congrats on saying No! It’s so hard sometimes. I’ve been terribly guilty for years of getting myself into too much, and finding I’m tired, crabby, and missing out on some important things. It took being down with a broken ankle last fall to make me really slow down a good while and see it clearly. I’m still not super great at saying No to things, but I find that the times I find myself saying, “WHY did I agree to do that?” are much fewer and farther between, and I’m enjoying life more. I wish you many wonderful, relaxing times. 🙂

  10. deb says:

    After you learn to say no, say it without qualifiers! Took me to my 40’s to learn to say no, then to my 50’s to say “No” and nothing else. People rarely respond negatively to that because you’ve given them nothing to push back against! Very freeing…

  11. Amanda says:

    I totally get what you are going through!! As a mother, wife, dairy farmer, I get pulled in all directions at once. There are many times I multi-task and that doesn’t always go well, either! I started planning meals and what household chores need to be done on certain days two weeks ahead (and around milking and barn chores) thinking that would help, but some things took longer than I alotted time for. My husband says whatever we don’t get done today, we’ll get done tomorrow, but when tomorrow is already planned out, I get overwhelmed. I now try to not plan so much, but instead try harder to make options. My kids are usually the ones who make me realize that I need to slow down to their pace (just like yours did!) and it’s worth it to do that! I wish you all the best!!
    P.S. By the way, while I’m doing this I’m also doing laundry and cooking two meals. I still have a long way to go until I get the hang of saying no, too!!!

  12. Joan says:

    HOOO RAY!!!! I do hope you truly have come into saying ‘no’. This comes from one that was also a ‘yes’ person until I too stretched myself so far that my health snapped and funniest thing most of those that I always DID for didn’t seem to remember me when I was in need – they became to busy doing all that I had done. Oh yes there were a few that remembered me and was kind but well —- like I said Hooo Ray and I am sure there will be those that will be there for you as you were for them. Being with your super little family is a good thing. God bless.

  13. Meekah Sage says:

    Hi Amanda! I am practicing this right now. I think as mothers we all struggle with this….saying No. Setting boundaries. Learning to be vulnerable enough…for OURSELVES. I also wanted to reach out, because ….I too became a mother in Alaska…in fact, I was working at APU in the recreation department with Marc Phillips and teaching the photo courses (they would all remember me under my married name of Stacey Boyne). when I met the father of our now children. He had just graduated with a degree in environmental science at APU under the direction of Roman Dial. I too have spent time at APU’s farm and Alaska still holds so much space in my heart. Although, my kids dad and I are no longer married and we have since moved back to my home state of New Mexico…It is a small world to find so many things in common…and so, sister…I had to reach out. My partner of 5 years and I have purchased 11 riverfront acres in Northern New Mexico, where I once again will pursue my farming dreams! I look forward to more of your writings.

    • Alexandra Wilson says:

      Wow! So many similarities. Marc and Roman are still at APU, but I am not close with them. I will have to ask some others about you. How exciting to have your riverfront acres! It must be gorgeous and hold a lot of potential. Thanks for the solidarity!

  14. Meekah Sage says:

    PS. I meant Alex…dang autocorrect! sorry about that

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