This is the year I start to be disagreeable. I will be doing as much as I can to stay positive by being negative. I am going to invite you to join me. And if you turn me down, I am going to understand and encourage you to stand your ground, stay firm and dig in. Counter intuitive, perhaps? As a matter of fact, that I would agree with you on. It is January 6th, and I know that it is a holiday for those who observe the Epiphany which to the best of my understanding is a holy day, sometimes called “Three King’s Day” which occurs at the end (actually the Sunday, following the 6th) of the Christmas Celebration. But this is not about religious observance although it is about an epiphany in the literary sense. It was one of my first 2017 “aha” moments.
I am sure I am not alone in the experience of growing up in a household of defined rules, expectations and the understanding that we are polite, kind and compliant. We eat what is put in front of us. We try something new, just one bite and we give Great Creepy Uncle George a peck on the check even if his breath smells like dead mice and his clothing reeks of mothballs. We say “yes, please” and “yes, thank you”. It’s a lot of yesses. We respect the adults and the expectation is as we grow up and older that we are agreeable and please those around us, as that is the correct thing to do. We would not want to be perceived as wrong or incorrect, as it is a reflection on our upbringing, right? Of course, you must agree.
There are a lot of books, articles and lectures on the “Power of YES!” I get it. Be positive and positive things will happen. Be negative and the world will not like you and perhaps turn their back on you and you might be alone in your dark, negative world.
I’ve done some thinking about this. I have to disagree. Looking back I recognized recently that saying yes leads to more saying yes, which leads to possibly going in directions you weren’t planning on or ever wanted to go, or undertaking things that don’t make you feel good but you just want to be seen as a good sport, a collaborator and a helpful human being. All good traits, with which I won’t disagree, at this moment. It’s not selfish to take care of yourself. It is probably one of the least selfish things one can do for others. Saying yes, when you really mean no, puts you in a no win situation. It makes for some possibility of resentment, and displacement of anger which can hurt you and hurt a relationship. This is not an always tactic but a pattern of behavior which builds and then topples. What do they say about the road to hell being paved with good intentions?
I have always (okay 99.99998%) of the time been willing to do for others, help someone, agree in a conversation and even give, when I really didn’t have it to give. I was pretty selfless, which if I was a martyr by profession would clearly be my job description. I would do tirelessly, with a smile, whatever you needed or wanted, till the cows come home. Well, folks, the cows are home. I’m not doing the milking, even if you ask nicely. I am going to politely tell you NO! I can live with your disappointment, displeasure and discontent. I can no longer live with me when I do something that I don’t want to do, even for a minute, even if I’m not busy, even if I am not doing anything important, except for perhaps organizing my spices alphabetically as I clean the residue off of the little containers, which I could do later, but I am going to do it now. This is not one of those “If I give you a million dollars would you do it?” things. If you gave me a million dollars, I might cave, as I am not an idiot as long as no one gets hurt, it’s not illegal or I can be back before ten-thirty EST. I’m a social worker. I am trained to listen, help and encourage others. However, if I don’t do the same for me, I’m probably not going to give you my best. It’s kind of me first, okay now you. I still like you even if I say no. It’s not about you. I realized it has to be about me and then we’ll both be okay, even better perhaps. Right? I mean, NO?
It is up to you to decide if you choose to have a good weekend. I will not interfere and will support your choice yes or ….wait for it….no…. Tee hee!