People who know me well would likely agree that I’m usually not good for much more than a “yes” and a laugh.
Which is just another way of saying that I am categorically very, very, horribly bad at saying, “no.” At least, that is, until recently.
Lately, I feel like I have been saying, “no,” to just about everything. And it’s been simultaneously horrifying … and liberating.
You might wonder: why have I been giving ye old smackdown to interesting projects, exciting engagements, and other sparkly distractions these days? Because, frankly …
Saying, “yes,” isn’t making me happier or holier.
I have been taking a long, hard look in the mirror for a while now – in a totally healthy, non-creepy, non-narcissistic way, promise! – because things have been breaking down physically, emotionally, and with relationships for a while because of my, well, addiction of sorts to what usually happened when I said, “yes.”
The sense of productivity, needfulness, and recognition that often followed my affirmative response to whatever came my way became an idol of sorts – something to seek, something to save me from myself and my circumstances, something to depend upon.
In other words, saying, “yes,” was, however subconsciously, filling a God-shaped hole in my heart that was meant for my Savior alone.
I found that saying, “yes” to so many things really meant I was saying, “no” to more important things. And sometimes God. And especially people. My husband. My children. And maybe, more especially, myself.
I am learning that I must say, “no” if I am going to have the energy to say, “yes” to time to care for myself so I am able to care for the people closest to me. I need to be able to give them my best yes.
And I wasn’t.
And in many ways I still am not.
I’m getting better at taking care of myself and my core responsibilities, but guys – it is. so. hard. to say no. I still (whyyyyyyyy??) care a little bit too much about what people think of me, especially when I tell them I can’t/won’t/shouldn’t/mustn’t do whatever it is they ask/want/expect of me.
Well, this weekend, I’m over at the Catholic Sentinel talking about this very thing, and about harnessing the power of ‘no.’
Which, by the way, is NOT a dirty word. Although it does still make me shudder and twitch a bit still. Just a bit.
Confession: I haven’t always lived the shiniest life ever. As Freddie Mercury so emphatically sang, ” … and bad mistakes/I’ve made a few.” Or five hundred.
But since my reversion process began, with many starts and pauses along the way, I’ve really tried to walk as a child of the light, and part of that walk, for me, means taking care of myself by not smoking, not drinking to excess, not using illicit drugs, and staying true to my marriage vows.
Am I perfect? Excuse me while I go laugh myself completely off the page. No. I am absolutely not perfect. Just ask my husband and my children. But I keep trying. And trying. And trying. Ad nauseum. My Mom used to tell me growing up that saints keep trying while sinners give up. Well, I haven’t completely given up yet. I surely have a long way to go, but I hope it’s a shorter climb than it was when I was living as a agnostic hedonist 20 years ago.
And there are plenty of temptations, even as a mostly clean-living person. That used to surprise me: “I’m doing the right things! I love Jesus! I pray! I go to Mass every Sunday! I go to Confession! Why am I still being tempted?!” After some prayerful reflection, however, the ongoing temptations made so much sense: Of course I’m being tempted. Usually the enemy will try to get you where he’s gotten you before, and if you aren’t vigilant, BOOM! You’re taken completely off-guard by temptation that you thought you’d conquered years (or months or days) ago. The enemy of our souls doesn’t want us in the game of life at all, and especially not a life surrendered to Jesus, so he’ll use whatever he possibly can to take us out of the game.
Usually any desire I have to backslide is eventually trumped by my desire for Heaven.
Except. I still struggle. For several years now – maybe even for most of my life – the devil has been doing whatever he can to keep me out of the game using something that we all need to survive: food.
It’s not like there’s something morally wrong with food, as can be argued with other addictions. If someone handed me a bottle of vodka, I could graciously decline by saying, “No thanks, I’m cool.” I don’t NEED alcohol to survive, although after long days with lotsa kids, it surely can feel like it! 😉 But with food, man, it’s hard. We need food to survive. Granted, do I need mint M&Ms and pork rinds and chocolate cake to survive? No. But the stuff that nourishes always seems to be right next to the stuff that doesn’t on the buffet table. And so I take some. And eat it. And then I want more, so I eat more. And then I feel badly. So I eat more again. And on and on it goes.
Not only do I have a hard time with self-control and food choices, I really don’t care for exercise. Like, I hate it. That’s not a good combination. After five pregnancies in nine years, I think I probably could stand to lose about 75 pounds. The extra weight I carry contributes to feelings of depression, anxiety, fatigue, worthlessness … so many things. And yet, I continue to struggle.
For some reason, I especially struggle with keeping sugar at bay. It’s like my kryptonite or something. Seemingly, a pattern was established from early childhood: I remember the neighbor girl taking me across the street to buy sweets at the corner store. I remember using my garage sale money to buy ungodly amounts of candy. I remember my grandmother greeting me with a box of Red Vines whenever we’d visit. I remember going out for ice cream after each band concert, piano recital, play performance …
Last summer, I really and honestly rallied to make a permanent lifestyle change. After the cloud of post-partum depression from my fifth pregnancy finally lifted, I decided I was tired of being a food zombie, mindlessly eating whatever, whenever, and joined a national weight loss program. I lost weight. I stuck to my guns and lost more. I felt really, really good about my progress. Then we were hit by a cloud of stress including a surprising cross-country move and some other really tough things, and the weight started creeping – and then leaping – back on. I tried to go to meetings, but my previous resolve seemed so very far away and outside my ability.
I don’t know if my attachment to food – specifically to sugar – could be classified as an addiction, but maybe? I sometimes feel powerless to its allure. I have all the resolve in the world … until I don’t. I feel empowered … until I don’t. I exercise amazing self-control … until something like this happens on the day I have a Mother’s helper and am supposed to be working on 5,000 words for my end-of-the-month deadline:
And then I want to drink all the sugary coffee drinks in the world to make myself feel better.
Yet … I only feel better for a tiny window of space and time, and then … I don’t. I feel awful. I’ve fallen. Again. It makes me feel so dumb and helpless. I’m a smart person! I love Jesus! I have overcome so. many. things! Why can’t I overcome this??!
I spoke with my Spiritual Director about self-control the other day. It was interesting, because as I lamented how I frequently don’t feel like I have the power within me to say,”no,” he sagely suggested: “Perhaps, Heather, you need to do this for someone other than yourself.” What he was suggesting was that I offer up my cravings and self-discipline in food choices and exercise as a sacrificial prayer for other people, causes, and intentions. He was encouraging me, in essence to nail my temptation to the Cross.
Bottom line? Perhaps, dear readers, it is time for me to pick up my cross and try yet again. Will you please, please pray for me? I would very much like to know how I may pray for you as I’m on this journey. Maybe you’re struggling with something that’s really tough for you, too, and just don’t know how you’re going to overcome it. Maybe you just need to know that you’re not alone. Feel free to be specific or just say “special intention” in the comments. Thank you, thank you, thank you! <3
Oh, and by the way – yes, I did buy that gorgeously blended coffee drink (above) today. But it is sugar-free, half-caffeinated, with non-fat milk. Baby steps, y’all.
When the ginormous thunder boomers hit town earlier this week, I thought the worst case scenario would be an endless parade of wakeful children piling into our bedroom in the middle of the night, resulting in Project Coffee IV Drip the next day.
It was worse.
You guys. We lost our Internet connection and our landline. THE WORSTEST! And, to make things even more craptastic, I couldn’t find my phone. Granted, it’s not a smartphone, but still. Here are my seven quickish takes on LIFE WITHOUT THE INTERNET.
Here’s a pictorial representation of the metaphorical Zombie Apocalypse which, regardless what Calah says, is happening right now. I realized that, with an internet connection, I sometimes look a lot. like. this. Gross.
Here’s the time I spent on fun math word stories (FIVE CHAPTERS’ WORTH) with my homeschooler, and here is dinner on time and all the dishes almost completely done and the kids bathed and me going outside and weeding the front flowerbed and then meeting the new neighbors and actually reading a really good book for fun.
Truth time. While I have never been officially diagnosed as addicted to anything, I can imagine my perma-jones for wifi recently (complete with eye twitches and tightening chest as I desperately whine at random passers-by: “Duuuude, I gotta log innnn!”) might be a sign of something, well, slightly problematic.
This involuntary radio silence that was like a big, dark, truthful mirror: I am attached, dependent upon, perhaps a teensy bit, um, reliant, and perhaps a smidgen, dare I say, addicted to the world wide web.
So. There it is.
I promise to look at my online habits and try to dial it down a notch if you promise not to throw this post in my face every time I complain about not having enough time. Oh, and you also can’t tell my husband I think I have a problem. Deal?