One of my favorite people I follow on Twitter is @IyanlaVanzant. She has a show called FIX MY LIFE that I have yet to watch, but know I would love. She talks about the need to have a strong "NO" in our lives. This resonates with me so deeply.
I am a total people pleaser. This has gotten me far in my life. But the older I get and as I've had kids, I realize how troubling this pattern can be for me.
There is nothing wrong with the desire to want to make other people happy. But when it comes at the cost of what is right for me and for my own family, then perhaps I need to reexamine my intentions.
On a recent retreat, I found myself lounging by the pool. This had not happened for me in some time. With three small kids, "lounging" and "pool" no longer co-exist for me. I am usually in the water, getting splashed and freezing my ass off for the sake of the kids.
At any rate, I was lounging. It was heavenly. I was near full snooze when a kind, surf instructor passed by and saw me relaxing. "You should come and take a surf lesson," he offered.
Startled, I wiped the sleepy drool from my face and looked up. "Huh?" I let out.
"Come and give surfing a try!" He was clearly excited about what he did and wanted to share his skills with the world. That is wonderful. But me, I was not up for it.
"You know, I think I am just going to relax. Thanks for the offer, though." He looked at me, unconvinced. He pushed on.
"You'd have so much fun! You should really come and try! It's dreamy out here. I have an opening at 4:45 this evening!"
I thought about it. I knew I did not want to surf. I wanted to sleep. But I appreciated his enthusiasm. "Sure," I said weakly, "sign me up."
He walked away excited and I slumped into my lawn chair already feeling the regret in my body. Damn, I thought to myself, I knew I didn't want to do that. What the hell was I thinking?!
I dragged myself off the chair and marched over to him before he left. "Forgive me," I said, "I spoke too quickly. I don't want to surf. I really just want to relax."
He looked at me shocked. I was lame and unadventurous. I lacked enthusiasm when I was in the perfect place to surf. But all I wanted was to do nothing. Not move a single muscle. THAT, to me, was dreamy.
"Suit yourself," he said to me in surfer dude fashion. But I felt freaking ecstatic. I had more energy in that moment than I'd had all day. All because I found my strong no.
From then on, the theme in my retreat was "What does BRIE want?" I know it sounds crazy, but I had to continually ask myself this. (Not out loud, thankfully.)
I had unlearned how to do exactly what I wanted at any given moment. I had the luxury of being on retreat, I owed it to myself to figure out what it meant to find that voice, to do only as I pleased. This, for me, is a life-long practice.
Here's to continually working to finding strong NO's!