A Simple Word

Why is it so hard to say, ”No?”

I picked up my afternoon schedule and nodded yes. My secretary had just asked me if she could add two patients into my afternoon schedule.  Every slot on the day planner was filled, and I wondered how I was going to find time to fit everyone in. I tossed the schedule on the desk as the phone rang. “Dr. Barber your first patient is ready.” Head down, I took a deep breath in and walked out of my office.

Life is an emotional winter storm, chaotic and overfilled with promises and responsibilities. Minutes, hours and days are consumed by endless duties, lists and negative emotions. Parents are overwhelmed by fatigue and limited by time and opportunity. As responsibilities grow hopeful dreams fade, and parents stop living. Frozen and overwhelmed by shame, guilt, anger and fear parents silently accept the next demand, the next responsibility and the next chore.

Your brain is a wonderful instrument. Billions of synapses allow you to debate, disrupt, judge and detail what needs to get done. The brain drives us all to act or not to act, to think or not to think and to perform or not to perform. It becomes the storyteller of acceptance and excuses and the enforcer against saying the word “No.”

Excuses allow parents to say no when the brain is overpowered by inadequacy and negative emotions. Each of us is hardwired not to say “No.”  We want to be powerful and well-liked. We want to be change agents and competent models.  Responding with an excuse rather than the word “No” justifies rather than explains and shrouds us with avoidance rather than acceptance and communication. Excuses are a passive and protective stall tactic that bury our emotions and allow us to hide from and avoid our own feelings.  They harm us physically and emotionally and must be replaced with truth.

The best way do this is to recognize, understand and respond to your own needs and take control of your life by using the word “No.”  This word must be practiced and cultivated. It empowers both the speaker and the listener and allows you to disengage while encouraging the speaker to seek and find another solution. “No” informs the listener you are willing to give up control and makes the listener the agent of change. This heartfelt , mindful and trust filled act informs the listener that you do not have the desire or ability to take on one more task or responsibility and are confident that they do have the ability to find their own solution.

This act of saying “No” is the foundation of self-care. Self-care creates prosperity for all and increases your generosity and future ability to give. It eliminates the need to make excuses for self-neglect and supports responsibility for your own needs. Self-care enriches two-way communication and provides the energy to live an inspirational life filled with love, passion and good health.

Until my quadruple bypass 12 years ago I was an expert excuse-maker.  I always said “Yes” without pause or hesitation looking out and never in. Blind to self-neglect, stress and fatigue I was lost in a storm buried deep within my heart.  That day I woke up. You can too. It starts with a simple word.