A few weeks ago, as I was pushing the stroller at the farmer’s market, a woman got in my face asking me to try her sauerkraut. It was a rare moment when my daughter was content and the crowds were thin. I was adding up what I had spent in my head, and right then I didn’t want any distraction. I held up my hand as if to say “stop.”
“That hurt me,” she called out as I walked away. I was a bit stunned. I went back to talk with her.
I told her I was adding up numbers in the moment and needed my focus. She said, “You could have just said, ‘not now.'” I got her point, and yet I shared how that would have caused me to lose my train of thought. She said, “I didn’t know you were doing that.” I explained how living with a 2-year-old meant being interrupted every few minutes most of the time, and so how much I value some mental space when I have it.
Then, she started to share how she was a nanny and a health coach. “I could help you, so your life could be easier.”
“No thank you,” I said and went on my way.
I kept playing the conversation over as I visited a few more booths. I had trouble letting it go (a sure sign that there is some energy cord or telepathic communication still happening). As I reflected, the whole thing felt “sticky” to me.
I knew I had more to say. I hadn’t been in my full power and truth in this situation.
I had met this woman before, and I know she is “working on herself.” I figured she was trying and meant well. And since I am also practicing speaking up with clarity and compassion, I went back to talk with her.
I told her my truth this time. “That was strange. That felt very sticky. After that happened I checked in with myself and ask ‘is there something about my energy that’s off?’ And, I’ve been watching my interactions with people here and I’ve been having really great connections.” It was true– I was in a good mood that day, just feeling the fullness of life and feeling focused.
“Great,” she smiled.
“I get that that hurt you. I want to say ‘get over it’ because it wasn’t about you. I just didn’t want to talk in that moment. I don’t want to feel like I’m expected to have a conversation.”
When she suggested she could help me, it felt very assuming. I told her my life was set up in a way that works. I could have added that I already eat sauerkraut and know the health benefits. I could have said, “I thought you were really pushy. Why would I want help from someone so pushy who didn’t seem to get me?” But then I might have sounded really snotty, so I didn’t say those things.
I could go on and on. And I started to, in writing this blog. I actually deleted a bunch of what I initially wrote. Because that was my biggest lesson in all this. I gave it WAY too much attention.
Of course, I learned that I could have been kinder from the beginning. I admit that it triggers me when I’m interrupted– especially when someone seems oblivious when I’m in an internal space. I love to go deep and be alone and dream, and my mother tends to share a lot of little details, so that’s where that comes from.
But sauerkraut girl was not my mother. I was free to do anything in that exchange and I could have just kept walking. I could have somehow bowed out sooner with grace and just focused on my day. If there was a sticky feeling in that exchange, I allowed it and that’s what really irritated me.
And I feel a little sheepish sharing this, because I used to do this SO much. I’d give so much of my focus to what I didn’t want, whether it was clients pushing my boundaries or boyfriends not showing up the way I wanted or how to handle a call to tech support. I’d tell the story of what was “wrong” over and over and guess what– I got more of it!
I’ve gotten so much better! Even as I write this, my husband is texting me asking me to call when I get a chance. Prior to that he sent 4 texts telling me how much money he made today, etc. Love that man! And yet, I don’t need to call him this second. I waited all day for our daughter to nap so I could write. Now is my time to write. So I sent a simple reply, “Focused on blog until she wakes and then I’ll call. XO.” And he came back with a :).
Ahhhh. The old me would have called and felt irritated. I would have felt bad about upsetting him.
I have practiced for years and years in learning how to gracefully say “No.” To align my words and actions with what I desire, and to minimize speaking of what I don’t want. For example, rather than saying, “I don’t want to be late,” I’ll say, “I’m going to get there with plenty of time to park, go to the bathroom and find a great seat.”
The subconscious only says “Yes.” This is why complaining– however justified we may feel– just backfires. Some of us go on and on about some drama in the news, about other people’s problems or our own process.
It IS important to look at what we don’t want. I’m not saying to just be happy and light all the time. Our shadows will control us until we shine the light on them.
And, the world will demand upon us. It gets easier as we get clearer, yet this is the planet of choice. We need to say a thousand “nos” to make space for one “yes.”
It’s good to know our preferences and where our boundaries lie. And yet once we recognize our “no,” it’s time to go straight to our “yes.”
I’ll never forget a demonstration my Aikido teacher gave years ago. He had 4 guys circle around him and, one by one, they came at him with punches and strikes. As he handled one, the next one came and he handled that one.
Then, he asked everyone to pause. He had another guy come at him and while he blocked the attack, he turned his back to the other guys and kept fighting with the first one. At that point, the other 3 guys all came at him. It put him in such a vulnerable space.
His message was: “No matter what, don’t focus on what just happened. Look where you’re going.” For me, it was such a powerful metaphor. We can’t afford to focus on who or what “almost got us.”
Although this was a demo, his situation was life or death. Most of our daily interactions are not so dire. And yet, what is the cost if we spend our lives complaining about our partners or jobs, perpetually reinforcing our misery? What is the cost of worrying about our health problems? What is the cost of draining so much of our life force in “No” that we never have time for “Yes”? Or even worse, to not even know what what our “Yes” is?
This week, I dare you to study and update how you say “No” and “Yes.” My goal for you is balance.
For example, if you tend to give your “No’s” too much attention, notice how and when you do that. If you go on and on about problems, you are actually saying “Yes” even if you think you’re saying “No.” Ouch! It is changeable though, once you catch yourself. Consider what solution-oriented approaches you could take instead of what you’ve been doing. Align your words and actions with your feelings and goals.
On the other hand, if your “No’s” and/ or “Yes’s” are a mystery to you– meaning, you’re not sure what you want and don’t want, I suggest this:
- Take out a pen and paper and make 2 columns, or use 2 pages side-by-side.
- On the left, write your complaints, worries or fears in life. Be honest, yet don’t elaborate.
- On the right, next to each “negative” statement, write a positive affirmation to specifically address that complaint or fear. This is so powerful because it gives both your “No” and your “Yes” a voice. It makes your affirmations so much more powerful because they are customized to you.
- After you’ve written both your complaints/ worries and your affirmations, you can rip the first list up, burn it or flush it down the toilet. You can hang your list of affirmations on your bathroom mirror, read them out loud, or record them and play them back when you need a boost.
Have fun, and feel free to post below how it goes for you!