If you search Google images for the word “No”, a bazillion variations pop up. If you search Wikimedia, all you get is lovely Nobelium, an element about which I know nothing. It might kill you. Or not.
I stink at the word No. My kids charm me, everyone charms me, and I cave. When Lisa Hendey mentioned she was writing a book called The Grace of Yes, I retorted that my husband would burn the book if he saw it in my hands. In reality, the book isn’t about encouraging overcommitment, not at all — one of the key skills in saying “Yes” to what matters is learning to say “No” to everything else.
Last week I turned out in public for a social event for the first time since February. I shouldn’t have gone. Too tired, should have made other plans. I went anyway. All the other moms — the pregnant ones, the mothers of toddlers, the mothers of older children — were tired too. You could see it on the faces. In the difficulty making small talk.
I don’t know whether it’s a modern thing or just a motherhood thing, but all of us, no matter our condition, have this habit of doing 20% more than we should.
Nice People Who Love You Will Eat You Alive
Chronic illness doesn’t really change life so much as it magnifies it. When you are sick, small things cost big. It’s not that you can’t go to the party, or make egg salad for the picnic, or pick up the phone and return all those calls . . . it’s that each one of those things means you have to decide what you aren’t going to do instead.
So say you have both a heart condition and a bad back. You want to be lightly active. You can choose between making brownies for the bake sale or doing your back exercises, but you can’t do both. Which one gives?
Or say you have MS (which makes you tired) and diabetes, which screws up your blood sugar. You can get out for the exercise walk that will most help you keep your diabetes under control, but then you won’t have energy for lunch at Aunt Hilda’s. And if you decline, Aunt Hilda’s going to say, “But I saw you out walking the neighborhood! What do you mean you’re too tired to come for a little lunch! I see how it is!”
It is no surprise that the people who get the most grief for not taking care of themselves are the same ones who actually turn out and help others, all the time.
Social Cannibalism is an Equal Opportunity Destroyer
But this isn’t something that only happens to sick people. It happens to everyone:
- If you’re a mother, everyone has an opinion on what the best use of your talent is. For the good of society, must you stay home with your children full-time? Work in the cubicle farm so you don’t waste that valuable education? The internet knows, yes it does.
- If you’re a priest, it goes without saying you manage your ministry all wrong. Too much time on that ministry, not enough time on this one, and who are you to be putting your feet up, ever, isn’t there a sick person you could be visiting?
- If you’re single . . . well, everything’s all your fault, just FYI.
If you’re busy, you’re busy on all the wrong things. If you’re not busy, you should be busy, why aren’t you pulling your weight? If you’re beautifully dressed, you’re vain and wasteful; if you’re not beautifully dressed, it’s because you’re letting yourself go, tsk tsk.
And by the way, is it really too much to ask you to please just do one little thing for me between now and the end of the week? I saw you out walking, I know you have time.
Related #1: Here’s a sneak preview of the cover to Lisa’s forthcoming book:
Isn’t it gorgeous? I love good cover design.
Related #2: Tomorrow is Blogging Against Disablism Day 2014. If you want to join in but just can’t think of anything to write about, allow me to suggest some topics:
- How many ASL Masses are there in your diocese on any given Sunday? Oh really, that many?
- Tell me about the time you signed up for prenatal testing, and the OB sat you down before hand and explained that this was so that you could explore treatment options if needed, because this practice delivers babies, it’s not in the business of culling the defective ones.
- Anything at all on the evil of euthanasia, thanks. Or the plight of abandoned youth in Asia, either one.