Friday, October 23, 2009

A lesson in learning to say no!

I am a doer. I come from a long line of doers. I learned from watching my mother a long time ago to not do things for people that will make you resent them. I have had to relearn this a few times in my life but I got it now. I want to help. I want to be useful. I want to show that I love and care for you by taking care of you. This is my way. There is also the other side to that coin. It also comes from my mother and her resentment of good deeds done but unrecognized. This is one of those deep rooted issues that took me years to figure out as a child. Why do we go out of our way for these people? These same people you are now calling ungrateful? Why did we do this good deed again? Well for my mom, back in the day at least, it was for recognition. It sounds horrible to say but she wanted people to see what she had done and commend her for it. It was really a terrible example for a child but the true learning experience came when I started to ask hard questions. My mom would go out of her way, spending days and sometimes weeks on projects to help a friend. In the end the friend might be too busy or self consumed to thank her and so now she is ungrateful…immediately. This behavior made me see that my mother was not doing things out of the kindness of her heart but for praise. The even harder realization over the years is that I was my mother’s daughter and in this case, by the time I realized it, the apple had not fallen far from the tree. I was 21 years old when I woke up resenting everyone for everything.

As I said this is something I have continued to revisit in my life and struggle with. I want to help people. It really is in my nature (Thanks, MOM). I want to help them for the right reasons though. Not so they will think I am cool or so other people think I am cool. I want to do it because I think it makes me cool. I don’t want to resent my friends and family for not saying thank you. I want to do it knowing that my pride alone is enough to sustain me. The hardest part of this is learning to say NO! I had a really hard time at first. Wouldn’t you guess but my mom was the worst at accepting my new leaf. When I started to say no to family events that I attended just to appease her she got very upset. “Why can’t you just do this for the family” or “(enter any name here) would be really happy if you did” or my favorite “why not?”.

My friends, it was an absolute pleasure to say the same thing to my mother that she had said to me for so many years….BECAUSE I SAID SO! When I do things to make others happy without regard for myself it makes me feel like I sold myself short. If I want to go out of my way to come to your 8th child’s 10th birthday party then I will but you will not guilt me into it. If I want to skip out on a day with my family to heal my soul, I have the right. If I want to say no just to say no, I can. This was just an amazing thought to my mother who had never considered her feelings or wants or that she might have a choice in the matter (I said it was a LONG line of doers that I come from). I think over time my mom realized that I didn’t say no out of malice or discontent with anyone. I said no to become more at one with myself and what I needed to be doing. My mother has a tremendous heart. I am truly grateful and blessed to have that trait passed along to me. My father, who has been divorced from my mom for 18 years still says to this day that my mom has the biggest heart around (he actually says her heart is as big as her ass but if you know the man, that is indeed a compliment) and he’s right. I like to think that over the years my mom has learned from me how to say no. She still is not great at it but she is getting better. She is also better at not resenting me for needing to take care of myself first.

Ok, now I can get to the point of my post, I have one…I promise. Today I get a text from an old acquaintance; I can’t call her a friend as I have not heard from her in years. The text says, “Hey is this still Toni’s phone”. Seriously, that is how long it has been since we talked. I say yes, it is…how are you? The normal pleasantries. She responds: “Stressed. Any way you can watch my dog for 10 days while I go to Italy?” ?????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????? I can barely wrap my head around this. I literally haven’t heard from her in YEARS and this is how she strikes up a conversation.

What makes her think that I would do that? Who does this woman think I am? Well I will tell you. She thinks I am the old, pleasing, push-over Toni. You know, the single girl without a care in the world who will do anything for a friend. Sadly this was my MO for a long time. Not sad that I helped but sad that I feel like that is how people thought of me. I was the girl with no life that would drop everything for them. I think some of the “friends” that I had were around so that they could take advantage of my good nature. I was the one person they knew that would drop her life for a friend. It should be no surprise to me then that I am the one she called on. This is also why after years of being single, once I found love many of my “friends” could not accept it. I was no longer there to drop everything on a whim for their needs or wants. I actually had my own life and responsibilities. If there is an emergency, I will always be there for a friend but when I learned to say no to the bullshit I got an unfavorable response from some. I just wasn’t acting like myself they said. HE was changing me. I wasn’t even the same person anymore. Who had I become? What happened to the former doormat that they so enjoyed? That is right; I realized that my old acquaintance felt she could take advantage of me like that because I let her do it before!!!! After all, I have changed so much (heavy sarcasm). I am grounded. I am happy. I am content. I am me. I don’t know who they thought I was but I know who I am and that is all that matters to me. It hurts to think that people are in your life to use you. I prefer to think of it as utilize but using is using. I am glad I have learned to wean those folks out. That is why I haven’t spoken to the will-you-watch-my-dog-girl in years. In fact, I think the last time we did talk I dog sat for her. She says she wants to get together and catch up after Italy even though I said no to watching her dog. 50 bucks says I never hear from her again which is just fine by me. It really is vindicating to not feel an obligation to friendship. It makes the ones that you have that much more real and valuable…and sincere. Thanks to my real friends. You know who you are.


  1. Good for you. I am just now learning how to say no. I am still working on shaking off the reflexive guilt that comes with it.

  2. what a great post. andi completely agree. I'm sure it was hard to say to your mom and actually to do it, but good for you!

  3. I personally love the woman you have become (and are still becoming). You don't need people like that in your life, and weeding them out is definitely going to make things much better for you. I still can't believe that girl asked you to watch her dog for 10 days after not talking to you for that long. That's just ridiculous.