Saying no has historically been so uncomfortable to me that in order to do it, I had to have “a good excuse.” There were times that I was almost relieved I was going to be out of town when asked to volunteer for an event, drive a friend to the airport, or help out at a yard sale. It wasn’t that I minded helping my friends paint their living room, move into their new house or drum up silent auction donations for the gala. However, because I used to derive almost the entirety of my self-worth from what I gave to others, checking my calendar and saying yes was automatic. I rarely considered what was actually good for me, if I wanted to volunteer my third weekend in a row helping others, or if I had been thinking about going camping that weekend.
If I didn’t occasionally have a reason to say no there wouldn’t have been time to hold down a job, cook a meal or sleep eight hours a night, much less cross country ski, see a movie or read a book. Even when I had a good reason, I still often felt guilty if I couldn’t help. I would think, “well, jeez, they drove me to the airport at 6 a.m. once. I owe them.” I would consider ways I might make it up to them, or how I could be a better friend in the future. I saw my value in almost any relationship as being related to how much, how often and well I could give. On the other side of the coin, before I got cancer, I almost never asked for help in return. I would typically power through on my own except when I absolutely couldn’t.
Learning to receive has been a huge theme in my life, and I have written about it numerous times. In fact, my next book is likely to tackle this subject in-depth because I believe there is much to plumb about the cycle of giving and receiving. When giving and receiving flows naturally, it is provides a wondrous river of abundance that never runs dry. A Course in Miracles says, “To have, give all to all.”
What I want to explore further now is the “excuse.” From the time we were small children who don’t want to go to school, we began to learn how to come up with a really good reason why we couldn’t. We found clever ways to delay going to bed too, and to get out of doing the dishes. Tummy aches, bad dreams, the desperate need for a glass of water and one last hug were all certain to get us the attention, love and hall pass we desired. We became conditioned to always offer a reason, or to have a good excuse when something went wrong, we were late or we didn’t show up.
Ever notice that when someone asks you to do something, a simple no is rarely acceptable? “Why not?” almost immediately follows. We anticipate that question, and typically offer the reason before it is even asked. There is a great quote that describes this perfectly: “If you want to do something badly enough, you’ll find a way. If not, you’ll find an excuse.” Wow is that true! But it is definitely not socially acceptable to simply say, “No. I don’t want to,” though some people are bold enough to do so, consequences be damned. What would the world be like if we all were? Hmmm. I like to think about that. Maybe I’ll even get brave enough to try it myself.
Because I have not been that brave in the past, and felt the need to have a really good excuse to say no or to back out of something I had already committed to, I often manifested some humdingers. I say manifested, because I am also an honest person, and while I sometimes stretched the truth, I never outright lied. That meant I actually had to manifest car trouble or abdominal pain or a cold, when I needed a day off from work or an evening in front of the TV when I was supposed to be dressed up at an event. Of course, I didn’t recognize this at the time that I was doing it, but in retrospect, it is so obvious that I found a way to get my needs met and tell the truth, even though it meant creating something unpleasant. Wow!
Participating in the Self-Expression and Leadership Program with Landmark Education exposed me to an activity that showed so clearly that all “reasons” are completely made up and without meaning. First, we were asked to write down five reasons why we were doing the community project we had chosen. Then five more. Then five more again. Then to declare the reasons that were going to get us into heaven. The reasons that we would share with potential funders, volunteers or participants. Then to really dig deep and share the REAL reasons we were doing this particular project. This went on for some time – probably 20 minutes or more – and by the end, with a page full of reasons in front of you, you couldn’t help but laugh out loud at the ridiculousness of them all.
The point of the exercise was to learn that if all our reasons are made up anyway, why not make up ones that empower us. Great idea! The power of our mind is so great that if we want to get out of something and we are truthful, we will find a way to manifest a good excuse. Flat tires, sick dogs, sore throats and sprained ankles are all great excuses, but not fun to deal with. If we all did a better job of taking care of our own needs, expressing our true feelings, saying no when we needed to and being honest with each other, would we be able to avoid some of the minor (or not so minor) annoyances in our lives? If we were better at self-care, taking time for ourselves, knowing we are enough and even – gasp –
loving ourselves completely, can we heal the dis-ease in our lives, including cancer? I think so.
Excuses. Excuses. Excuses. We all have them. Why not try letting them go for a while and see what magic we can create by either showing up even when we don’t feel like it to actually have a fantastic time, go for a little while and duck out early, or just say, “I’m not going to make it after-all,” and be completely ok with that.