The Epic Rewards of “No”

There was a time for me when saying “No” was nearly impossible! I recall an old friend asking me almost daily to drive her places, out for the night, over to her lover’s, back to her home, the store, anywhere and everywhere. And I would. Since I was afraid of her, and she must have known this on some level.

But after I became a teacher, my students would take advantage of my kindness (which was really just fear) and chaos would rule my days. Learning to say “no” to younger people was great practice for me because the one thing I needed more than their love was their respect. Eventually, I learned to say no to my peers, and family members, even occasionally beautiful and selfish men as well.

I didn’t have to be mean about it. I could say warmly and confidently, “I am sorry, but no.”

It became almost amusing to practice saying no without apology, to simply own the power vested in me and declare a simple Nope. Sometimes I’d soften it for those I truly liked. “No….(soft warm smile…wince)…sorry.”

Sometimes I was willing to give my reason calmly, but it was important to not give a tone of deference. It was important that the explanation was an act of compassion and not an obligation. It took me a long time to see that people do not always require an explanation.

My students occasionally suggested that I would be the coolest teacher ever should I grant their wish. I learned to reply that I was already entirely cool without their approval. I would even help them to understand that whining repeatedly was a form of manipulation I did not appreciate. This left them puzzled and melancholy, having grown used to their lifetime success at begging.

Saying no takes hutzpah, and that means one must conquer one’s fears in order to do it. Fear of another’s wrath. Fear of going to hell. Fear of being blamed. Fear of retaliation. Fear of causing someone discomfort, and of course fear that people will condemn you and leave you behind. Let’s face it. It happens.

People really do not like hearing “no.”

However, setting boundaries with a clear “no” is fruitful too. People learn that you will not be submissive at the expense of your own needs.

People are less likely to take advantage of you, period.

People will come to know that you are capable of saying Yes, just not every time.

People begin to respect you. People also think twice before pushing too far.

Life becomes fair. Less stressful.

The greatest gift of saying No is that you come to learn who your true friends are. Loyal people don’t go away just because you say no. Even you will like yourself a bit more.

In the social circles of addiction recovery, there is an unwritten code that one should never say no when they are asked to be of service. Addicts are by nature selfish, thus we encourage selflessness as a new behavior.

But in the fellowship of recovering codependents, this rule cannot apply. For codependents spend their lives serving relentless sponges in order to feel needed; and codependents pay for it with their souls, becoming a mere husk, blowing hither and thither at the beck and call of the ones they love.

For saying yes indiscriminately and without regard for one’s own needs is the surest way to resent our loved ones. It creates bitterness and eventually a passive poisoning of any love that once existed.

Here is where the spiritual part comes in…

Because I am certain that my soul is divine, a natural result of intentional communion with the gods, because I recognize my own holy, mysterious and powerful essence, a Yes is often and simply not required. The beauty of this capacity to decline is that no one ever has to wonder if I am secretly feeling burdened, or if I am disrespectfully pretending to comply with feigned affection.

When I say Yes, it is because I wish to say Yes. You can trust me to say what I mean. You won’t need to repeat the annoying question, “Are you sure?”

Please, do not ever say yes to me unless you truly want to, for sayin yes when you want to say no is, according to divine law, a form of dishonesty and cowardice I could not abide.

Say No, and watch me cringe and squirm. I will love you for it.

Why Online Dating is a Spiritual Experience: Part Three – The Combat Zone

The dating site survey was completed along with a rather compelling profile. I mean, I’m a writer after all. And I set the privacy mode to “All members may view.” Game on!

There were lots of hits at first. Men seemed intrigued and sometimes quite forward about their desire to date me! Ego scores!

It was no shock a few hookup whores were lurking. Some wanted a younger woman to bear their children and had not even bothered to read beyond my photos. A few just stopped communication as if they were refugees in a state of war. Ego down.

This is the part where a film montage of dating absurdities rolls with a punk rock 80’s song.

I had no experience setting these boundaries, or how sometimes I had to get messy and mean. Dating was not for the weak. Dating requires a warrior, a champion, a goddamn barracuda in a lovely shade of pink!

Dating had its own culture, its own code, and I was catching on to the rules of engagement:

Rule 1: Never allow a stranger to come to your home. Especially when they say nice things but have pointy ears and sharp teeth.

Going to another person’s home, because you have mutual community ties, is fine. Unless you find out that he is Obsessive-Compulsive and stops to take another shower in the middle of the date.

Rule 2: Police Officers date. The one I dated was a fantastic human. In the end, he just did not have enough time for dating and lived too far away.

Rule 3: Never meet anyone you have not spoken to on the phone at least once. Two or three times is even better. It is amazing what you can learn from phone calls. Texting was not nearly as telling. Let me be clear: I am a strong player in the texting world. I love the flirtation of texts and the witticisms and the naughtiness of texting when you should be acting like a normal human being. But hands down, wordsmiths are outrageous masters of illusion and phone calls are several degrees closer to real.

I figured out one guy was a total stoner after 2 phone calls; he was the most adorable man but smoked weed nonstop. Nope.

Another guy held a job my teenager could have secured, but seemed to do nothing else. I asked him what he did with his time when he was not at work. He paused, then said, “Laundry.” That was it. He was incredibly good looking too, so it was painful to step away from Mr. No Life. He said he was hoping a woman would change all that. Phone calls are a precious opportunity to avoid a future divorce.

Rule 3: The way a man discusses what happened with his ex, or a past love, or how he “got here”, suggests volumes. Is this man a graceful diplomat, a childish tyrant, or a tortured civilian? If he talks too long about her, he isn’t over it. If he doesn’t talk at all, he might take himself too seriously. Does he think his loss is greater than the loss of others? Is he under the impression his pain is the totality of importance? Did he martyr himself for 20 years? I pay attention to what their experience might have been.

Rule 4: Dressing up and going to high end establishments was a mistake because within 5 minutes, I already knew if this was a no. Going fancy meant long hours of what to wear, and the time needed to doll up! Going fancy meant being hostage to a lot of waitstaff conversation and the time it takes to be elegant in public, typically a couple hours. This is all good if you have no friends and you just want company. But I was on a mission and had plenty of other things to do. Fancy was for a second or third date.

Rule 5: Men with a PhD and expansive careers, the type that travels the world and uses words I have to research are out there. They exist and they are glorious examples of how a girl can find her prince later in life. But my limited experience told me these men can also be rather repressed and shine only in certain arenas, not necessarily in my arena. For example, if an honest, rich, handsome man cannot make me laugh, I would prefer to live as simply and humbly as I do, alone. I would rather laugh with a homeless man under the bridge than live with a socialite genius who would be a far better match for another sort of woman. If you think it wasn’t painful to reject the potential of financial security with a man who would likely treat me very very well, you are mistaken. But I know who I am. And I absolutely MUST be laughing, dancing and being a total goof while I live a life of comforts.

By January, I had moved into jeans and a nice shirt for coffee dates only. 40 minutes tops. After 3 months, I had dated a chef, a farmer, a cop, a doctor, an author, a corporate attorney, and a photographer. There were zero second dates.

My spirit had not yet waned but I was beginning to wish women were an option. I had expected the Minnesota winters might be chilly. I had met some passionate, smart, talented men. I had been true to myself thus far. I was practicing the skill of saying no. I was learning that a really good person was not necessarily the right person for me. But a majorly dysfunctional person was a lesson I had mastered long ago. Perhaps I taught them a thing or two, but I doubt it. The cool part was that my intuition was en pointe. I was listening to my gut for the first time in my life. That was an awakening I had not imagined.

I had no idea what was coming next. And not knowing what was up ahead was ironically the impetus for hope.