Saying yes, and saying no

This seems so simple, yet, it’s not. I want to say yes to lots of things, especially the easy and fun ones. And then I don’t actually take care of the things that aren’t so fun, like laundry and taxes and meal prep. I mean, there’s only so much time in a given day.

Why is boundary setting such a challenge?

Maybe because I didn’t even know what a boundary was until I was in my 30’s. Over the past 20 years, I’ve had some seasons where I was really good at setting them, and other seasons, not so much.

Cartoon illustration representing the cycle of the four seasons.

When my adult children and I decided we would share a living space, this required some solid boundary setting. Both up front and ongoing. I have to know what I am comfortable doing and not doing, paying for, and not paying for.

For example, I have basically retired from kitchen and food related duties. How do I feed myself, you must be wondering? Well, somehow I manage just fine. I like raw veggies and hummus. I like bagged salads. I will scramble some eggs now and then, but rarely do my cooking talents exceed the level of a 4th grader.

One daughter wasn’t surprised, and the other one looked like she would cry. And guess what, it’s working. It also means that now and then, I’ll take everyone out, or bring something in. But meal prep and cooking? Nah, I gave it up. And just because there are people who probably prefer that I cook for them, I choose differently.

Whatever man…

When I began my new Mon-Fri job, and resigned my full time ministry position at the church (after working there for 17 years), I had to set some boundaries. I didn’t even show my face in person for a solid 3 months. There needed to be some distance between the “Sherri who works here”, and the “Sherri who attends here”. Guess what? It’s working.

I can totally skip church and not feel the least bit guilty. I might watch online while I lounge in my pajamas. Or get to the beach early. Or I may dress myself right up and go see all my people. It’s up to me! I’ve even volunteered a bit, again, with boundaries. Please don’t assign me to serve on a regular schedule. Please don’t ask me to be there before 10am. This too is working.

For the past few years, I have maintained my volunteer status with the local sea turtle patrol efforts. I do this as a substitute only, with the ability to accept or decline as best fits my schedule. Last season I covered 6 shifts and turned down a few others (the minimum is 3 to keep in good standing). I’m always glad to walk the beach, but not always with the 6am wake-up call that goes with it. I love having the flexibility. This is also working. It feels good, and it is not overwhelming.

The same principle applies with social commitments. Can I be out and connecting with others 4 nights in a row and still be sharp and energetic at work all week? No, probably not. I may have to say no, so that I can say yes to the better thing.

So I ask myself, “Is this truly something I can do, and not be all grumbly about it later?”

That’s how I know where the boundary is. Often I need to think about it rather than giving an immediate answer.

And there lies the key. Pausing. Reflecting. Evaluating my existing commitments and being realistic about the time, energy, cost, etc, of whatever is on the table.

When I say yes too quickly, without proper evaluation, I am often sorry that I have made the commitment. Then I revert to being that flaky person who cancels, or shows up anyway, but probably not as my best self.

I am too old wise for such nonsense.

Being healthy in relationships and commitments is to respect when others set their own boundaries. When they say no to this amazing thing I have invited them to do. To accept their “no”, and not to take it personally. When friends decline social invitations from me, and I fully accept it. No long explanation needed. Raincheck? You bet. I appreciate others knowing themselves well enough to say no. It’s healthy and wonderful and drama free!

I want to be a woman of integrity. I want to show up fully present and as my best self. I want to be intentional about how I live. This includes spending time, energy, and money wisely. And allowing others to do the same. It just works better for all of us.

As my hero Brene Brown says, “Clear is kind. Unclear is unkind.”

So back to my original question, “Why is boundary setting such a challenge?” Because it’s part of becoming self aware, behaving with self love, and self respect. And like all challenges, it’s worth taking on.

It’s worth taking the time to be clear regarding how I want to be, where I want to be, and with whom I’d like to be.

How do you say no? And yes? And, can I get back to you on that?

Thanks for reading, until next time,

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