Every Day is Saturday

Finding Joy in the Here and Now

A Place of – No?

on November 19, 2014

Yes

We are told that we should live our lives from a place of “Yes”, but I’ve begun to wonder – is it possible to say “Yes” too much?

I was telling someone the other day about all the different projects I have going on now, and that I don’t care which one comes through, as long as it makes me a good living. I listed off all of the various people I’m working with on different things (including her), and it sounded ridiculous. How is anybody supposed to get all of that done, and done well?

So far that hasn’t been an issue because, unfortunately, not one of these ventures (or all of them combined, for that matter) has generated enough consistent work to keep me busy from morning to night 5 days a week. Which means, of course, that even though it sounds like I should be insanely busy, I’m just not. This blog entry isn’t a day late because I was working so hard. It’s late because my husband and I went to see a movie yesterday afternoon since both of us had completed our work for the day. That’s how most of my days go; I get up, I get my coffee, I fire up the laptop, I deal with my email, I may or may not speak to any one of the people I have ongoing projects with, I do whatever I need to do for my clients, I have lunch, and, unless I have conference calls in the afternoon, I’m pretty much done by 2:00pm. On the one hand, no, it doesn’t suck, but the flip side is that I am keenly aware that all this downtime isn’t producing any income.

So, in my quest for coin, I’ve said “Yes” to pretty much anything anyone had proposed to me that could possibly result in financial gain. As you can imagine for the past few years I’ve said “Yes” a lot.

Them: “Do you want to start a new group to discuss the future of work and make money putting on conferences?” Me: “Yes!”

Them: “Will you design brochures for my business and help me create strategy and run my employee meetings?”  Me: “Yes!”

Them: “Will you help me re-write my website and create a marketing package and represent me to groups as a professional speaker?”  Me: “Yes!” (twice)

Them: “Will you join me and some other people to build a new business from the ground up, a process that will require you to give up your own attempt at self-employment in the same field?” Me: “Yes!”

That’s just the stuff that could make me some money. I’ve also said “Yes” to lots of things that won’t. And, in addition to all this, I’ve embarked on my journey as a writer, which should absorb my non-working hours, but I find that I get so obsessed with the idea that I have to use that time to generate income that writing seems like a betrayal to myself and those who depend on me to earn some sort of a living. So, instead of using those hours to do something that I know feeds my soul, I sit here in front of my laptop flailing around, jumping from one thing to another but not focused on much of anything except some vague idea that this is what I’m “supposed” to be doing.

It’s making me crazy.

Please understand that I am flattered that some people think so much of me and my skills and talents that they want me involved in their projects. It has been a balm to my battered self-esteem to be so desired. That’s probably the biggest reason why I’ve said “Yes” to things that I’m not well suited for. Just so you know, I’ve been honest with those people who’ve asked me to help with with stuff I don’t really know how to do, but they don’t seem to care. So I’ve been muddling through, hoping not to screw things up too badly, and feeling like a total fraud, even as I’m told I’m doing a great job.

I’ve never been afraid to tackle things that I’m not 100% sure what I’m doing, but I seem to have taken on an extraordinary amount of it in my eagerness to keep myself open to possibility. This is where the idea of “Yes” falls down – when you say it indiscriminately. I’ve turned into a project slut, someone who’ll agree to do anything for even the most vague possibility of making a buck, and it’s made me feel kinda dirty.

But I don’t know what to do about it. I genuinely care about every one of the people with whom I’ve agreed to work, and I want to help them. I want the business venture I’m involved in to flourish, even as I have no idea how to make that happen. I want to find that magical formula of doing what I love and loving what I do. So far, it has eluded me.

Then, a couple of weeks ago, something magical did happen. I was invited to join the board of directors of a new theatre company. Almost all of the existing board members are longtime friends of mine, and the mission of the theatre is one that I am extremely excited about. AND I have the experience, skill, and talent to make a genuine contribution to the group. And even though it is a non-paying gig, my feelings about it and my willingness to jump in without reservation has cast all my other ventures into stark relief.

So I’m in a quandary. Do I gently, lovingly, let go of those projects that are getting me down? Do I, for the first time in years, say “No”?

It’s not in my nature to abandon someone who needs me, but I’m beginning to see how I’ve stressed myself out trying to do things I don’t know how to do. Or the people I’m doing them with seemingly aren’t as committed as they said they were so I’ve wound up dragging them along, even though the project was their idea to begin with. It’s emotionally exhausting, all this caring about stuff that’s going nowhere.

I’ve had to admit that I’ve been so busy trying to do right by everyone else that I’ve forgotten to do right by me. I’ve said “Yes” over and over, thinking that opening myself up to all possibilities was the best thing to do. I know now that, for me at least, this has been a losing strategy.

I’ve decided that going forward, I’m going to start saying “No” to those projects for which I feel no personal passion. I’ve tried substituting other people’s enthusiasm for my own, and it hasn’t helped them or me. I’ve lied to myself that I feel passionate about things that I just don’t. It’s the only way I’ve been able to rationalize the lengths to which I’ve gone to make some of these projects happen.

One caveat: there are a couple of projects that I will continue to work on, even though I’ve lost that loving feeling for them. It’s better this way; I can do the work that’s required of me without putting so much importance on it. I can still care about my work without NEEDING it to be successful to justify my fake passion for it.

That realization has set me free to give my heart to what I am honestly passionate about. I know what some of those things are – the theatre, my writing, my family and friends. I wonder what new passion may be out there, waiting for me to make room?

photo credit: @Doug88888 via photopin

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