Saying No to New Opportunities

 I did it. I said no.

I said no to a really good opportunity that pretty much fell into my lap.

It looked good. It appeared lucrative.

Even though the initial outlay to purchase this opportunity was not too terribly high (okay the cost of a slightly used mid-range car), this opportunity had the potential of doubling my income pretty fast. It all made sense.

I could scale my resources to get the work done, I could get a house cleaner and eat out a few times more a week perhaps. My husband was even willing to help as much as he could.

It did all sound good, except for the fact that I had this gnawing, grinding feeling of dread in the pit on my stomach through the entire negotiation process.

Except for half a dozen sleepless nights, way too many emails, a few consulting phone calls that left me feeling like I should totally do the deal – why not? I’d be crazy not to.

 Yet, I had no peace. I had no feeling of freedom. Instead, I felt angry, irritated, overworked, over-stressed — and I hadn’t even closed the deal yet.

Things on paper don’t always match up to making reality better. I’ve learned this the hard way over the years.

I’m a ‘yes’ girl who’s constantly learning to be a ‘no’ girl.

It’s hard to do, let me tell you.

When you’re a ‘yes’ girl, people flock to you for advice, they ask you to help out, to volunteer, to be on the team, to join in all the glorious work-like fun. But the side-effects (and there are plenty) usually come with the territory and take you down a nasty rabbit hole of not enough ‘me’ time, not enough family time, not enough husband time. These all lead to a grumpier, more irritated, slightly bitchy version of myself. And I don’t like her.

I turned 40 last year, and let me tell you, something was starting to change as I got closer and closer. Then, it happened: My birthday came and went, I enjoyed time with my family and friends ‘celebrating me.’

The thing is, until now, through your 20s and 30s, there is this feeling that you’re building and growing, moving and grooving, kicking butt and taking names. This 40-market seems to denote that we hit the apex of the curve or something. Not that there can’t be lots of great things to do and awesome opportunities, yet the average lifespan is 70-something.

Deny it all you want, but 40 really is middle-age. We can improve medical conditions and procedures, we can enhance our quality of life, we can eat all organic, we can shun gluten–yet life is still ephemeral. David said it best in Psalm 39, “Life is but a vapor.”

It is as though, for me, it’s carpe diem or nothing. Am I doing the things I want to be doing right now? Am I pursuing my dreams and responding to God’s calling in my life?

I’ve spent the last few years learning to say ‘no’ more often. I’ve given my husband permission to shut me down when I get all gangbusters about the latest ministry ask. Since his schedule is quite demanding most of the year as a high school teacher and varsity boys basketball coach, I’ll often say ‘yes’ during the offseason, then lament when my workload and commitments extend out of control during his season.

I reached a point where I said, “enough.” My mental, physical, and emotional health were at stake.

To top it off, I have a chronic condition called Fibromyalgia, which I treat through exercise, rest, balance, and low stress. The moment things get heated, it’s like my body responds for me – fatigue, brain fog, lethargy, irritableness, of yes, and pain, you get the idea.

So I decided to say no. I realized that I’m the only one who can do it. It’s up to me.

I’ve been trying to be more intentional and mindful about my attitude, and the intention, ‘freedom’ came to mind. First, I thought of that cheesy song from the 90s band Soup Dragons, “I’m free to be who I want / and do what I want /any old time.” It’s catchy, you may or may not remember it.

At the end of the day, we are all free to make a choice. We’re free to choose joy, to choose happiness and love, and we’re free to know our own boundaries–we only have to listen.