There’s been a snow patrol song in my head every time I’ve thought about writing this post. Just say no, Just say there’s nothing holding you back, la la la. Now there’s a super current reference to hook an audience. Just the eleven years old, I reckon. Oh – Just Googled 2009, so nine years. Not bad. And for those of you noticing a very subtle tweak to the lyrics, congratulations!
I felt burnt out in late 2017. It took a while to admit that I might have to indulge in the buzzword that is self care. That’s when I discovered it. I’d been a bit of a Yes Man, lately. Agreeing to dinner here, this other thing there. Some things I didn’t necessarily want to do with my spare time but here we were. Things that should have felt fun became a chore.
But I didn’t want to disappoint anyone. I’d have to turn up for what I’d committed to and bloody well enjoy them. Or look like I was an moan to my wife as I lay, worn out and struggling to concentrate on my book.
Before I knew it, I felt exhausted. I was snappy and lethargic. Wanting to do nothing but sleep and watch shit TV. I couldn’t be bothered to read and anything creative took a nosedive into never, never land. (That novel I keep banging on about: the word count’s been static since about mid-October).
Then I discovered a word I’d somehow forgotten; No.
Can you help with this? I’m sorry, no.
Do you want to spend half your weekend driving to another city to do that? No.
A group of us are going to lunch, do you fancy it? No, thank you.
It can even be to yourself. That little voice in your head. You really should go to the gym. No thanks, I’ll go tomorrow when I’m feeling it. That hallway could do with hoovering. No, it’ll be okay for one more day. As long as it gets done and it isn’t, god forbid, sticky then it can wait (save for a housewarming about six years ago when I experienced what I think will be remembered as the worst hangover of my entire life, before I got a bit sensible and learnt when to grasp a tall glass of water instead of a shot of something that tastes like cough medicine I’ve only ever experienced a sticky floor in the actual house I live in when I was at uni but you catch my drift.) . I very much doubt, though I’m no authority, that when it comes to the very end we’ll wish we kept the stairway fluff-free.
I used to offer an explanation. Okay, an excuse. I’m sorry, I would but… Or just agree and spend weeks dreading it. Gutted when something came up that I actually wanted to do. And I knew that if I said no, I’d end up with a barrage of peer pressure “Go on…” Just like when I don’t want to drink.
Another, extremely current song reference came up when I was discussing this with someone the other day. The first no is the hardest [to the tune of The First Cut is the Deepest. You choose which artist’s version will be your ear worm for today]. Say no. If they ask why tell them. Don’t lie. Just say I can’t be bothered, I’m not feeling it, I’d planned to go to Caffe Nero, order the cheapest decaf coffee they sell and read my book in quiet for 50 minutes. They’ll understand and probably won’t miss you too much.
I’ve been practicing. I’m revelling in my additional time for me, for the people that matter (that’s not to say if I decline your offer of a drink for a bubble bath and pyjamas that you don’t matter) and leaving some time for me has meant that there’s time to do things I might not have had if I’d been filling my days up with obligations; in month 1 of 2018 I’ve taken a spontaneous trip to the cinema just because, I’ve felt more creative, I signed up for a craft night and I’ve booked a well earned spa-day (more about that later).
So far, so positive. And all it took was having the courage to use one teeny, tiny word.