Doesn’t that seem like a question that an adult with nearly 1/2 a century behind her would easily be able to answer? I only ask that because in my recent experience this question was posed as essential to making more mindful and impactful decisions in so many areas. If I had been asked that as a wide-eyed 10-year-old I would still be listing everything. As a 47-year-old at a self-imposed crossroads, I found myself stymied. We spend so much time on the hamster wheel just doing what comes next and thinking we have no choices. Part of that comes from being the “Girl Who Can’t Say No.” Part of it is as we get older so many of us think we must supplant passion with duty and obligation. We forget to find space in us and our lives for what brigs us truly heartfelt joy.
For me I needed to make the room to really think about that. One by one I needed to invite those things in to my life. Surprisingly I found some of them were already there, but I suppressed the part of them that brought joy. I worried about how it looked. Was I serious enough? Was I moving forward according to the plan I don’t recall making? I had to make room for being silly, getting in touch with that 10-year-old girl who did not really care what anyone thought. She knew something I forgot. She knew there were so many things to be passionate about because you could bring it with you to what you do.
I am passionate about my job. I mean helping people to value and preserve water. It is a calling, but I had to reconnect to the parts of my job that are fulfilling. I had to start trying to find some room. The door to that passion was saying no to things that pull me away. In all aspects of my passion pursuits I find this Achilles heel. Every time I mindlessly say yes I am closing the door to a passion. I am making a choice, usually out of that place of fear. What will I look like? Won’t I miss out? What will people think?
Turns out what my father used to say to me is correct. “If you knew how infrequently people thought about you, you would not worry so much about it.” All those people have their own stuff going on, too busy to ruminate over me. I find it easier everyday to say no. Mostly because I have identified what is really important and are true passions for me. I can say no to staying late at work because cooking and sharing my day with my husband is a passion. I can say no to watching mindless TV because I can read a book and expand my mind or spend time writing. I can so no to requests that take away the time I have to meditate and run. Saying no has allowed me the room and space to say yes to volunteering, because animal rescue is a passion I miss. It has made room to say yes without regret or obligation to my mother because helping my family is consistent with my values and passions.
Turns out making life decisions is not as complicated as I thought. It just involves finding out what is of value to me, what feeds my passion, and realizing for every opportunity missed there is a more valuable purpose fulfilled. I am trying to be a reformed yes woman and a more present person.