Step back–I have the power of “no” and I’m not afraid to use it

“You’re very cranky today,” Gary said. I appreciate friends who tell it like it is, even when they know there’s a risk I might take their heads off.

I’d basically just told an 80-year-old chronic complainer, a typical high-maintenance first violinist, that she could bite me.  I didn’t even try to deny it.  I was stressed out.  I’d just finished the last concert of my orchestra’s season hanging on by the ends of my fingers, but I’d agreed to play as a ringer for another orchestra’s concert and had a ton of music to master in the next two weeks.  I had some new submission opportunities I had no time to write for, this blog, oh and then there’s that kid that roams around the house insisting that I’m his mother.

“This is fun.” He reminded me.  But it wasn’t. My office was the perfect reflection of my problem.  My desk was littered story notes, post-its of haiku, thank you flowers from a recent house guest, a pile of bills and note cards with the names of musicians that hadn’t returned their folders. Next to my desk chair was a hard backed chair, and a music stand with some of the music I was working on. The rest was scattered across the floor.  My violin case was open, so I could practice at the drop of a hat and the ironing board was set up, you know just in case I had time to iron my husband’s shirts.  I had a computer tab open on WebMD, to see if  I should do something about the water on my knee, and oh yeah, my husband needs me to take his car in for some “enhancements, please don’t call it a recall.” That paperwork was on top of the printer.

I was deep in the weeds.  I needed a machete.

I found one.  It’s called “no.” No is one big-ass, two-handed sword and by the power of Greyskull I was going to wield it.

Truthfully, it’s mostly my own fault.  I get caught up in being indispensable.  I want to please everyone, be the person they can count on.  Instead, I say I’ll do something that I really have no time for, and then kill myself to follow through.  No, is so much easier.

I said “no, I can’t be a ringer.” I told me son he’d have to help around the house, since work was busy.  His response was “You’re working? You mean the writing thing?” I told him he was grounded.  He wasn’t really, but the look on his face when I say it amuses me so.

And after I said no to all of these things? I could breathe.

Writing is a job, and like a job, it is a priority.  If I don’t respect it, no one else will.  The pen may be mightier than the sword, but sometimes the sword has to clear the path. Eventually, I will move my office to a more peaceful setting, a place for only writing where other responsibilities can’t tug at my skirt.  In the meantime, I have to create my own space.  And I will do it with “no.”

My house is a mess. I’ll live with it.  The family will be fed, the shirts will be ironed, and the car will be fixed. I just won’t guarantee when. I’ve got writing to do. Interrupt me at your own risk.  I’m known to get cranky.

Words by J. B. Everett

Photograph by Nathan Gibbs

13 comments on “Step back–I have the power of “no” and I’m not afraid to use it

  1. Mel says:

    Thank you! Thank you! This was so very perfect for me to read today! I’ll have toddlers bouncing around today–and already had to cancel plans because one of them has pneumonia… 😦 But, yes, I need to be crankier.

  2. Now this is just getting freaky. Every time I read one of your posts, it’s EXACTLY what I’ve been dealing with! Either we are twins separated at birth, or I have a split personality and I write these posts when I “lose time” like Ed Norton in Primal Fear, or worse yet–there is another human being out there that deals with the exact same situations I do! Except I don’t play the violin. 🙂

    Great post!

  3. I’m not sure which part is more universal–being an overworked mother, or being an overworked writer. If we are twins, which one of us gets to be the evil one? 🙂

  4. kirraantrobus says:

    Excellent post. You’re right; we have to respect our writing time before anyone else will realize it even needs respecting.

  5. TheOthers1 says:

    No is the only thing keeping me sane sometimes. I really wish I was better at saying it and sticking to it when I do say it. I’ve been know to cave just because someone else is in a pinch. Its no fun-skies when you’re overwhelmed.

  6. Phyllis Diller Stewart says:

    I started saying no a few years ago and it’s really helped. To drag out a tired old phrase, yet meaning it with my whole heart: “You go, girl”!

  7. […] Not only did Gary say I was cranky, he said I wasn’t “bringing it.”  Good thing I like Gary.  We play chamber music together, and he made said statement after a recent rehearsal. He was being constructive and helpful, meaning it in the best possible way, but all I could think was What do you mean, “not bringing it?” Weren’t you listening?  I played the hell out of that thing. […]

  8. russtowne says:

    I’m attempting real hard to be very pick as to which blogs I follow, but after reading just a couple or your posts, I’m hooked. I really enjoy your writing style. Thank youn for sharing these glimpses of your spirit. I trust that you’ll have much success as a writer.


  9. Jeannine, my child of the spirit. As one who has always had a sick, twisted need to be helpful to everyone who has a need, I so understand your dilemma. The first year after I finished school was a total wash because I was too busy accommodating other people to even think about writing. I have gradually learned to say “no,” but it is still one of the hardest jobs I have.

    Stick to it gal. Train them now. It’s much easier when they are young.

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