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I live on the ocean, write women's fiction, love to read so much that it's an addiction rather than a hobby (I read an average of a book a day). I live on the wet west coast so it's a good thing that I like to walk in the rain.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Saying no

How many of you have trouble saying no? To friends and family, co-workers and fellow volunteers?

I think it's one of those things that a lot of us have trouble with. I know women do, but I also have male friends who have the same problem - who can't say no to their families, can't say no to their business associates or co-workers, can't say no to the volunteer organizations they belong to.

It's time we all learned how to say no. Because I don't know about you - but if I don't say no to at least some things, the things I do end up doing aren't always done the best way. I'm too busy, too frazzled, too overwhelmed to do a good job.

So I work at saying no.

But for me - and probably for a lot of you - there's a fine line. Because I hate being bored and if I'm bored, I do nothing at all. So I need to be busy. The trouble is that there are times (lots of times) when figuring out where the line is between busy and hysterical isn't so easy. And it especially isn't easy when I'm asked the question - will you help?

See, the trick has to be to figure out where you're comfortable and remember where you are on that continuum between busy and hysterical when you have to answer the question. But the trouble with the trick is - for me, at least - that I can't decide that I'm too busy until I already am.

It's kind of like the books on my to be read pile. Because I read so much (a book a day on average), I need to have a lot of books on that pile. But I often find myself with dozens of books in that pile and still buying new ones. It's as if I can't anticipate the future somehow, as if I need to have too many books to be comfortable.

I think the same thing is true about being busy. Maybe my panic reflex kicks in when things start to slow down and I say yes to everything and then I end up too busy. I can't seem to find the right balance because I overcompensate for the boredom.

Still, I guess if I have the choice (and it seems like I must have) I'd choose to be too busy. And so I am. Almost always. On the verge of hysteria because I can't possibly get all the things done that I need to do.

Or at least I can't get all the things done that I need to do and still have the time I need for myself, the time to read that book a day, the time to just hang out and not rush from meeting to meeting.

What about you? Do you have a system for avoiding this problem?


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