If I'd known then what I know now, I would not have said Yes so much

I am a recovering chronic yes-sayer. It started in my first professional job as a counselor in a mental health center. In the six years I worked there, I’m pretty sure I never said No, not even once.

Could I help start a “battered women’s” shelter? Absolutely.

How about a halfway house for alcoholic women? You bet.

And a National Organization for Women chapter? Sure.

I was a good little community mental health worker. It wasn’t that I was afraid to say no, it just never occurred to me that someone else could say yes instead of me,  and that the project still would get done, and that that person would learn some things and grow as a result, and that I could be home more.

As I said, this is a chronic condition, so after I left that job and became a freelancer, I kept it up. How about working in a program for “displaced homemakers”? And a drug abuse prevention program? Yup. I was running out of words to say yes with.

The next iteration was to open my own practice, answering yes to a question that no one asked. And then it was committees at church, and community boards, and professional organizations. Everything was tempting, and worthy, but I was getting worn out. No surprise that I didn’t manage to fulfill my longtime intention to tackle writing until I recovered.

If only I’d known then that just because you can, it  doesn’t mean that you must. That you can’t do it all at once, through because life is long, you eventually can space things out and do it all. That you don’t have to even want to do it all, you can do some, or eventually none.

My recovery came like this: No, sorry, I can’t. Sure, I’ll be part of the committee but not the leader. I’ll do this short term thing but not ongoing. But it still could sound like Yes, for this one thing, I say Yes, for this length of time. I’m down to one project which I love with people I think the world of. And now I write. What I know now makes me calm and happy and in charge of my time. I highly recommend it.


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