Easier said than done, no? I think that’s one of the most difficult things I ever learned. And we all know why.
Women, especially, are programmed to say yes. Especially to a request from others. You want me to take your son to school? Of course. You want me to carry you across this river? Sure. You want me to put my career on the back burner for yours? Hm . . .
But we acquiesce in subtle ways. I might not have verbally agreed to the last one, but I’ve done it.
In our family anyway, with a dad who was a Freudian psychiatrist, a woman’s place was in the home—emotionally (and every other way) supporting her man, raising their children. I knew early on that wasn’t the life I wanted. My mom did a superb job—and loved it. And unlike most of her peers of that era (coming of age in the ‘40s), she had a very successful career before marrying my dad and having babies. She was head charge nurse on the pediatric ward at John Sealy teaching hospital in Galveston Texas.
And gave it all up, as women had to then, to have her family. She never regretted it—not once. Raising children was her greatest passion, and greatest joy.
From my dad’s perspective, all women should feel that way (gotta love the Freud!).
And I felt pressure, overt and covert, to live that life. Those who subscribe to that theory truly believe that a woman’s fulfillment comes from having and raising babies. And I’m absolutely certain that’s fabulously fulfilling—if it’s the life you choose.
But it took me through my thirties to be able to finally say, out loud, without demurring, to the question of having children, “No.”
Why was that so hard to say? I’d never wanted children. I adore my nieces and nephews (and now my grand nephew!). I love little kids. I’ve taught reams of them how to swim and ride horses. Kids flock to me. And bring me such joy.
But I knew early on where my passion true lay—in stories. In creating fiction about what makes us tick; about the essence of our lives.
Oh, I know so many writers do both! And successfully. But I had this sense that I couldn’t. That while writing I’d be worried about children, and while tending them, feel the lure from the sirens of fiction.
Yet and still, with this knowing so deep, it was tough to say no out loud (even though I knew it clearly) to all the various requests, admonitions, out-and-out criticisms, and what seemed like a revolving door of opportunities to have babies.
I’ve had other pronounced opportunities to put my career on the back burner for various boyfriends (and a husband as well). And at times, have done so.
But by far the most difficult one to say no to, in the actual analysis, has been myself. The old tapes of “You need to make a living.” “Writing is a frivolous activity, in the end. Time to grow up and be a professional X.” “Nobody actually eats off their writing.” I could go on, ad nauseum!
And that’s the crux for all of us—if we didn’t have that acquiescing part of ourselves deep inside, saying no to whatever would be a snap.
So, what do I do to tame that internal beast? I have a simple mantra: “Yes, you’re probably right. I hear you. And we’ll attend to your concerns in a bit. But at this very instant I have a scene to write. So, talk to you soon.”
And by the time I’m done with said scene, that voice is nowhere to be heard. It just wanted its say, after all J
How do you say No?