A few years ago the large W that spelled NOW in white painted letters, fell off the window sill and broke in two. At the time I was struggling, everything seemed to be crumbling around me, I felt panicked and afraid. When the W broke I just shook my head and added it to the pile of rubble that felt like my life at the time.
The NO that was left on the window sill seemed to be calling to me in some way and it took me years to understand the large role that those two letters would play in my life.
You see I have always wanted to say YES to life, to people, to requests for my time, to helping those less fortunate, to being a good mother, wife and friend. And there is absolutely nothing wrong with this, in fact this YES is what makes the world go round.
There was just one problem, I hadn't yet learned the lesson of balance. I had not yet learned that my love of saying YES had stretched my life too far. Like a rubber band that had no more elasticity left, I had reached the end of the road with my old ways.
I had a lot of soul searching to do.
I had seen my mother gain her PhD in YES, and although she helped so many people, she never got the chance to make choices about how she wanted to live her own life, because she was always taking care of everyone else's needs.
And her life was filled with grace and when she died the cathedral was filled with hundreds and hundreds of people whose lives had been made better by spending time with her. And this was comforting and beautiful.
She was a shining light to all that met her, and she will guide me always, but I realised that we are different people, and the YES that informed her life had to be tempered by a NO in my own. And with learning to say NO I was starting pretty much from scratch.
I started because I had to, because I had nothing left to give and I needed to go to ground, to understand myself more deeply, to heal my wounds.
And so that's what I did. I spent time in nature, in silence, by myself and with a trusted friend who understood exactly what I meant when I told her that I needed to bring NO into my life.
It takes a time to change lifelong habits, and I am still very much a work in progress but I feel relieved to have been able to make NO my friend.
I realised that I need not volunteer so enthusiastically for things that I don't really want to do. I learned that I don't need to spend time with people who don't make me feel good. I learned that boundaries are good and healthy and that I need them if I want to be a healthy person. I learned that I need to take care of myself and my own emotions before I can take care of others properly.
And most importantly I learned that NO is just as important to me as YES, and that I can trust myself with this. There is not much chance that I will become a selfish recluse because there is still within me the overwhelming desire to say YES, to help, to make things better.
But now, I have learned that I must balance this YES with a healthy and unapologetic NO.
Its funny, the world doesn't seem to mind at all when I say NO for my own good. In fact saying NO has opened my life up in ways that I could not have imagined.