I’m all about Yes!--until I suddenly hit the wall. That usually happens every year around Christmas. I’ll be humming along, going to parties, giving parties, laughing, eating and drinking, enjoying myself, and then one night I come home and start to feel upset--overwhelmed and trapped and nervous.
It has taken me years to recognize the beginnings of that feeling and to call a halt. For a long time, I wouldn’t recognize it until I had careened past upset and into full-blown panic. Year ago at a big party, someone was talking too fast and loud in my face and I started to feel instant panic. A friend walked over and said, “You don’t have to stand there. You can say no to this.”
I felt like he had touched me with a magic wand. From then on, I began to pay closer attention to demands made on me and to my response. I still said mostly yes, but I began to take note when my whole being was saying, “No!” That doesn’t mean I always manage to say no when I should, but I pay more attention.
This past week I had to use my “no” skills . I had planned to go to a launch party and was looking forward to it. But as it approached I realized that four out of the next five days were full of mandatory events. To go to the launch meant I had to drive over an hour each way. Reluctantly I said, “No. You can’t do it.” Even after allowing myself that “no,” at a party later in the week I almost crashed. I came home and felt the beginnings of overload.
The next day I regrouped, decided not to give a party I’d been contemplating without enthusiasm, and said no to a large party I was going to attend only out of duty. Instead I said yes to two small gatherings I really wanted to do.
Learning to recognize the signs of “too much” has served me well in the six months since my debut novel came out. No matter how much fun I’m having during social time at a conference, I go to my room when I realize I’m starting to feel crowded emotionally. As much as I love doing readings and appearances, I decided at some point not to push it any farther when I was feeling stressed.
I admire friends who write and who seem to be able to carry on a thriving social life as well, but I’m glad I’ve learned to recognize that tiny quiver in my psyche that says, “too much.” I’ve learned to reserve enough of myself to really be present when I agree to do something, and not be yearning to be holed up at home in my jammies and fuzzy slippers. That means when I say “yes,” I mean it.