Ask me to do something. Go ahead. Invite me to coffee. Coax me to housesit this weekend. Inquire if I will illustrate your novel. Request my company at lunch. Beg me to head a committee. Anything. I promise I will say no, at least at first.
The trait I despise most about myself is this infuriating No-ness. As far back as I can remember, I have been like this, saying no when I know in my heart of hearts I want to say yes. I want to go to coffee with you. Yes! I would love to illustrate your book. Definitely, I can run that committee. Absolutely, I can and will watch your house while you are away.
It’s embarrassing this trait of mine, and often leaves me feeling as though I have burped in a fancy restaurant. Before I can stop myself, the word “no” flies out of my mouth and I’m left looking over my shoulder to see who heard.
Last spring I endeavored to change. Unbeknownst to my loved ones, I vowed to say yes to everything asked of me for seven straight days. Looking back, it was awful timing. Girl Scout cookies had just gone on sale, but I pushed forward anyhow.
Day One was eye-opening. At school drop off I found myself avoiding people, because if I kept folks at an arm’s length, they couldn’t ask me for anything. It was shocking, all this fuss over a silly secret vow to break an irritating habit. I rolled my shoulders, walked into the circle of mothers and found myself accepting an invitation to coffee. It barely hurt. Actually, it didn’t hurt at all. Somehow knowing I would say yes to whatever came my way clarified things in my silly little mind.
I survived the week and the worst casualty was the tornado I had to construct three times for the school musical. I wanted to say no. I cussed, glue gunned, duct taped, painted and fastened, but I never said no. I learned so much about myself over the course of that week. The most important thing I learned is that it is not my natural inclination to say no. It was merely a habit I formed to buy myself time to think about the request from every angle before saying yes. Normal people say, “Let me think about it.” That’s what I try to say now.
My new outlook was put to the test last February. My daughter bounced out of school chanting something about a hamster, and she was picked to take care of it, and she would do a good job, she promised! Sure enough, I opened email and found a request to take care of our friends’ dwarf hamster over the break. My fingers itched to type ‘n-o’ but I resisted. Instead I looked into the twinkling eyes of my daughter. I typed ‘yes’ and hit send.
This story doesn’t end with Winter the dwarf hamster changing the course of my daughter’s life. In truth, she lost interest after the first three days. Though, she was absolutely steadfast about keeping her door shut to keep Winter from the clutches of the cats. In the end, we handed back Winter and they in turn gave us a beautifully crafted piece of pottery from an Arizona artist. I’ve painted it as it looks in our home for you. Let the fickle, pretty orchid tucked inside remind you to question your ugliest trait and challenge yourself to make a change even if it is just for a day.