What is it about “NO” that you don’t understand?

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When I was little, I was the “Queen of Natter”. My Dad, who was a teacher,would sit in his chair reading the paper after a very long day at school. The unspoken rule was to give Dad 30 minutes of peace and quiet before you could talk to him.  He needed serious decompression time. As an adult, I completely understand that now. At the time, it never made sense. How could he not be excited and anxious to hear about my day? I could hardly wait to tell him the dramas the occurred in my life or ask him for answers to the most bizarre questions imaginable. He would give me “the Look”. You know the one, every parent has one. The look that tells you, you have gone to far or over stepped boundaries. I would simply ignore it and keep on with the “Dad, Dad, Dad…”

As I became older, I would take my Dad’s self-imposed quiet time and ask permission for things. Dad being distracted, would often say sure. So, I started being more bold with my requests. One day I asked for the car, for no other reason then just to cruise around. My parents were very generous about letting me use the car and about curfews. The only real rule was it had to have purpose. Staying out late to hang around 7-11 was a big fat no. Staying out late to go to a movie or a hockey game was a yes. They explained to me that a teen without purpose, was trouble waiting to happen. I could see their point. But I WANTED to just hang out or drive around. This had no purpose so the answer was NO. By trying to catch my dad unaware, nattering at him to death, I was hoping I could wear him down and he would agree to handing over the keys. “Dad, Dad, Dad….but Daaaaaad” The Newspaper would fold down one corner and his eye would peer at me. “Robyn, what is it about NO that you don’t understand?” Thus ended my chance of getting the car that day. I could hear the weariness in his voice and it would end with a sigh, a shuffle of papers, and that was my cue to leave because there would be no further discussion.

I learned that No means No. Who are we kidding. That only applied to my Dad. When he said No, he meant No. So if that was a lesson learned by me, why can I not apply it to my own life? Maybe it is a control thing or I am just so bossy people have figured out a way to manipulate me.

In my private life, at home with my Honey and the Offspring, No is a word that I use frequently. “mom can I….”  “NO”. I can hear myself saying the word before their question even gets answered. dialogue usually goes like this:

Offspring: Mom…

Me: No

Offspring: But Mom…

Me: No

Offspring: But I haven’t even asked…

Me: No

I find this interchange quite humorous because it frustrates them. I do eventually listen to them, and sometimes the answer is still no. The Offspring are getting very good a building convincing arguments as to why they should be allowed. So I let them win if it is a compelling argument.

I find saying no to my mother or sister very hard. Maybe because I want to please them, or it’s the family first concept that makes it hard to resist. I will have 258 things piled high on my plate of things to do, Mom or Sis ask me to do one more, and I answer – sure. I sometimes go away feeling angry that they aren’t doing it themselves. Mostly I don’t mind, deep down I know they will always do for me when I ask. So it is give and take.

Saying “no” to people I work with and to people I volunteer with is harder. Sometimes it just does not occur to me to say no. Again it must be that caretaker complex or the need to be in control. I am finding that the more I learn about policy and procedure, the more people ask me for the answer. Just as easy to ask me the to find out for yourself. I must admit, I like that. I enjoy the feeling of having the answers. Because I understand what needs to be done, I will often do it before it is required. Then someone says, oh I need to do… and I say, I did that already. Seriously, I need therapy for my control issues! What possesses  me to do all the work? How dare I complain about how much I do! I bring it all on myself. My “partner in crime” ( and when I say partner in crime, I mean friend and colleague, a mirror image of myself, two peas in a pod, Tweedledee and Tweedledum, Mutt and Jeff…) was very good at telling me to let it go, or don’t do it. Even the other day, she emailed me and said “um…why are YOU doing that?” Huh…good point. WHY AM I doing that?

Why indeed…

Time to fix that. I am going to focus on my position. Do it well, help if I can, be a team player. I have learned that I am not a team player if I do it all. A team player works with strengths and weakness of the team and we bring out the best in each other. So far, I think I am doing much better at using No. I also don’t volunteer so quickly. I need to relax and let others succeed and fail. If I find that too stressful, I’ll just have another coffee and continue on.

So the next stop on the Edmonton Tourist’s route is accepting the process and not worrying about being right. I see this as my biggest challenge to date.

Wish me luck…

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