The other week something happened where I needed to say no. (And I realised that it’s okay to do that, to say no.)
I skipped a tradition: my daughter’s annual school fundraiser.
We had our tickets, the babysitter was booked and I had my knockout outfit ready to go.
But when I woke up the morning of the event and checked in with how I was feeling, I knew I couldn’t go.
Did I not want to go?
No, it wasn’t that.
Was I sick?
No, it wasn’t that.
Then what was it?
I was tired, exhausted, kaput.
After a huge week of paid work (outside the home) and unpaid work (inside the home), I was knackered.
There was simply no more juice in the tank.
I also had my period, which makes me feel tired and even more introverted than I usually am.
As a sidenote, I’ve been reading ‘Do Less’ by Kate Northrup – and learnt that listening to and responding to the four different phases of your monthly cycle can be a superpower! ….A MUST READ for any woman.
Not a woman? Did you know even men have a cycle too?
It’s generally compressed into 1 day rather than 28 days -ish- for women.
So back to the story- despite my inner ‘good girl’ voice telling me I should go, I should support the school, I should honour my word, I should, I should, I should, I should….
I said YES to me.
Because sometimes a NO to others is a YES to you.
I hopped into my PJs, heated up some leftovers and settled in to watch Australia’s Got Talent.
I won’t lie: I had a moment where my inner ‘good girl’ felt a bit guilty….
Guilty I was missing the night
Ashamed to admit she’s human and was tired
Embarrassed not to be there when I said I would be
But the ‘real’ Karenna knew the truth.
That had she pushed through she would have exhausted herself, possibly gotten sick (I’ve been holding out on catching the ‘bug’ going round), been cranky with my family- and most important- I’d feel I’d betrayed myself because I’d put the needs and expectations of others over my own.
The ‘real’ Karenna knew the truth:
There was something else really interesting I noticed.
My hubby was totally fine to miss it.
He wasn’t ‘shoulding’ himself over anything.
He wasn’t fretting about letting anyone down.
He definitely wasn’t inspired to write a blog about it!
He simply owned his own tiredness and was at peace with it.
And I really appreciate his response.
Because it helped me see how for me– I often feel this obligation to people please, to say ‘yes’ to others even though there’s a little voice inside that says: ‘but I’m tired. I want to say no’.
I can’t speak for all women – but I know that for me -as a woman- this saying ‘yes’ to others over ‘yes’ to me comes through observations of the women in my family all the way up the family line.
And then I think of the menfolk at those same family gatherings.
Comfortably receiving the delicious food and being waited on while the women carried the mental load of organising, did the lions share of work on the day and then washed up in the kitchen while the men played billiards.
To be clear: I’m not thinking or saying here the menfolk were lazy- I appreciate how hard they worked and contributed to their family in other areas of their lives.
But they didn’t seem to have the same compulsion to serve others and constantly be ‘switched on’ the way the ladyfolk had.
They also seemed to be calmer in their own skin.
And happier, more relaxed.
For me as a little girl absorbing these social norms (which is where children learn the most- not through what adults say but by what we do) – there were some clear messages that I took on board.
Messages I’ve recently been reflecting on, breaking down and decluttering with more gusto than a Marie Kondo episode!
So while saying ‘no’ to a school fundraiser might on the surface seem like a small thing, it was huge in terms of the patterns and generational habits I needed to let of in order to say no.
And you know the best thing?
It felt right and in integrity with who I am.
The bonus twist of the night: despite my absence, I won second place in the raffle!
Haha the power of saying no, and finally realising that people do don’t really care…
This volunteering / communitiy thing is something I discovered in Australia, and after a year trying to cope with it, I just gave up on the pressure and associated guilt as I realised I had no time left for my own family. Community is a very important aspect of Australian life, we even learn about this community spirit as part of Australian values in the Citizenship official book. But the book does not say that 99% of it is organised and led by women….. Why is that so? Because, as you said Karenna, little girls learn at home, during parties and community events. Kids are sponges and they absorb our reality…. and assimilate it until it becomes theirs… There are a lot of “women” events here in Sydney… Girls dinners, ladies gatherings. I am even part of a “ladies only” choir because it is the only one I could find!!! Although I find everyone wonderful there, I think this is all lacking a bit of testosterone sometimes. I did feel guilty during my first 2 years in Australia about my lack of organisation and average cooking skills, and tried to be “like” Aussie women. I learnt a lot from it. Positive aspects of the experience: developing empathy, understanding the “why” of community, getting supported by perfect strangers, feeling part of something important…. Negative aspects: the guilt for never doing or being enough, loosing my family time, but above all, missing my male friends in Paris… Australian blokes seem to live in their own male world and I find it hard to communicate with them sometimes. Of course there are exceptions… My Aussie husband always helps at home and his best friends are girls. He is also very supportive when we have parties, or when I need him to be there for kids stuff. But it took him years to understand…. On the other hand, I learnt from him how to just let go and stop feeling guilty about not doing something I did not feel like doing. Sometimes I realise that if women asked more clearly what they need / wanted from their partners, instead of expecting things to “happen”, things would probably improve. We have so much to share !