I’m not so great at saying “No.”
I’m even worse at saying “This isn’t the right season of life for me.”
And have I mentioned I’m a therapist? A therapist who has helped clients toward success in setting their own healthy boundaries in relationships, work, family, church, etc.?
I am not one to typically crumble under the weight of pressure from others so it’s not a peer pressure kind of thing. But, I do crumble ever so frequently under the pressure of me.
Within my personality lies a concoction of insatiable curiosity, a high level of enthusiastic energy, and a boundless determination to help everyone I possibly can.
I love being me. But I’m exhausting.
So, ever so slowly, I’m learning to say “No” to myself – to new projects, new opportunities, new skills – all things I truly want to give an emphatic “Yes” to. My stress is that my yes is usually said without looking into logistics – if I really want it, I’ll make it work is my self-indulgent mantra.
Evidence of the toll this pace is taking on me came from my dentist who recently told me for the 4th time that I need to get a mouth guard because I clench my teeth in my sleep. This is a sign of stress he tells me. I told him that yoga helps when I do it. So, he asks me how often I do it.
I truly dislike intrusive dentists…
I’ve lived like this for as long as I can remember. “Busy”, “Crazy”, “Hectic” and “Stressed” are the typical descriptive words that I enjoy – my brain is kind of a stress junkie, always looking for the hard stuff.
But the Church has provided a respite for me. A season of slowing and healing that draws in my focus – the season of Lent.
Lent for Orthodox Christians is one of simplicity, or maybe a better word is less. Less frenzy, less food, less busy-ness, less spending, less “look at how many things I can accomplish before noon and still make time for anxiety attacks!”
And then more. More services filled with candles and quiet prayer – lamenting prayers tinged with hope. More opportunities for uncomfortably deep introspection that feels both loving and torturous. More opportunities to see the needs of others.
And in this place of internal rest that requires much more effort than I could have imagined, I begin to see the things in life I am clutching – with a death grip. Unhealthy attributes that validate my impossible schedule – I’ll spare you the details.
Then a tiny drop of courage begins to water my soul. And slowly, ever so slowly in my fearfulness…I begin the process of letting go. Of saying “No” even though I don’t want to.
But I am learning I need to.
This is one of my favorite hymns of Lent, taken from Psalm 141:2. Singing this prayer does so much to arrest the busy-ness of my soul.
Let my prayer arise
in Thy sight as incense
And let the lifting up of my hands
be an evening sacrifice.