A few years ago as I was preparing to get married, I had a conversation with my grandmother. Amid the discussions of wedding flowers, invitations, color schemes, and bridesmaids’ dresses, she offered me a golden nugget of advice. She said “Theresa, I really believe that you can have it all. In your life, you can absolutely have it all; you just can’t have it all at once.”
By nature, I’m a busy person. I thrive off of a full schedule and lots of activity. My husband once joked that I only have two settings: “on” and “off.” This temperament coupled with a Type A personality got me through college and grad school by 23 and has made me very successful in my career as a technical project manager. I have been known to rush in the door from work, whip up a home-cooked dinner, then shove it in my face while running out the door to teach acting lessons at our church. The next night you may find me taking my dog to an agility class; then throwing a dinner party over the weekend.
But my entire world was turned upside down on July 23, 2013 when the doctors first handed me the sweetest, most handsome baby boy I had ever seen. I instantly knew that life would never be the same; that I would never be the same. These last 6 months have been an interesting see-saw as I have tried to shift priorities and learn a little about balance.
With that in mind, I have declared 2014 the year of the “no.” Over the holidays, my husband and I made a conscious decision to drastically reduce our commitments this year. I quit a number of my volunteer obligations, I’ve started saying no to outings and coffee dates with friends, and we aren’t hosting as many events at our house. I’m focusing this year on two areas: my family and my job. I’m forcing everything else to take a back seat. Does this mean I intend to become a hermit and never go out again with my friends or say no to every volunteer opportunity? Of course not. I’m just making a conscious effort to not say “yes” to an invitation until I’ve had the opportunity to weigh the cost.
You see, what I’ve come to realize is that in saying “yes” to absolutely everything, I wasn’t really “doing it all.” In fact, by constantly agreeing to more commitments I was actually taking away my own power of choice. I was losing control of my time and I had less energy to focus on the things that really mattered to me. And every time I said “yes” to something, I was already saying “no” to something else, I just wasn’t aware of it. So I’m reversing the cycle. I’m saying “no” to everything first so that I have the power to say “yes” when I really want to.
The beauty of this new philosophy of mine is that I think it really will let me have it all: a beautiful family, a successful career, rewarding volunteer opportunities, and a great network of close friends. Maybe I will finally get to run that half marathon I have always wanted to finish. Or write a book (hey, with my busy schedule I was just happy to read one every so often).
In my lifetime, I have every intention of having it all. But I am recognizing the wisdom in my grandmother’s words more and more each day. If I really want to have all of those things, then I have to begin to focus on each of them in their own season. My son will only be young once. He will only have his first laugh once. He will only take his first bite of food, his first steps, his first word once. These are moments I can never get back, and there is no way I am going to miss them. By saying “no” to so many other things, I am able to say “yes” to him more. I am able to say “yes” to an evening snuggle before bed. I am able to say “yes” to sitting on the couch and listening to my husband read him a story. I am able to say “yes” to making all his baby food. I am able to say “yes” to playing on the floor for 2 hours on a Saturday morning.
But don’t think for one second that I am saying “no” forever. I will come back to my volunteer hours. I’ll be back asking for promotions. I will soon be tackling projects around our house again. That’s the beauty of life. We go through so many seasons in the course of a lifetime and I’m coming to realize that today’s “no” can still be tomorrow’s “yes.” Sacrifices aren’t necessarily made forever. During the course of a lifetime we can have it all.
So please forgive me if I say “no” the next time you want to meet for coffee. Forgive me if I’m not at church every single Sunday. Forgive me if I disappointed you when I quit volunteering for your organization. This is my year of the “no.” Because I have every intention of having it all, I just know I can’t have it all at once.