Strengthening My “No” Muscle


Living the COVID-19 Pandemic

I was so tired. Running on empty. Craving inner peace and rest. Holding on and not letting go of things not made for me. I wrote this piece days before the COVID-19 pandemic hit home. Life changed for all of us. Fear and anxiety of the unknown and putting on a brave face because our children are always watching. Being strong, yet at times, paralyzed by fear. Homebound, remote learning, blank calendars, and craving human connection. I miss my people. As our country begins to reopen, I reflect on life. So many lost connections to rebuild. Truth is, when things return to some normalcy, we resort to comfort. Mamas, I hope this ignites reflection in your heart. Our pace of life will regain momentum again. Are you ready? How will you respond?

My Life-Written Days Before the Pandemic

All the muscles. The sweat from pushing my body to new limits. Results that can only be gained from hard work. Starting to see physical changes, yet, inside, I feel unbalanced and in a state of uneasiness. That feeling in my tummy that never goes away and at times, can be relentless. Physically strong, yet craving peace. This burden I’m carrying gets heavier. With every yes, comes feelings of being stuck. Just maybe, you are in this season of life? For me, stress comes from saying yes to all the things. We have a giant calendar in our laundry room full of commitments. Not sure what to do with myself when the days are blank. My weakest muscle in my body is my “no muscle” and it needs to be worked and pushed…daily. Slow and steady…one no at a time. 

Honor Your Priorities 

Saying no is uncomfortable and can be downright awkward. I can’t do all the things and feel strong, even though I think I can. I am a mom, and we do it all. It’s in our DNA. Just one more thing, one more commitment, one more yes. It’s okay I tell myself. If I’m not busy, I’m not being productive. These are some of the stories I tell myself.  Strengthening that no muscle is a journey. One no at a time…

Strength and balance come when I set boundaries. So, I prioritize my most meaningful work. For me, that means staying close to my people.  That core group that feels like sunshine to my soul. My family reminds me to sit down and rest.  Reassures me that it’s okay to decline an invite and reminds me they want me home.  Home is my safe place. 

The friends that are okay with me canceling at the last minute, respecting my personal space, and loving me when I go off the grid, thank you! When life piles up and I forget to say no, I become overwhelmed. I’m not upset with you, I’m just tired. Just give me time and I’ll be back. I’ve lost friends along the way. Some stayed with me through a season of life and for that I am grateful. Just recently, I had a beer with a dear friend. We are both busy mamas, work full time, and this particular season has kept us apart for quite some time. We talked for hours, laughed, and savored this “kid-free” time. We didn’t miss a beat. No need to explain why I haven’t been in touch. You see, we are mamas doing the best we can. It’s all good. My tribe never leaves me.  They know me and my heart. Relationships that involve guilt, explanations, and apologizes aren’t my jam. 

Even when with good intentions, you still end up taking on way too much. What if we make the choice to not be all in? To not be so quick to respond? What if we ignored the relentless pressure to be reachable? Things can wait. Emails, texts, messages, pile up whether you are ready or not. Even those I adore most may just have to wait until I’m ready to respond. It’s not personal, I just like my space. I’ll be in touch, just maybe according to your timeline.  

Respect your energy

If a dose of peace was sold in the pharmacy, I’d be on an automatic refill. Give me all the peace! Silence is my best friend and I miss her terribly. Saying yes to all the things and being “all in” creates chaos in my heart. The art of being busy is exhausting…physically, mentally, and emotionally. You have to preserve yourself because no one else will do that job for you. At 42, I’ve learned to protect my personal space. I’m particular about who I spend my time with these days. I’m protective of myself and my relationships. That’s what grounds me and ignites my happiness.  

Saying “no” with grace

Tone is everything. Too bold and you are considered rude and overconfident. Too soft and you are weak. Too slow to respond and you don’t care. Too unsure and you lack confidence. Too quick to respond and you seem insincere. Truth is, we all have a backstory. Rather than judging, extend grace. Mamas, no means no and you can deliver it with grace and love. Trust me, it gets easier. Coming from a “yes” girl, in time, people start to see your boundaries. Saying no just means that your heart is needed in another piece of your life. The more you practice, the easier it comes. Do you really listen to the reason someone says no?  Most likely you hear the word no and accept it. Despite what we feel at that moment, people will carry on and not spend their time analyzing your reasons. Mamas, next time you hit the gym, push that no muscle to new heights. It’s a journey…one no at a time.