***Update: This post was transferred from my old blog and written in 2012. Note that in 2014 the stress of not learning to say No finally took me down. I ended up with a stroke, heart attack and cancer in one year. Please follow your doctors advice about stress. I didn't. Here ends my lecture.****
Grace Bonney's recent essay on Design*Sponge about the business of saying no left me amazed. How in the world was she able to crawl into my head? I've been there, done that and have the medical bills to prove it. What we've both experienced is the negative impact of stress. Last year was one of the best years of my career, but I also ended up in the emergency room, not to mention the doctor's office for more tests than I wish to count. For someone as driven as myself, saying no to any opportunity, let alone to family and friends, has got to be the hardest thing I can do. I suck at it. As it turns out, I'm not the only one judging from Grace's essay and the comments following it.
But I'm learning. This was my first weekend off in nearly three years! Yes, two whole days off in a row. Saturday I sat at my dining table reading through Facebook, going numb from the possibilities, so I did some dusting. Like I said, I'm learning. Grace figures she's become the Duchess of No, working her way up to Queen status. I'm still at the stage of Lady-in-Waiting. It really is a process to learn how to let go, to relax, to just be.
Buidling a business is completely absorbing. I love my work. So if I love what I do, does it still count as work? YES! Last year I sat buried in my studio, cranking out show after show. Every opportunity was another brick in the foundation. Art brings pleasure. I enjoy it. I also love to garden, putter in the kitchen , read and hang out with friends. My garden is a mess and the homemade jam stock is down to a single jar. You get the picture.
As Grace so astutely pointed out, saying no doesn't mean missing an opportunity. I've worked hard to make those opportunities happen and more will come my way. Sure, I may cause disappointment, but sometimes it is worse to say yes, especially if the situtation causes stress for myself. I have to trust that there will be another opportunity at another time, better yet, by saying no now, I may actually be opening the door to something even better.