This morning’s craft chapter was about telling harmless lies to get time to write. Sellers had a term for it, but I don’t remember it (I’ll look it up when I get home). Ah here it is, she called them “Strategic Deceits”. The idea was that you could tell a harmless little lie such as “Oh I’ve got a book club meeting” or something to get out of stuff and write without anybody’s feelings being hurt. The logic behind it is, apparently, that such made up excuses are more acceptable to people, more understandable than the fact that it simply is your time to write. Now I’m the first to admit I’ve told fibs to get out of stuff to avoid hurting the feelings of someone important to me (because the fib was more acceptable than an outright no), but the whole idea of regularly lying to people because they don’t find my writing acceptable or a “real” job or because they think it’s somehow easy–it just seems patently ludicrous to me.
Maybe this is because I am one of those unsual, unabashedly honest people (my mother says I have no tact–no, I just don’t believe in beating around the bush and leading people on), who generally has absolutely no problem saying no to people. If I don’t have time to do something that somebody has asked me to volunteer, I simply say it’s not a good time and maybe next time. And when it comes time to write, I sure as hell don’t see or feel the need to apologize for it. Does this mean I am often a hermit? Yep. Does it often piss my spouse off? Oh yeah. Do I care? Sorry to say, most of the time no. I make more efforts to placate my husband, but everybody else–if they matter and are legitimately important to my life, they get it. They may not understand it, but they get that it is important for me and that I’m going to do this.
For years I have been mystified by people’s inability to say “no”. I saw this a lot when I was doing therapy. So many people who couldn’t say no. I think we are socialized into thinking that it’s somehow wrong or bad to say no. Just like the idea of doing something for ourselves is so often stigmatized as being selfish (another term with a very negative connotation). This is particularly true of women, I’ve noticed. We’re supposed to be the super moms who do everything and be everything to everyone. We are socailized to put ourselves last. Something I very often told my clients–selfishness and selflessness are at opposite ends of a continuum. There is a healthy and unhealthy level of both. For our own personal psychological well-being it is SO SO important to be selfish sometimes. You have to set boundaries and enforce them. Take time for yourself to do your thing, whether that’s write or throw pottery or knit or whatever. There is nothing at all wrong with this. Put yourself first. Don’t be afraid to say no. You’ll be a better wife/mother/friend/sister/daughter for it.