‘No:’ A Two-Letter Word

Aliza Lapierre writes about the struggle to maintain balance when life is busy.

By on June 21, 2017 | Comments

I lay in bed, motionless. I am awake, but it’s like I would rather not be. It’s the first day of the week so I can have a slower start to my morning as my husband George walks the dog prior to work on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. I hear the front door close and then the clanking sound of the dog food hitting the bottom and sides of the metal food dish. George trudges upstairs and before he has fully entered our bedroom I declare, “No, I am not getting out of bed!” I pull the covers over my head, securing them underneath my body, creating a duvet fortress. I feel like a child, and perhaps that is because I am acting like one.

Now Twig is headed upstairs as I can hear the tapping of her toenails on the hardwood floor. I’ve been forewarned. She leaps onto the bed, pouncing on me to see what the banter is about. She deliberately paws at my body, which remains tightly affixed to the bed. Her action provokes no response from me as I attempt to outwit her by playing possum. Twig ups her game by increasing the force of her swatting, and even throws few nibbles into the mix. Without thought, I forgo the playing-dead act and sternly repeat myself, “No, I am not getting out of bed!” With each spoken word, I close my eyes tighter and tighter as I clinch the blanket that covers my being. I know better than to think I am able to hide from the day, but I continue to try. Apparently both George and Twig have taken my words seriously as both have headed back downstairs to continue on with their morning.

I rewind my mind, trying to figure out why I have sequestered myself just moments after waking up. An endless list of questions stream through my consciousness: What happened yesterday? How and what am I feeling? What is on my schedule today? The scroll of questions stops there and is replaced by a sense of disbelief as ultimately I realize that I have done this to myself. Simply, the word that encapsulates how I am feeling without even realizing it is “overwhelmed.” I had neglected on numerous occasions to say the very two-letter word that I had just assertively declared to both my husband and dog. Instead of saying “no” to extra requests at work, favors asked by friends, and additional requests made by sponsors, I said “yes.”

I recognize and admit that in the moment, I feel satisfaction in saying yes. It can feel good to go above and beyond at work, to help out a friend, or to help out a sponsor when called upon. I oftentimes enjoy watching a neighbors’ or friends’ little ones, stacking someone’s wood, helping a runner problem-solve a bump in their training, doing an errand as a favor, or carrying a little more load at work because it helps out the team. The desire to help others is ingrained in me, but my current state is helping me recognize that there is a tipping point when all of these yes responses become detrimental to retaining my balance. I ease up on the tension of my eye muscles and darkness yields way to some of the morning light that is being flittered through the blanket. I remain tucked in my comforter fortress as I question what a healthy balance looks like for myself and my loved ones. This is not a new query for me, but rather one that I examine often and at times struggle with.

I consider life balance to be something that is fluid and ever changing, what looks and feels like equilibrium one day might not hold true the next. Also what looks and feels balanced to one person might not look the same way to another. My priorities might not be another person’s priorities, and that’s okay. It is no secret that I invest a lot of time and energy into running. I choose to do this because I love being able to move through the mountains. I love being able to remove myself from society and hear nothing but my own breath and the natural world that surrounds me. Some may call it selfish or even an addiction, but I call it a part of my life. I tend to feel misunderstood when someone insists when I am feeling stressed and short on time that my best option is to simply cut out my run. I cannot tell you how many times someone well meaning has suggested that I would save time and energy if I didn’t run! Surely I would have more time today if I didn’t train, but I assure you I also would not feel as whole and content.

Just as I begin to hope that others do not judge me for my choices, as I try to respect each individual’s values, I hear Twig bounding up the stairs. It’s like she has come up again to survey the situation, so I loosen the blankets around my head to show her I am okay and she promptly showers me with excited kisses. I feel my thoughts have taken a tangent, but perhaps I’ve just strung the pieces together and come to the understanding that I have taken on too much and it’s impacting the balance of my whole well-being. Remembering to take into consideration my priorities and accounting on how saying “yes” will impact those needs to become a regular part of my thought process. I need to remember: I am one person. I have the same amount of time in each day as everyone else and it is okay to say no when I need to.

I tell Twig (yes, I talk to my dog), “I will remember how I feel in this moment and I will learn from it. I will work to accept that saying no might result in someone feeling disappointed in my response, but my hope is that it makes me feel less overwhelmed and more appeased with my being.” Ultimately, I am realizing that life is too short to always say yes to others in hopes of pleasing. I need to give myself permission to create boundaries to help maintain my happiness. A true friend, good colleague, family member, or sponsor will understand, and hopefully this honesty and approach will make myself and these relationships even stronger.

Call for Comments (from Meghan)

  • Balance, how do you find it? How do you decipher when it’s right to say “no?” And how about “yes,” when is it the right time to help others?
  • What aspects of balance do you know you need to maintain in your own life before you are able to help others with theirs?
  • And what do you do when you’ve gotten it wrong and you find yourself imbalanced? How do you restore yourself?
Aliza Lapierre - Two Letter Word Drawing

An original drawing by Aliza Lapierre.

Aliza Lapierre
Aliza Lapierre finds peace and a sense of belonging while trail running. Her passion began by exploring the trails in her home state of Vermont and has been regenerated by exploration across the world. She continually works to redefine her perceived boundaries, while trying to inspire others to explore their capabilities as well.