The Power of No, I Can’t

Yesterday was a normal Saturday. I went into the office of my side job, wrote a blog, graded some papers, and in general did things that I needed to. After I had accomplished all my major tasks I allowed myself a little time to enjoy cruising the internet. OK, I can’t even say that, it makes me sound more cultured. I was browsing Facebook.

Anyways, as I was reading through the latest updates, friends at the pool (trying to beat the record breaking California heat), friends out drinking, fellow teachers slaving away at grading I came across a link to an interview. It was an interview with one of my graduate school professors Irena Praitis. It is a WONDERFUL interview (click Irena Praitis to be linked to it) written by a former student, fellow writer, and friend to Irena. In the interview Irena is asked questions about her writing and how it has changed since she had her son. While Irena says wonderful things about motherhood and writing, there is one thing that stood out so clearly to me. In response to one of the questions about juggling life she says, “Before I was pregnant, I realized I had no idea how I was going to be a mother and also do my work.  When I was pregnant, my family worried about me, wondering how I was going to get everything done.  I still worry, sometimes, but overall I’ve learned that worrying about situations simply takes energy and strength away from doing what needs to be done.  If you think in terms of limits, you will be bound by them.  I love everything I do. I love reading with Ishaan and playing with him.  I love teaching.  I love writing.  Because I love what I do, I’m always able to be where I need to be with it.  And let me also say that even though I’m working and raising a child on my own, I am not alone.  I get wonderful support from friends and family.  I am also incredibly fortunate to work in an environment that allows me flexibility at work

Now I know that she in some way is talking about her support system and how she works in a place that affords flexibility but what really struck me was how she had no answer to HOWshe would accomplish everything as it was happening. She doesn’t have a concrete I do this and then move on to that task. No, she simply thinks of her responsibilities as tasks that must be achieved in turn. Irena makes life organic. Life is not a structure or formula that we fit moments into.

There are so many moments in my own life where I feel like I am facing a wall of adversity. How am I going to be a good daughter, a good girlfriend, a good sister, a good teacher, a good scheduler, a good blogger to all the people I have commitments to? Recently this concern has driven me to have crushing panic attacks.

In the weeks leading up to the start of the fall semester I would wake up in the middle of the night having trouble breathing. I felt like there was a weight on my chest crushing me and there was nothing that I could do to breathe. At other moments I thought I was having a heart attack because my chest was clenched in pain, I couldn’t breathe, I couldn’t feel my fingers, I thought I was going to die. It is by far the worst feel I have ever experienced in my life.

I made a decision to take a break from one job to focus on another, and tomorrow I go back. I go back to working 3 jobs and balancing my commitments to my parents, fiance, and friends. I was starting to freak again. But after I read what Irena said I thought about this:

How many times do I tell myself I can’t?

How many times do I not achieve what I want because before I even start I say that there is no way to make my goal happen?

I don’t think I was always like this. I used to think that anything I set myself to I would accomplish, but within the last three to four years I haven’t. I haven’t told myself yes, yes you can. Instead I always say no, no I can’t.

This power of no has effected all aspects of my life. I tell myself no, I can’t workout, I am too tired. I tell myself, no, I can’t grade all 37 papers in one sitting, I won’t give them enough attention. I tell myself, no, I can’t wake up earlier to beat traffic, you can’t beat traffic in California so why try? I pile no on top of no.

Sometimes my family tells me it is not that I tell myself no but I dream too big and when those dreams don’t happen exactly as I want I take it as no. Is it possible to dream too big? Is it maybe because I am a perfectionist and I want every moment to be perfect?

I am just not sure.

But after reading that interview all I can think is this:

In each moment of each day we only have one chance. I can’t take back yesterday, I can’t control tomorrow. I can’t even control the next few minutes, because in all reality there is nothing in this life that is set in stone (if there was we would be able to accurately predict our death). So with that I can only do the things that I have control over.

I can control how I approach each day.

I can control how much I accomplish.

And only I can really change everything I say is a no, becomes a yes.

So with that I am committing the following. Saying yes, I can do it (within moderation, because between working 3 jobs there are some things you just have to say something NO to). And adding a little more running and yoga to my life, because really, life is better when you let it all out some way.

**P for Pocket Owl Press**

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