Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Radical Self Care: Suggestion Number Three

We've explored how hobbies and rituals are important to self care, and today, we're going to learn one very powerful word that allows us to take care of ourselves in many, many areas of life.

That word is no.


As in, no, thank you, I don't wish to chair that committee. Or no, I will not bake 12-dozen cookies for a cookie swap two days before Christmas. Or no, I will not find seven different outfits to fit the seven themed Holiday Spirit Days for my eighth grader.

I'm not making that last one up. The student council came up with the following plan for showing holiday spirit on the last seven days of class:

12/12 Merry Monday Morning (PJ day)
12/13 Holiday Head to Toe [sic] Tuesday
12/14 Worst Wacky Sweater Wednesday
12/15 Favorite (Winter) Sports Team Thursday
12/16 Flannel Friday
12/19 Grinch Green Monday
12/20 Rudolph Red Tuesday
Clothes should be school appropriate. 

Tortured alliteration and hyphen neglect aside, this list represents exactly what is wrong with our culture. Well, one thing that's wrong.

It's too much. 

Too much time, too much planning...for what purpose? How many children have a wardrobe specifically tailored to this list? Not my son, that's for sure. The list is absurd because it's even a list. One day of holiday clothes, perhaps the last day before break, would have been festive. Most children are able to find a Santa hat or red sweater or jingle-bell necklace or Rudolph antlers or Christmas tree socks or a green scarf or a homemade paper snowflake to pin to their shirt. One day is do-able.

But seven days of different outfits?


I might even have gotten fancy and said, "Nopity, nope, nope, nope." 

More is not always better. In fact, more can cripple us if we let it. Part of wisdom is discerning the difference between genuinely worthwhile activities and time wasters.

I am not always wise, but the Holiday Spirit Days...that was a no-brainer.


Radical self care requires us to examine how we spend our time and to allocate it reasonably. Allocating time reasonably must, of necessity, include saying no when appropriate. It's the when appropriate that trips many of us up. We say yes because we feel obligated, we feel peer pressure, we feel vulnerable not hanging with the herd. Aren't there lions out there waiting to feed on outliers?


In fact, it's sensible and good to have a healthy no. Most of our neighbors have gorgeous Christmas lighting. I suspect a few of them paid a service to put the lights up. It's grand to drive down our street at night, and we enjoy the spectacle.

We, in comparison, might as well be Jewish or Jehovah's Witnesses. We have a small conifer by the front door wrapped in lights and a large lit reindeer standing near it. George made a comment about how pathetic our display is compared to our neighbors' displays.

Now, don't get me wrong. I'm not saying that putting up Christmas lights is a waste of time or energy. What I'm saying is that if doing something brings you joy, do it. If it feels like a burden, don't do it. We all have different set-points for blessings and burdens. Pay attention to your needs.

So I said yes to one more thing: LED candles for the windows. These brilliant battery-operated lights come with a built-in timer. They burn for eight hours, automatically turn off for 16 hours, and then come back on...without any effort on my part. Nor will I need to spend hours out in the freezing cold taking down a bunch of lights.

And yes, our display is still pathetic compared to our neighbors' displays, but comparison is the thief of joy.

Say no to comparison, too.

Where in your life do you have trouble saying no? What unimportant activities or obligations can you say no to right now to engage in radical self care? Is Christmas more of a burden than a blessing because you say yes to too many things? How might you find more Christmas spirit by doing less next year? 


  1. great sentiments Susan! Merry Christmas!!!

  2. I do have troubles in saying "no" if the person who ask is really someone important for me.

    But as I haven't found any way to give my days more than 24 hours, I might say more "no" and less "yes". Life turns just into stress and burn-out...

    But I always feel guilty if I say no and my heart would like to say yes...

  3. Great reminder Susan ... and something we need to teach our kids too.


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