The Year I Said No
by Tiffany Moss
At the beginning of my journey into motherhood, I floundered for a couple of years, as I believe we all do. I didn’t know how to balance all the things in my life. “You mean I have to take care of the kids AND clean the house AND feed everyone?” But by the time babies four and five came along, I was proficient in being mom and homemaker and I was very proud of that fact. My house looked good. I cooked a lot. I found time for my husband. But my cup was empty. Looking inward, I had nothing that just really made heart flutter. I wasn’t doing anything for me.
We had just moved to South Carolina, and I found myself in a deep depression. But I soon discovered that I was among kindred spirits. We were all struggling. Our military spouses were working a hard assignment, and most of them were between tough deployments. Life sucked, so we decided to start a support group. I threw myself into this new purpose I have found. I felt alive, invigorated, and even happy. And the more that was asked of me by others, the more I gave. And I felt “useful” and important to be needed by people besides those that I shared a home with. But I stretched too far. I gave all of myself to others and left very little for my husband and children. I had swung that pendulum all the way to the other side, finding my happy at the expense of those who needed me and loved me most. But I didn’t see it at the time. It took a few more years. Years of saying yes to everyone else.
Fast forward to the fall of 2013. My husband was getting ready to retire from the Army, and I had moved my children home to Colorado ahead of him to get them settled for the school year. I started looking for a place to involve myself. But every time, I got a no, not from others, but from a small voice inside of me. My husband had hinted for years that I needed to be careful about spreading myself too thin. Since I was a geographical bachelorette, I had time for reading and found myself drawn to books, blogs, and articles about setting boundaries. This was a new concept to me. I had always given my yes to everyone, but it still was never a yes to me. Whether I poured myself into my family, or into everyone else, the one person I never really considered was myself and my mental wellbeing.
It was almost the New Year, so for the first time in my life, I made a resolution. I was going to say “No”. No to things that would hinder me from becoming who I was meant to be. No to things that would take me away from my family too often. No to people who made my heart ache. No to buying too many things I didn’t need. No to ANYTHING that didn’t make me a better mother, wife, neighbor, friend, sister or daughter. And no to the guilt of saying no. I learned that I can support people in their endeavors without giving too much of myself. I can believe in what you believe in, but still say “I can’t help you with that right now”.
What freedom! It has been 5 years since I learned the most wonderful word in the dictionary. Two letters, but it has had more impact on my life and my relationships than any other word I have ever spoken. And now, being able to say yes is so wonderful, because I know I mean it.