It is so easy to say, “no” to things — particularly “things” that require getting out of bed, schlepping somewhere, or putting on pants; in some cases, all three. Activities outside the home, particularly ones that involve other humans, require effort. More and more, as opportunities that involve these herculean tasks, specifically the donning of pants, present themselves, my initial reaction is to say, “Thanks, but no thanks!”.
I have a physically demanding and mentally stressful job that requires me to do all of the above AND to interact with people all damn day. Quite frankly, I am tired by day’s end and, more often than not, have had my fill of people. Thus, rationalizing the “no” comes easily at the end of a long shift.
Following the schlep home, all I want to do, all I feel that I can successfully achieve, is to take off my pants and to crawl back under the covers. Where I am safe. Where no one is making demands of me. Where no one is criticizing me.
I have learned, though, to take a beat before responding in the negative, to think about what, exactly, I am saying “no” to (or for). Once I have gotten over the hurdles that include, but are not limited to, leaving my bedroom, throwing on some clothes, and transporting myself elsewhere — and, really, sometimes “elsewhere” is just up the block! — I am always pleased that I resisted the urge to beg off.
Still, the “no” comes more naturally. The “yes” has to fight for top billing.
Recently, because I said “yes”, I was able to enjoy the latest incarnation of “Long Day’s Journey Into Night” on Broadway and, in the same week!, I was entertained by Chinese acrobats. All because I agreed to put on pants.
I enjoyed the play and the acrobats. Truly, Jessica Lange’s performance in “Long Day’s Journey Into Night” was mesmerizing; and those Chinese acrobats were something else! Even so, these outings were about more than just the events.
I enjoyed the company, the camaraderie, of the people that I was with. Because they were not just any old “people”, they were “my” people — people who I have chosen, people who have chosen me.
I am not in their lives to fetch them straws or to make them some cockamamie drink. They are not sitting in judgment of my job performance in light of the fact that I spilled a ramekin of butter on a guest. They appreciate my eye-rolling and sighing, welcome it, even.
When I am at work I feel as though I am the subject in the most recent installment of a little game show that I like to call “Let’s Build a Better Employee”. I am not sure which is worse: knowing that I am the subject or knowing that I am not the best possible choice of contestant.
There was a time when I would have been the perfect contestant. That time was not all that long ago, it may, in fact, have been last week. But, now? This week? It seems that I am getting so few things right.
Getting all of the answers wrong takes all the fun out of the game. I go home at the end of every shift feeling uneasy, anxious, and, defeated. When I have been made to feel like I have no value, slipping into a pair of pajamas and sliding into bed seems the best course of action.
It is not. Surrounding myself with “my” people; saying “yes” to them is, in fact, the better choice, the antidote, to all of the other bullshit that life throws at you.
What I have discovered is that when I am around “my” people, I am almost instantly transformed into a person who has value. I feel, not only valued, but truly loved and appreciated. For that feeling I will resist the urge to go to bed at 7:00 PM. For that feeling I will schlep to wherever I need to schlep. For that feeling I will put on pants.