When to say No

Question:

I am nearly 33 but still love the Alice books. Even though I’m an
“adult” (though most days  I don’t really feel all that grown up!) I
just wanted to tell you that recently I was re-reading Incredibly
Alice and part of it really helped me get a clear view of a current
situation in my life. Although it’s such a small part of the story –
Alice turning down the opportunity to try out for poet – I found it to
be such a powerful positive message about saying ‘no’.  I guess I’m a
people pleaser/overachiever and I tend to always say ‘yes’ even when I
have huge reservations about doing so. Recently I was diagnosed with a
serious illness, and although I’m now being treated and expect a full
recovery in time, I was still feeling guilty because I turned down an
amazing opportunity at work for health reasons, and took on a “lesser”
role. A woman at work, who has been a real mentor to me over the
years, said she was devastated that I turned down the opportunity, and
I was really feeling awful – like I’d let her down. The thing is, I
know I’m not well enough right now to take on so much extra
responsibility, even though I probably could have forced myself to
take it on and continued to struggle – my life lately has consisted of
work, and sleeping pretty much all the rest of the time in order to
have the energy to continue to function in my job.  The lesser
position I’ve accepted will allow me to rest and recuperate and then,
fingers crossed, I’ll be ready to take on bigger challenges – even if
I have missed out on what I’ve been told was the opportunity of a
lifetime. Anyway, while reading over that part in Incredibly Alice,
something just clicked in my brain, and I realised it’s OK and I don’t
need to feel bad about my decision – sometimes an opportunity just
comes at the wrong time and you shouldn’t beat yourself up over it.
Just as I’m sure Alice could have written a fantastic poem, I probably
could have done great things in that role at work – but it would have
meant sacrificing so many other parts of my life to take it on.  So –
thank you, from the bottom of my heart, for creating a character who
is so real and lovable and as fallible as the rest of us, and through
being so real can be a genuine role model for people like me. I love
the books, and I especially love your wisdom!

 

Phyllis replied:

Thank you so much for your email.  You helped me as well, because a year ago, after a spinal operation, I had to say no to a talk I really wanted to give–just the right subject, the right time of year, a beautiful drive, a good audience…..  But when the time came, I knew I wasn’t recovered enough to do my best–not even sure I could stand at a podium that long–and had to back out.  I have felt bad about it ever since, even though I know I did the right thing.  It was so good to hear from someone who went through something similar.

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