Sometimes you can be surprised from the direction that lessons can come to you. Sometimes the teacher is totally unexpected. I could write a book on the lessons the children taught me while I was co-directing our churches youth education department. Sometimes you get a lesson when you aren’t expecting it.
A little background to the story may help here. On top of the somewhat full time job of managing my illnesses, being a mentor and teacher, doing what I can as a stay at home dad, and trying to be a good husband, I am also a performer at our local Renaissance festival. It is a lot of fun but it is also very hard work. It can and has been some of the most rewarding times in my life. There are a lot of things that you can do there and a lot of things to be done to make it work.
So two paragraphs later here we go. I like to say yes. I think everyone I know will agree that I say yes too often and to things that perhaps aren’t mine to do. I am good at the things I do and I enjoy doing them and I enjoy making people happy. It all seems harmless, except it isn’t. I have to be able to say no. It will disappoint people and that can’t be helped. Saying no is important. It lets people know that your time, talent and energies are of value and can’t be taken for granted. I would not say that I am being taken for granted by anyone, I hope, at this point but I do say yes, a lot.
Last year was a case study in saying yes way too much, most of it festival related. My wife and I started volunteering with the youth education department at our church. This quickly evolved in me assisting in helping run the program, design the curriculum and plan the program. I was putting in office time several days a week and really enjoying what I was doing. I was also asked by the church board to start attending our monthly men’s group meeting in hopes that somehow I would help attract a younger crowd to an ailing group. That also quickly evolved in me saying yes to helping run the group. Because of the level of involvement in our church, my wife and I decided to take a year off from the festival. Soon after that decision we made, my wife found a way to be very useful to the festival on a part time basis. This got me to looking for ways to get back involved as well.
I found myself in an unusual place of being part street character and part area manager because our director wanted to use me in a way that would allow me to deal with many different situations either as a character or a supervisor. Even before the festival began things changed. We did not have a drummer that we felt confident in to play for the joust. I was asked to perform at this show. Now I kind of have three balls juggling for festival and the two balls in the air from church. Shortly after that there was an incident the resulted in a group director being let go. I had retooled that group the year before and that was handed to me as well. Finally the end of day show was not working very smoothly and my wife and I took it upon ourselves to insert our guidance and control into making that run on time and run smooth. Everything worked out well for the people affected, except me. Oh yes, add on to that I took an assistant director position for our festival’s Halloween show. I completely overdid it. The tings all worked out well, some to very good success, but I was toast.
I resigned from my church positions, for this and other reasons, and I went full hermit after the Halloween show ended. I am still more or less in that state.
Fast forward to January, 2016. Festival preseason activities are starting up. Our Joust team wants me back, The area manager positions are open, our royal court would like to have me run their support group again and there are character opportunities to be had. I have a lot of choices and I feel I could get any position I went after.
I found myself asking what it is that people want from me. Where would I do the most good? How can I help out other people the best? Some of my mentors in the program have said that I need to do was is best for Jason and not the other people. I listen, but some of them are also recruiting me and I like saying yes to friends. Last night was a recruiting event, the first one of the season. The topic comes up from and to everyone, what are you wanting to do this year? Most don’t know, some have recurring roles and it’s just exciting to be talking about it again. I approach one table and began talking to someone that I consider a friend and a mentor in some ways, even though I am probably at least ten years older than him. He has a bit of a reputation as being a goof ball. We talk about changes in his world and he asks about my season. I list off all the things that I have been recruited on. He makes some comments about why some of them could be real good and then slips this one in. “Or you could just do what you want. You did too much last year. I am very curious to see where you go this year.”
For some reason him saying it worked. People who have brought me up to the level I am now have said it. Didn’t hear it. This guy says it and it clicks. The point is this. There is nothing wrong with saying no to people. Say yes to things. Help out. Get involved, but set boundaries. If you never say no you can develop unhealthy relationships and habits. Yes I had a lot of fun with the joust. Yes I had my ‘magic moments” with the audience. Yes I had a good experience with church. However, taken as a whole, 2015 was brutal on my physical and mental health. I said yes to things I should have let go of. I can say yes to some things this year, but there will be many more no’s. In fact this is how these large decisions will be for me. I am going to take in all of the options and then walk away. I may get recruited or asked in to something but the answer wont be yes. It will be lets talk about it followed by, let me get back to you. The excitement of the moment and being able to say yes has to be removed. I will set it down and walk away from it. Give the idea some thought and then come back to it. Then I will make a decision based off my needs with a nod to the needs to the one asking.
Saying no does a few things. It places value on your skills, time and energy. If people always get yes, eventually they may stop asking and start telling. Saying no also shifts the power base. It puts control in your hands. You can follow it up with a “I can do this” and now you are in the driver’s seat. Pausing and then saying no when it is right to do so also will keep you life more balanced and allow you to say yes to what is most important to you.
This is going to be hard for me. I have been conditioned to be a people pleaser and to say yes to people who ask you for things. My happiness this year needs to come from doing things for me and not for others. It isn’t rude. It isn’t man spirited. It isn’t wrong. Its natural. Its healthy.
You get to say no.