66) The Year of No

A few years ago I got a book on audible, it was The Year of Yes by Shonda Rimes and it was fabulous. I remember listening to it as I was out running by the lake one day, I listened as Shonda narrated about how she was stuck in a rut and needed to sort her life out so she decided to start saying yes more often, she made a pact with herself to say yes to everything for a whole year. The book was so inspirational I decided right there and then that I would do the same thing. I would take more chances and do more things, I would stop letting fear of failure dictate my life.

And for a while it worked, it was going well. I was taking more chances and trying new things. The more I said yes the more I got used to saying yes and I just kept doing it. I began to leap at opportunities that I would have previously passed over, I did spur of the moment things that I would normally overthink for months.

Good things happened when I said yes, I booked a last minute hot air ballooning trip, we adopted another dog, I spent 4 days hiking the Milford Track and we went skinny dipping in a lake when we forgot our swimming togs.

However the more I said yes the harder it got to say no. Soon my schedule was packed but the thought of saying no to the constant delude of things that kept popping up made me feel horribly guilty. So I kept saying yes and my plate got fuller, my calendar was covered in writing and my mind was getting louder and louder.

To say I was overwhelmed was an understatement. I knew something wasn’t right, I knew my brain shouldn’t be feeling so frantic so I tried to think of something I could do as a break. For me, there is nothing more relaxing than being out in nature so that was what I landed on. I would go on a hike, but not just any hike, I would hike the iconic Routeburn Track the whole way from Fiordland National Park to Glenorchy in Central Otago. The Routeburn is a 3 to 4 day hike that crosses mountains and is 33km long. I was going to say yes to the Routeburn and it would calm me I decided. However I needed to make it fit into my packed schedule so I would do it faster than normal. In 6 hours to be exact.

If you have been following this blog for a while now then you know what happened next. If you’re new here: the Routeburn said no for me. I slipped in some mud at the 17km mark and my face smashed into a rock. My nose broke on impact, my eye was damaged and the shock covered the fact that a serious head injury had also set in. I was alone on a mountain pass with no phone reception or emergency exit, so I strapped up my bloody nose and carried on running for another 17km to get off the mountain. I completed the track in 6 and a half hours and was more disappointed about that than my bruised and bloodied face.

For most people a traumatic brain injury and subsequent severe prolonged concussion would probably slow them down but even as I learned to read again I kept working on my novel. The days my speech was slurred I still called friends to check in on how they were doing. When my damaged eye was severely sensitive to light I put on big sunglasses and pulled up my hood to walk the dogs. I had forgotten how to say no. The world was screaming it at me and I just kept pushing forwards. Every single time I did my concussion recovery took a step backwards until I couldn’t even get out of bed.

It’s been a process, learning that saying no is its own version of saying yes. Saying no to the constant requests of others is saying yes to recovery, yes to starting to feel better, yes to me. It’s still new but it feels good to have the breathing space at last.

Then today, my newly learned No skills were put to the test. Every year around this time I make a list of goals for the year ahead. They’re like new years resolutions but they are concrete. Things like ‘Read 50 books this year’ and ‘run 100km every month’, put $$$ into a savings account’ and ‘take a trip to the coast’.

I enjoyed it the last few years, having this list of goals with a definite time limit on completing them, it pushed me to work towards them. But today I sat down to write them out for next year and it filled me with dread, mostly because my rule has always been that I have to top the previous years goal. If I completed it the year before then I have to set it higher this year.

So I’m saying no.

Not only am I saying no to that, I’m going to be saying no a lot next year. It will be my Year of No and I cannot wait. It will be a year of boundaries, a year of doing the things that I WANT to do, not what other people want me to do. It will be a year of rest and recovery, not a year of constantly timing myself as I push myself to run 110km every single month. I will say no when I am tired.

I’ll still make a list but it won’t be one that pushes me to the brink of exhaustion. My new list will include things like yoga and meditation, spending time with the friends who supported me constantly through this horrific experience, picnics with my wonderful husband and relaxing mini breaks when I need them.

I hope if you are making New Years Resolutions that you are making them because you want to, not because you think you should. I hope you are saying yes to yourself and listening to your gut when it screams no.

I hope 2021 is kind to you. I hope you say No when you need to.

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